Roopkund Chronicles – Prologue

Amidst the blinding white lay a clump of bones, propped up more inelegantly than it ever had been inside of a human frame, ages ago. Just how it came to pass that it still lay there in fresh snow in front of a troop of panting but relieved trekkers who braved the cold, the distance, the altitude and the reputation of a mysterious lake to stand and stare at it, is the stuff that great adventure trips are made of.

And that is what Roopkund is all about. Months of preparation and expectation, the bone chilling weather, the difficult mountain, the 4800 m (16000 ft) summit, the 53 km trek over 6 days, the wonderful company (of course!) and something that no other trek can promise – the unsolved mystery of untold deaths and the hundreds of human skeletons that adorn the rims and bottom of a hidden lake in the high Himalayas.

Over the next few posts I’ll be sharing our Roopkund Chronicles. Stay tuned for our moments of exultation, our lapses of consciousness, blissful mindfulness, fights with breathlessness, and being one with the precious stillness. The trek to the mystery lake begins here…..

For day wise stories click on the links below

Day 0: Kathgodam to Loharjung

Day 1: Loharjung to Didna

Day 2: Didna to Ali Bugyal

Day 3: Ali Bugyal to Pathar Nachauni

Day 4: Pathar Nachauni to Bhagwabasa

Day 5: Bhagwabasa to Roopkund to Pathar Nachauni

Day 6: Pathar Nachauni to Loharjung

 

 

 

 


Shoeless in Kudremukh

Kudremukh range [photo courtesy Nithin PM]

Kudremukh range [photo courtesy Nithin PM]

We had been walking through the slush for over five hours now. Wading would have been the ideal word. A sudden spell of bizarre weather had turned the undulating verdant green hills into a booby trap. Bizarre weather!!! So what else would you expect in a place which has an annual rainfall of around 7000 mm in the monsoon season? Incessant rain, incessant rain and incessant rain. It was impossible to stand at one place for more than one second without your shoes sinking into the mud; if you stood for two seconds, a couple of leeches would sink their fangs into your skin.  Our trail looked no more like a trail. The chunks of mud on the trail had caved in and were flowing over my right shoe. And my left shoe? I had lost my left shoe, a couple of hours back, when I fell into a stream while crossing it. My backpack was wet and it seemed to be getting heavier every minute. But I was more worried about our phones which had taken the brunt when I fell into the stream.

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We, a group of seven, had decided to undertake the 18 km up and down Kudremukh monsoon trek to get ourselves inspired for a longer trek – the 53 km long Roopkund trek in the Himalayas.

The Kudremukh Trek is an epic journey of wonders. It offers 18 km (two way) and 7-9 hours of exploring psychedelic landscapes – rolling hills with unending landscapes of green carpeted grass, lush valleys lined with gurgling streams, and shola forests against the backdrop of the third highest peak in Karnataka, Kudremukh Peak that stands tall @ 1892 m. Sounds wonderful….doesn’t it not!!

The Kudremukh sanctuary stretches into the districts of Udupi, Uttara Kannada and Chikmagalur and gets its name from its one peak that resembles the face of a horse. Did we did start off on the wrong foot? I guess so, because we ended with a lost shoe, a few dead phones, a dozen of leech punctures and seven worn out trekkers.
The previous day we had caught a Horanadu bound KSRTC bus from Bangalore. We were to get down at Kalasa from where we were to be picked up by a jeep till Mullodi village. The jeep was arranged by our guide and host, Raje Gowda (Rajappa) who runs a guest house – the Mullodi House. He was to also arrange for our forest permits, breakfast, packed lunch for the trek, and our stay for the night at the Mullodi House. The Kudremukh trek starts from the village of Mullodi.
The monsoon season was well underway by the time our bus reached Belur. Kalasa was a good 80 km away. By 6.00 am we were climbing the winding roads through a coffee estate when suddenly the bus swerved to the right, jerked and gave up a cloud of smoke and came to a rolling stop. The right wheels were stuck in the mud. The more the driver tried to come out of it, the wheels got cemented further. We were at least 10 km away from Kalasa.
We climbed out of the bus and paced around the forest road. The driver, after a few futile tries, killed the engine and got down. There was a light drizzle. This was not a good sign. To reach the far-flung village of Mullodi, we had to be at the mercy of the public transport system, which was totally non-existent. We made a phone call and arranged for Rajappa’s jeep to pick us up for an extra charge. After waiting for another hour, our salvation came rolling up. We drove to Kalasa, from there Mullodi is 6 km away. It took another 45 minutes to cover the 6 km long drive on the mud track. We finally reached Mullodi by about 8 am.We freshened up, had breakfast and geared ourselves for our monsoon trek. Now gearing up for a monsoon trek would mean that we were wearing our raincoats, our leech guards, and sturdy shoes with a hard grip to tackle the muck and slippery surfaces on the trail.
All geared up?

All geared up?

By 10.00 am we were on our way. We were accompanied by a guide. The initial exercise was to climb a heavily stony muddy trail. The rain had made the path slippery.

 

Photo courtesy Nithin PM

On the muddy trail (Photo courtesy Nithin PM)

In another 15 minutes we had come face to face with our first glimpse of the Kudremukh range.

We passed a meadow where we saw a huge single tree – which we later came to know was called the Ottimara (the lone tree). Deep down in the valley we could see a fast moving stream.

In about 10 minutes we reached our first stream crossing. It was not deep and we could cross it with a little help from our guide. We kept flicking off leeches from each other’s clothes. We passed through Shola forests, jumped over dead tree logs, continued disengaging leeches and kept crossing streams.

One stream was particularly wide and it looked like a confluence of two streams. The flow was very strong and it was as if I was losing strength from my legs. I had only reached the middle of the stream, when calamity strikes. The flow overpowered me and I fell into the water. Our guide caught hold of me and pulled me up, it was then I realised that I had lost my right shoe.

Our guide did his own investigation and went to see whether my shoe had miraculously lodged against a stone or a hanging tree branch or root. It was nowhere to be found.

No one would entertain the thought of walking around with just one shoe on. Not only would it be really funny, it would also be really bad for my feet. And I would have slowed down my fellow trekkers as well. So how was I supposed to continue with my trek on this muddy path. Should I turn back and walk the 3 odd kilometres we had just walked from the base camp or should I just sit it out in the jungle and wait for the other trekkers to get back.

I have often come across abandoned footwear – a lone boot, a slipper or a shoe – in the most out-of-the-way places like historical monuments, ponds, or by the side of roads. I have often wondered about these ‘Cinderellas’ who kept tossing their shoes. But now we were all frantically looking for a ‘lost sole’. How I wished I could find one abandoned shoe. If anyone had abandoned their footwear – in any shape, condition or colour – I would jump for it and wear it. And voila, there lay the answer to my prayers. An abandoned sole! I had my leech socks on, under which I was wearing thick woollen socks. I removed them both, placed the sole under my feet, wore the socks over it and finally slipped on the leech socks. Something was definitely better than nothing.

We now came to a small hill.  The steep zig zag climb up the hill took us to some height and provided a panoramic view of the surroundings. I felt really bad as we had all stopped admiring the views by now. On one side was a cascade of hills covered with lush green grass, interspersed with shola forests. The Kudremukh peak was high up there with its sharp drop on one side and the other side resembling a horse’s face.

There were a few more streams to cross and I was now finding it a bit difficult to balance myself with that slippery sole. Exposure to the cold water was giving me cramps as well. We must have been a kilometre and a half away from the summit when it started to rain heavily. Water came pouring down the mud trail and it was difficult to walk on the mud. Peering out of the modest shelter of my raincoat, I asked the green hills, “Is this how you welcome enthusiastic trekkers?” The retort comes in the form of another spell of cold showers. Exhausted, I soldiered on.

Our guide mentioned that if it continued to rain like this the streams would rise with the increased flow of rain from the mountains. We finally decided to turn back.

Photo courtsey Nithin PM

Photo courtesy Nithin PM

The climb down was faster, but the streams had swollen. And I had become a bit paranoid. I only remember being pulled across the streams.

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Photo courtesy Nithin PM

We reached back at 5 pm. I removed my left leech socks – pretty much shredded by then – from my shoeless foot and found three leeches hanging on. I sprinkled salt and watched the leeches fall off lamely, but the blood kept flowing on for the next couple of hours.

It did not take a huddle for us to decide to check out from Mullodi village and go in search of another hotel closer to civilization. We spend the next day tending to our leech punctures, our wet phones and our exhaustion.

 

Kudremukh receives an average annual rainfall of 7,000 mm. The wet climate and the tremendous water retentive capacity of the grasslands and forests has led to the formation of thousands of perennial streams in the region converging to form three major rivers of the region – Tunga, Bhadra and Nethravathi – that form an important lifeline for the people of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, providing sustenance and livelihood to the millions of people living downstream.

 

For trekking enthusiasts, if the idea of a monsoon trek appeals to you, you won’t mind the odds – the incessant rains, paths paved with slush, umpteen stream crossings, leeches unlimited and some seriously wet gear. Then head out to Kudremukh in the rains, between June and August.

 

For those not too keen on a monsoon trek to Kudremukh, October to February promises cooler weather, less leeches, clear views of the rolling hills, verdant valleys ….. and intact shoes and dry phones, of course!

Photo courtesy Nithin PM

Photo courtesy Nithin PM

None of us dared to carry our DSLR cameras. We had a few mobile phones which were all soaked by day end. We did manage a few shots, but could not manage to take as many pictures as we would have loved to. The few we managed are posted here.

C'mon we had fun too....

C’mon we had fun too….

Now the million dollar question…. Did this trek inspire us to answer the call of the mightier Himalayan mountains and the Roopkund trek et al? It did….atleast, I did buy a brand new pair of shoes – ankle high ones. For more on the Roopkund travails, stay tuned…

 


A walk along the ridge – Tarey Bhir

There is a Sikkim that does not include a Gangtok, a Pelling or even North Sikkim’s cold destinations like Lachen and Lachung. It’s a Sikkim that few have cared to see and fewer still have seen.

If you are one among those who want to see that hidden beauty of the orchid state, see something unique and spectacular, make sure to include Tarey Bhir in your itinerary.

So what is Tarey Bhir and where is it?

In the lesser toured South Sikkim, in and around the lesser visited town of Namchi, there are still a handful of attractions that the comparatively few people (as against East, North and West Sikkim) who visit the region check out. The Sherdup and Dichen Choeling monasteries that overlook the town, the much less ancient 135 feet tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava that towers over the landscape and the more distant Temi tea garden – the only tea garden in Sikkim – are usually packed into a day’s cab tour.

But there is still another very deserving gem in the region that, surprisingly, is yet to be a staple on the tourist itinerary. Nor is it being visited enough by the offbeat traveller – if the amount of information and photos on the internet is anything to go by.

That, in a nutshell, is why we thought we definitely had to check out this spectacular natural marvel. And we foraged online for whatever scrap of information we could gather about Tarey Bhir. We were to learn, much to our chagrin, not much. So, that reinforced our desire to visit it. And the intrepid travellers we were, we decided to just take it as it comes…but to, definitely, take it!

Which is how we got to take an hour long cab ride from Namchi and found ourselves standing outside a rather nondescript gate that did carry, if not very many visitors, a signpost announcing Tarey Bhir. We had passed the small village of Sukrabarey and had travelled 30 km out of Namchi.

There were only a few locals around and not a single tourist, in the conventional sense. A few school children were the only ones among them who looked animated and rushed on ahead. We walked in and realized just how larger than life Tarey Bhir was.

Tarey Bhir is a 3 km long ridge with a 3500 ft drop at the end. The Bhir (Nepali for cliff) is one spectacular formation and it is hard to resist taking a few shots. There was a stepped path built along the top of the ridge that made it look like a small wall of China. It was quite windy as we started to descend the steps. A barred side railing kept us from flying off the ridge. The houses in the nearby villages looked like small specks from that height.

We walked till where the cemented steps ended. There were a few workers from the tourism department who were paving the rest of the steps. Over 500 m of the ridge remains to be paved. We were told that a lookout tower was also being planned at the end of the ridge. And why not? On a clear day, the breathtaking view from the edge promises a great vista – the confluence of the Teesta and Rangeet River down below and also the lower hills of Kalimpong and Darjeeling.

The walk lasted for about an hour. For all its charm and uniqueness, Tarey Bhir is, sadly and surprisingly, not even on any travel agent’s tour itinerary of the region. Which is just as well…is it any wonder that the place still retains an unhurried, tranquil charm?!

We realised that even the handful of local tourists we spotted there were visiting the place simply out of curiosity. Our guide and driver, Biraj Rai, confessed that he had heard of Tarey Bhir but it was the first time he was visiting the place. A great companion and resource, he is based out of Pelling (West Sikkim) but was already making plans to visit again with his friends.

Biraj on the ridge

Biraj on the ridge

So now you know that there is a compelling reason to fit in South Sikkim also and plan a visit to Tarey Bhir. High up with wide views of the surrounding area, you can’t help but stand, look out and admire the green and pleasant land. And, of course, you don’t even need to do it on a sunny  day – Tarey Bhir is a great walk all year round.

Tarey Bhir Travel Information

  • Location: Tarey Bhir is located at a distance of 30 km from Namchi, the district headquarters of South Sikkim.
  • How to reach: Local jeep services run regularly from Namchi. Namchi is located at a distance of 75 km from Gangtok and 45 km from Darjeeling.
  •  When to visit: Tarey Bhir is open from 08:00 am to 17:00 pm on all days. There is no entry fee.

At Gurudongmar Lake

Somewhere between my last post on Sikkim and this one, many a thing happened. I lost a shoe in a Kudremukh monsoon trek – not to mention that I almost ‘drowned’ my phone too, found a friend in Cambodia, used a dry pit on the way to Roopkund, learnt to bargain in Thai in Ayuthayya, …… the list never ends.

I also got so caught up in the mundane grind of every day life. I’ve been off the grid lately, between trying to complete one assignment and starting another.  My life has been preoccupied and I have discovered that the normal rhythm of my routine was thrown out of the kilter.  Those rhythms revolved around my identity as a blogger. For these last couple of days, I was trying to be one. This is where I left off…

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There is a lake up there in the Sikkim Himalayas. It’s not easy to get there. Nor is it, mercifully, impossible. But content with the fact that this emerald, bluish-green or icy white droplet (depending on the month you visit it) of incredible beauty lies at 17,100 feet (5148 m) and over 16 hours and a night’s stay away from Gangtok makes for an unforgettable journey, not just the destination.

This lake could well be the focal point of your Sikkim trip…maybe, of even your Eastern Himalayas itinerary. Gurudongmar Lake is one of the highest lakes in the world. It lies on the northern side of the Khangchengyao range in a high plateau contiguous to the Tibetan plateau. A stream emerging from the lake is one of the source streams of the Teesta River – the life line of Sikkim. The Sikkimese believe that this lake has been blessed by Guru Padmasambhava – the founder of the Nyingma tradition, the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. And it is he who lends his name to this sacred lake. The entire lake freezes in the winter with the exception of one small portion. When the ice melts in the summers, the waters are a clear, sparkling blue.

A visit to North Sikkim is the most popular circuit among visitors to Sikkim. The journey takes you from Gangtok through the hilly terrain of Mangan to Chungthang, a nodal junction. From here the road bifurcates for the Lachen and Lachung valleys. The road to Lachen takes you further up to Gurudongmar Lake, while the road to Lachung leads you to the Yumthang valley and further up to Zero point.

On a misty morning in April 2014, we left a rain drenched Gangtok and started our journey up on the winding roads that led to North Sikkim. Armed with a Mahindra Xylo and an enthusiastic driver, Farooq, we were on our way from the North Jeep stand in Gangtok.

We had decided on a 3 night/4 day package to Lachen and Lachung, which included a visit to Gurudongmar Lake, Yumthang Valley and Zero point. To go to North Sikkim, Indian citizens need a special Inner Line Permit from the Indian Army and Sikkim Police Authorities. This entire region is under the control of the Indian army and you need special restricted area permit to visit this lake. One can get a permit from the tourist information centre which is situated at MG road in Gangtok. Permits can also be easily arranged by most of the local travel agencies. We had decided to go with a travel agency which we had booked through the hotel we had stayed at – Hotel Sagorika. Foreign nationals are not permitted to visit the lake due to security reasons.

The drive was slow. The roads were bad. There were remnants of landslides, every now and then – small, large and sometimes massive. Sikkim is an earthquake prone zone. Here the mountainsides are brittle, leading to frequent mudslides, sliding rocks and boulders breaking loose. The earthquake in September 2011 was devastating and the National Highway 31A was badly hit. The landslides get timely cleared by the diligent Border Roads Organization (BRO). Or could we have travelled this far?

Apart from this distraction, the roads were quiet. There were no blaring horns. But on this stretch, honking could even trigger a landslide.  And why honk at all? There were hardly any other vehicles on the road. We were also witnessing a sea of colors – colors which were very different from those on the omnipresent prayer flags fluttering in the wind. The political battle in Sikkim had intensified to a war footing with assembly elections in the state just a few days away. Flags from both the parties – the veteran player Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) and the one year old Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) – dominated the road sides. SDF has been in power for an uninterrupted 20 years.

There was an unprecedented fervour and enthusiasm in the air….and the candidates kept smiling from posters and hoardings all along the way. We came across a few political gatherings at some of the towns we passed. It was the last few days of campaigning and the candidates were making the most of their last chances. We made a stop at Kabi Langchuk, 17 km from Gangtok, on the North Sikkim highway. This is the place where the historic treaty of blood brotherhood between the Lepcha and the Bhutia community chiefs took place. The spot where the ceremony took place is marked by a memorial stone pillar.  Decorated with prayer flags and found amidst the cover of dense forest, this place is worth a visit.

The entire route was extremely picturesque and green. A lot of waterfalls dotted the hills and we stopped at one of the famous places to admire the Seven Sisters Waterfalls. In terms of ‘Sikkim Tourism’, one of the most standout features in Sikkim is the vast number of beautiful monasteries. Most of the monasteries are high up in the mountains and are adorned with some really bright and colorful paintings. We did not want to miss out on the rich cultural, heritage and religious traditions of Sikkim. Phodong Monastery is one of the six major monasteries in Sikkim and was located on our way. We had travelled around 35 km from Gangtok on the highway, when Farooq took a sharp right turn and started climbing a small hill.

Labrang Monastery

We passed the Phodong Monastery first to first visit the Labrang Monastery, which was located further up. At Labrang, Buddhist prayer flags fluttered serenely in the mountain breeze. A few younger monks sat talking animatedly on the lawns. The monastery was small and stone-walled. The monotony of the grey stones were broken by the bright colours used on the prayer wheels and window frames. It looked ancient and it was… built in 1884. We walked towards the huge doors only to find it closed. Seeing us standing there knowing not what to do, two young monks came running to us. They had the key to the monastery. This is what happens in Sikkim. Monks are happy to receive visitors and to show them around.

Around Labrang Monastery

Around Labrang Monastery

We entered the dimly lit prayer hall. The monks explained to us the various idols of Bodhisatvas that were arranged in the prayer hall. Colourful Thangkas and murals adorned the walls. There were wooden racks holding ancient manuscripts. We walked around taking in the mystical smell of ghee and incense.The monks also showed us to an upstairs room which had a green deity sporting a necklace of severed heads – Taradevi – a tantric manifestation of Durga.

Inside the Labrang Monastery

Thanking the monks we proceeded to the Phodong monastery. This was a bigger monastery and was bustling with senior monks in deep red robes walking around clutching to their ubiquitous prayer beads. Here, again, the prayer room was closed.

Phodong Monastery

Phodong monastery

Our next stop was Mangan, the district headquarters of North Sikkim. In Mangan we showed our passport and finished other formalities. We were now driving along roads that were hacked out from the fragile mountains.At some places the roads looked like partially closed tunnels with protruding ledges overhanging. The ledges looked as if they would crumble at any moment.

We were now headed for Chungthang. This is one of the main towns in North Sikkim and is situated at the confluence of Lachen Chu and Lachung Chu.  ‘Chu’ means river in Tibetan. The Lachen Chu and Lachung Chu together form the Teesta River.

Chungthang is located at a distance of 95 kilometers from Gangtok, at an elevation of 1,700 meters (5,600 ft). Chungthang is a major sub division in North Sikkim, and a nodal junction. Here we saw an ongoing work of a hydroelectric project.

From Chumthang, Lachen is about 27 km and Lachung is about 20 km. From Chumthang there was no tarmac on parts of the road and sometimes the jeep had to wade through streams that ran right through the road. As we moved further, the hills seemed to get taller and the valleys deeper.

We reached Lachen by 7 pm. Stepping down from the car we felt the chill. Lachen is built on a series of hills. It was necessary for us to stop for a night at Lachen to acclimatize before starting on our journey up. Accommodation was at Hotel View Point Lachen. The hotel was clean and comfortable and the food was simple but tasty.

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Waking up the next morning, we were simply spellbound by the sublime beauty of the Lachen valley. Lachen, at 2750 m (9500 ft), is a small settlement. The village has a few houses, a lot of them converted into homestays, and a few lodges, all catering to the crowds visiting Gurudongmar Lake. There were barren mountains around with snowy peaks peeping higher behind them. Other than the houses and lodges there is a Gompa, the Lachen Gompa, where the footprints, a water-carrying utensil and a robe of Guru Padmasambhava are preserved. Over the years Lachen has transformed from a sleepy town to a bustling tourist destination.

Lachen at dawn

Lachen at dawn

It was only 5.00 A.M and we were ready to set out for Gurudongmar Lake. Yes, the journey from Lachen to Gurudongmar starts very early in the morning. Driving through the larch and spruce forests of the upper Lachen Valley we could witness the most dramatic transformation of landscape. The trees were tall, may be centuries old. There were green meadows carpeted in wildflowers that ran for miles. There were rhododendron bushes as well, all waiting to bloom.  During the months of May and June, the whole of Sikkim is transformed into a flush of myriad hues. We were a bit early. In April, the Rhododendrons were still in the buds. As we ascended higher, the terrain started getting bleaker and browner. We were leaving the greenery behind.

With each passing bend, we gradually gained altitude – the road got worse, and the climate got colder. We were driving along the right bank of Teesta River. Teesta had been our constant companion, sometimes running alongside and at other times a shimmering ribbon in a gorge deep below, rushing the through the rocks and boulders on its way down in the valley.

The further east we travelled the more the Teesta changed from a docile escort to a ferocious usher. The force with which it flows in these parts is the reason why there are so many hydroelectric projects on it. But, alas, these projects have taken away the charm of these places. The vegetation began to thin. Huge trees gave way to dwarf juniper and scrub jungles. Clouds hung heavy overhead and lay scattered all over the valley as the green cover gave way to sheer barrenness.  In another two hours of steep ascent we would touch the Tibetan plateau.

We reached Thangu village by 7.00 am, two hours after we had left our cosy hotel in Lachen. Thangu, a small hamlet at 14000 ft, is the breakfast stop for all the travellers travelling to Gurudongmar. An ITBP camp is located here. Here, most of the houses double up as kitchen rooms where basic breakfast is served.

The last vestiges of sleep were dissolved by a piping hot bowl of spicy Maggi served with a few slices of buttered bread. It was warm inside the kitchen. There was a wooden pillar in the middle of the room which had a few coal ambers burning at its base. There were wooden planks arranged around the burning coal and we huddled around it savouring the hot Maggie. We also bought a few popcorn packets that were supposed to help combat altitude sickness.

We were rejuvenated to tackle the road again. The drive, the pace, the landscape, everything changed from here. The terrain now resembled a rocky wilderness. There was a rustic beauty to this place. A brown setting with a few spots of snow visible in the distance.

Our next pit stop was at the army check-point at Giangong.  Here we had to show our permits and ID cards for security reasons. This place has the “The world’s highest cafe at 15,000 feet”, managed by the army. The journey from Giagong to Gurudongmar passes through one of the highest cold deserts in the world.

The craggy mountains stand out against the frozen streams and dusty roads. There were yaks grazing in the distance. The lake was another two hour drive from Giangong.

We were now driving into the treacherous Tibetan Plateau. Treacherous? We did spot a few army bunkers which were well camouflaged.

We also saw a few fenced mine areas. Army trucks and jeeps kept scuttling around. We were not very far from the border. But what scared us most were a few boards that had “This road is being watched by China. Do not stray” on it. With no clear roads it was easy to stray indeed; and any deviation from the roads would have led us to China!

The lake is just 5 km away from the border.  Due to its proximity to China border, this area is very sensitive. This entire region is under control of Indian army.…… India truly feels far away.

We were driving on non-existent roads, so broken down that it would be illegal to call them roads. Farooq must have been channelizing his experience and his driver’s intuition to drive ahead.

Suddenly the surreal movie depicting the mountain scenery of the trans-Himalayan path came to an end. Our bone-jarring ride had come to an end. We tumbled out from the Xylo, ready to pass out from the lack of oxygen. Even if we had fainted, the reward of this glorious view of the lake would have woken us up instantly. In front of us was the most awe-inspiring sight.

Gurudongmar Lake

It is very difficult to imagine a lake of this size situated in the middle of a cold desert. It took us a few moments to register the beauty of the place. Right in the middle of the alpine snow flanks was a lake covered with a thick layer of ice. And as the legend said a small portion did remain without ice.

Gurudongmar lake is said to be fed by melting glaciers. The lake is surrounded by the peaks of Chomiomo (6829 metres) and Kangchung Tso (6750 metres). Due to the sheer height of these mountains, the monsoon clouds cannot cross and get trapped on the mountain as snow. It never rains here, it seems. We were quite relieved to be not stacked amongst hordes of tourists. We were standing at one of high points of the globe. Colourful prayer flags were fluttering in the breeze. We walked towards a flight of stone steps and slowly climbed down. Standing by the lake, listening to the howl of the wind and the crackling of the ice on water, it was hard to describe what all this felt like. As the ice glistened and the water sparkled, it didn’t take long for us to fall under the spell.

Totally bewitched at 17000 ft. The sun was getting brighter. It is mandatory to wear sun glasses under such conditions. You could go blind from the reflection of the white snow. The wind began to blow hard and was cutting through our numerous layers of woollies. After a few snaps, we started to climb up. Due to the increase in altitude and very less oxygen, every step appeared to be a huge challenge.The thin oxygen supply can leave you wanting for more and more air all the time. It does curious things to your mind and brain. Time stops. Your heart slows down. Despite the acute discomfort and slight headache, there was a desire to stay on. We trudged towards the Sarva Dharma Sthal.

Sarva Dharma Sthal

The army maintains this tiny shrine that is found on the shore of the lake. For the past 1 hour we were finding it difficult to adjust to the cold weather and high altitude over here. The soldiers who patrol this area have to stay for a stretch of 20 days. We had to make it back to the army check-post before 12 pm, the deadline for visitors.

Chopta Valley

We began our descent. On our way back, we made a short stop at Chopta Valley. The rocky terrain gave way to a lush green wide expanse as we got to the top of the valley. Foreign nationals are only allowed till the Chopta valley.

Our journey back was uneventful. We reached back in Lachen by 3 pm. We did a quick visit to the Lachen Gompa, situated on top of a winding road.

Lachen Monastery

The Lachen town and its Gompa have been in news ever since Divya Khosla Kumar shot a a few scenes of her movie Yaariyan here.

Back at the hotel, we stood on the balcony looking out at the sleeping town and the swirling evening mist that was already eating into the hills behind it. Gurudongmar was somewhere in that whiteness but shining deep within us.

Sikkim has always been an enigma for me. There is so much hidden here, as much as is revealed. I ‘m not sure what I came searching for in Sikkim. Was it my quest for redemption, or my path to inspiration or maybe my test of spirituality….time will tell.

 


Sikkim Diary: The Five Treasures of the High Snow

I awoke gently, sensing a silent presence beyond the wall of our hotel room. It was just short of 5 in the morning, still dark. Opening the balcony door, I stepped out into the cold Sikkim morning. Outside, the prayer flags kept fluttering in the wind – waving gently at times, raging uncontrollably at other times.

 

Even in that feeble light, I could make out the flush of colours – the yellows, the greens, the reds, and the blues.  Beautiful, brightly coloured pieces of cloth, with the prayers of a thousand days sprawled across. Gentle or strong the wind was, the ancient Buddhist prayers, mantras and symbols were being carried away, blessing anyone coming in its way, uplifting the spirit, and making everyone a little happier. After all, they were silent prayers spoken on the breath of nature.

I remained on the balcony, shivering, but fixing my gaze on the horizon. Suddenly she appeared, first like an apparition, and then softly, beautiful as a shimmer in the starlight. Mount Kanchenjunga – the five treasures of the high snow – the guardian deity of the Lepchas, the original inhabitants of Sikkim.


I had imagined a thousand times the effect of the sun rise on the Kanchenjunga range. How the golden rays would cast a warm glow on the mountain slopes. How I’d frame my photographs around those snowy summits.

 

Watching the play of alpen glow on the Kanchenjunga range, I realised that this was my first sight of Mt Kanchenjunga. This was our 7th day in Sikkim, and till now we had spent hours on the numerous terraces and balconies of the hotels hoping to catch a glimpse, but with no luck. For the last seven days we had spent four days in and around Gangtok, where  the clouds stubbornly refused to part, and three days on the dusty roads of North Sikkim where Mt K was not visible.

 

Sikkim had been calling us for a long time now. Long enough to virtually drive along the Google map roads, a thousand times. Every turn, every stream, every waterfall, every bridge……..was etched on our minds. The unfamiliar tongue twisting village names, at the tips of our tongues.

 

And the colors. Everything in Sikkim is about colours – the prayer flags, the prayer wheels, the monasteries, the monks, the flowers, the Thangkas, the people – yet what comes out of all these vibrant colours is the colour of peace – the colour of white – the whiteness of the mountains.

 

As the ridges of the five peaks of Kanchenjunga turned red with the first rays of light, I noticed that I had not carried my camera with me. Much as I felt a pang of remorse at missing out on capturing the elusive peak that morning, I was prepared to wait. After all, we were here in the orchid state for another week. And we were moving westwards, closer to Mt. K, and there wasn’t any place she could hide from us.  The next rendezvous would, I was sure, be tomorrow, a little hill drive away. And this time, I would have my camera handy.

 


Gandikota: The Hidden Grand Canyon of India

Picture an unconquerable fort built in red granite stone, guarded by a 20 feet high entry gate, enclosed in a  fort wall running around the 5 mile perimeter;  101 bastions, each about 40 feet high, are cut into the fort wall; beautiful palaces with exquisite carvings; perennial springs constantly irrigating the fruit and flower  gardens; old temples, providing a look into a past with their walls, pillars, ceilings and floors sporting bas reliefs, co-existing with a mosque,  probably built by different rulers……….

Unconquerable because the fort is protected by a deep gorge on one side, 4 km long and 700 m deep, with enormous boulders adding to its natural defense, cut by a river flowing below.

As I stood safely on one of the flatter and non-swaying stone platforms right next to the deep gorge, Pennar River seemed harmless, a bit stagnant and definitely not flowing, at the bottom. Nothing much of the unconquerable fort remains, albeit the crumbling fort wall, we couldn’t go a few feet without seeing some sort of a ruin that lay amidst a mix of stone boulders that were scattered around the place.

Welcome to Gandikota – the Hidden Grand Canyon of India.

Gandikota Fort (Google Maps)

Gandikota Fort and Pennar River as seen in Google Maps

How many places can claim to be literally gorge-ous, other than, of course, the Grand Canyon. The scale here may be smaller, or rather minuscule, as compared to the 446 km long, 29 km wide, and 1,800 m deep gorge cut by the mighty Colarado River in the Arizona State, USA, but the setting is no less breathtaking. And it goes one notch up if you were to imagine the backdrop holding a sprawling ancient fort, a mosque, a couple of exquisitely carved temples and the history behind the area which played a significant role in some of the well known dynasties that once ruled southern India.

A closer view (note the bastion walls)

A closer view (note the bastion walls)

Gandikota Fort is situated in Gandikota, a small village situated in the Erramalai hills on the bank of the river Pennar in Kadapa district, Andhra Pradesh. Gandikota gets its name from the word ‘Gandi’ which means gorge in Telugu. The fort is believed to have been constructed during the 12th century by a subordinate of a Chalukyan king and has also served many a crucial role during the reign of the Vijayanagara, Qutub Shahi and Kakatiya dynasties.

We did not choose this remote location for our next driving holiday for nothing. And we did not choose it overnight. Gandikota had been on our travel plans for quite a long time. We’ve been curious about this place for a while as photos from other travellers kept appearing in our Google stream.

Our driving holidays always started with the car headlights on. But this time, due to a pre-planned engagement, we had to push our start time way ahead of our usual 5.00 am departure to a 10.30 am one. Being a Saturday and the beginning of the long Pongal weekend (if you had taken a day off in between), we did not expect the traffic to be smooth flowing on the outer ring road. It took almost an hour to reach the Devanahalli toll.

Our route plan was to drive through  Devanahalli – Chikkaballapur – Gorantla – Kadri – Pullivendula – Jammalamadugu – Gandikota, passing many small villages like Thondur and Muddanur on the way. It was going to take us around 5 hours to cover the 250  odd kilometers.

Endless NH 7

Endless NH 7

The road was good, excellent in some stretches. We did follow the NH 7 till Gorantla, from where we took a right turn and followed the road to Kadri. We also saw the diversion to Puttaparthi ( and thought maybe some other time). The roads got a bit narrower whenever we had to  pass through smaller towns and we had to clamber across the sharp bumps sometimes. We also had some difficulty cruising amidst the many pilgrims who had congregated in front of the  Narasimhaswamy Temple in Kadri. Later we came to know it was Vaikunta Ekadashi, an auspicious day to visit the temple.

Kadri Narasimhaswamy Temple

Kadri Narasimhaswamy Temple

Once we had left the grime of the city behind, the scenery around us changed.  The landscape became a breathtaking mosaic of yellow sunflower expanses, fluffy cotton fields, jowar, millet, sugarcane and rice plantations. There were patches of barren scrub lands and conical hills dotted with jagged rock faces looming in the distance. While driving through the beautiful countryside I could not stop deeply breathing in with the clean air  the open roads,  a welcome break from the usual traffic congested and heavily polluted cities.

Landscape

Landscape

While driving on the village roads a lot of things can happen. You are sometimes stuck between goats with big floppy ears passing by or you are marveled by the sight of the white egrets waiting on the paddy fields to pull out worms and looking more like guarding a cricket patch, complete with all the positions starting from first slip, second slip and so on, or you are slowed down as the road has been encroached upon by a smart farmer who thought he could use it to dry hay or his red chilly produce of the day.

Scenes on the road

Scenes on the road

We also had to pay attention to the two wheeler riders. They need to be aware of the fact that their vehicles are meant for only two people and not for the whole town. One of the common sights on the road were to see up to three or sometimes four adult passengers on a  scooter. ‘And what is a helmet?’ they may ask in these places.

Other than the towering hills, some other towering machines also caught our attention. Wind mills, standing tall, casting shadows across the hills and fields, a stark juxtaposition of ancient and modern India. These wind-powered turbines set up by Suzlon Energy are here to bring a wind of change  and are probably the only solution to a country plagued by power blackouts.

Wind mills on the horizon

Wind mills on the horizon

At Mudannur, we took a wrong turn but an elderly man guided us onto the right road. He actually told us the way till Gandikota – first we had to cross a railway line and then go straight on the Jammalamagudu Road up till a huge bridge that crosses Pennar River. Before the bridge, turn left and the road will take you straight to Gandikota. But our Google map had something else in store for us and it coaxed us to take a left turn well before the bridge only to pass through a small village. Nevertheless, the villagers did guide us through a shortcut and we did reach the Gandikota APTDC complex by 4 pm.

APTDC Gandikota

APTDC Gandikota

Covering an area of about 10 acres with 12 cottages, a dormitory, a  dining hall and kitchen, and most importantly a huge parking space and kids play area, the APTDC complex at Gandikota is a sprawling affair.  To match with the fort beside, the whole complex is built in stone.

I had called the APTDC Bangalore reservation office to make bookings for the stay here. ‘There are no online bookings for Gandikota, only offline bookings’, a lady at the reservation center told me. She gave me the manager’s number but also warned me that the signals were very weak there,  but rooms will be available as it is a huge complex. After many tries I finally got the manager, Mr Ramanuja Reddy,  on the phone, and booked a room.

It turned out that Mr Ramanuja Reddy was away for the weekend and Mr Basha the manager cum attendant cum kitchen in charge cum everything else came to our service.

The room looked cosy and spacious, though the TV and water heater were not working. After keeping our bags in the room we did not waste timing in driving to the fort which was located just a kilometer from the APTDC complex.

At the fort gate

At the fort gate

We parked our car just inside the entrance and walked through the huge gate. It led us onto  a winding path that took us to an open area.

A whole village existed inside the complex – houses, shops and even a primary school. We followed the stone path, jumping over a few lazy cattle, cow dung and scuttling chicken. On the way, we passed several  ruins. We first saw a four-tiered tower, aptly named Charminar.

Charminar

Charminar

We passed a brick building which was marked as a Jail. The gate was locked from outside so we could not go inside the compound. We also saw a small path on the left that led to the Madhavaraya temple.

Gandikota village

The village road ended at the Jamia Masjid. We later came to understand that we could have taken the car further inside through the village road till the Masjid, as we found a few tourist cabs parked adjacent to the mosque’s wall.

Village path leading to the Jami Masjid

Village path leading to the Jamia Masjid

We wanted to see the sunset from the gorge before it would get late, so without paying much attention to the ruins we made our way to it.

We passed the Masjid, a building which was marked as Granary and the Ranganatha Swamy Temple.

Rocks with cool steps but graffitti

Rocks with natural steps but artificial graffitti

We had to scramble up, across and down a few huge rocks to reach the gorge.

Rocks everywhere

George ?

You do not realise that there is something in store for you till you reach the very end of the chasm.  If you’ve ever been here, you will know the feeling… your heart skips a few beats and you find yourself breathless as you approach the edge. A massive chasm, very wide and very deep, standing between you and the other side.

Gorge

Pennar gorge

The walls of the gorge were extremely impressive.  Our eyes trailed down the magnificent cliffs and rock faces. We could make out the different layers of rock by color – red, brown, grey – which proved how old these mountains were. You see billions of years stacked up and cut through. Considering how flat the drive to Gandikota was, it was hard to believe how high you really are until you reach the rim and look down into this gorge.

billions of years rocks

Billions of years stacked up

The beauty of the gorge, the different colored rocks, the huge boulders placed precariously over one another as if they were dropped from the sky and the vast expanse of the place…… it’s amazing how nature works. There were several higher rock formations standing separate from where we were standing. We were lost in a world of magical shapes that rose from the ground and which gave a surreal touch to the landscape.

Rock formations

Curious case of rock formations

We tried climbing up some of the boulders. It was a treacherous climb at some places, considering the fact that we did not know whether the stones were loose. The rocks were still warm from the scorching sun. If in January, when we visited, it was this hot, one could imagine how hot it would be in the summers.

On the rocks

Climbing up the rocks

From the top, we could also get a better view of the crumbling fort wall that snaked around the fort.

How did those goats get up there?

How did those goats get up there?

We could also get a glimpse of the Mylavaram dam and reservoir from the chasm.

Mylavaram dam and reservoir

Mylavaram dam and reservoir seen at a distance

Also snaking below was the Pennar river – that force that must have helped to shape this gorge – but now the river was not flowing. I had seen pictures of a more fuller Pennar, may be taken soon after the monsoons.

Pennar River

Pennar River

We realised that the sunset was actually behind us, on the opposite side of the gorge. As dusk was catching up and we didn’t want to stumble over the rocks in the dark, we thought we would climb up the nearby Ranganatha Swamy Temple and enjoy the setting sun from there.

Sunset

Sunset

Judging the position of the sun as it set, we mentally calculated that the sunrise would be directly over the gorge and decided to come early the next morning. And we also had to visit the temples and the mosque.

We had a simple dinner and slept early.

The next morning, watching the sun rise over the raggedy canyon was as mesmerizing as its effect it had on the ruins nearby. The rocks shimmered and shone as the sun rays fell on them. In the morning the place was a joy to behold. The babblers, thrushes and partridges were poking around for breakfast.  And of course the gorge itself is a visual delight.

With the sun right behind you, spring can't be far behind

With the sun right behind you, spring can’t be far behind

We realized that one cannot survey the gorge from the edge of the chasm. Maybe one should find a way through the rocks to venture inside and track down the hidden caves and tunnels once used by the soldiers to comprehend the depth of the canyon. We had read somewhere that there were a few paths to the valley through caves, one of them still used by the locals can be found near the western edge of the fort.

Sunrise

Sunrise

When the sun rose, we took in the breathtaking scenery that unfolded in front of our eyes. There was only one other  group of 4-5 people who had clambered further up to the very edge, but they were more interested in testing the gorge’s echo quality feature than the rising sun.

On the rocks!!!

On the rocks!!!

When the echoes got unbearable and the sun got beyond the reach of our camera we decided to make our way down. On our way back we again climbed onto the Ranganatha Swamy Temple for a few shots.

Ranganatha Swamy Temple

Ranganatha Swamy Temple

The temple was very much in ruins and the main sanctum stood on an elevated  platform. But the exquisite carvings had not lost their sheen.

Inside the Ranganatha Swamy Temple

Inside the Ranganatha Swamy Temple

From the Ranganatha Swamy Temple, the tower of the Madhavaraya temple and the Jamia Masjid were visible.

The Jamia Masjid was locked as was the Granary.

Jamia Masjid

Jamia Masjid

The Jamia Masjid looked grand even in its dilapidated condition. The granary had a vaulted roof and is now used as a tourism office. We walked around and took a few shots.

Granary

Granary

We made our way to the Madhavaraya Temple. We could see the tower of the temple from a distance, but it did take a few turns and twists to reach the temple. It looked as if it were locked from outside as a huge lock was dangling from the gate. But we found out that a smaller gate was built into the bigger one and it was not locked.

Gopura

Gopura of Madhavaraya Temple

The temple was larger than the Ranganatha Swamy Temple and it did resemble the numerous Vijayanagara temples we had seen in Hampi.  We entered through the towering five-tiered gopura which was also the main entrance. The huge courtyard had pillared mandapas running  on all the sides.

Madhavacharya Temple

Madhavaraya Temple

The main sanctum was elevated and was at the center which had more pillars and a lot of intricate carvings. Other than the abundant simian population, both alive and sculpted, no other soul was in the premises.

One sculpture that caught our attention was an interesting combination of an elephant and bull. The head of both the bull and the elephant was merged skillfully, but if you would put your hand you could find that it looked like a bull from the right side and like an elephant from the left side.

elephant and bull

Elephant and Bull

Many of the stone carvings depicted stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. We stepped inside the temple. There was no visible idol inside but a lot of bats flying inside the main sanctum.  As we perambulated the temple we realized that there was another entrance at the back side which had a crumbling gopura on top.

Inside the Madhavacharya Temple

Inside the Madhavaraya Temple

As we walked back through the village we realized how close the villagers were living to these historical monuments, almost encroaching upon some of the structures. Are they a threat to the cultural heritage posing as a danger to this historic fort?

 But don’t these residents belong to this place? This is the only social space that has been theirs for decades or may be for centuries.

Gandikota village

Gandikota village

Do they really understand or value the cultural heritage lying in their backyard? The banks of the Pennar were excavated long ago by Britishers and now by the ASI, only to find out that there was human habitation in the region even during Paleolithic ages.

The AP tourism should come up with plans to help the residents of the village to begin to feel ownership towards the historical monuments. We did not find any guides at the complex. And I understand that even if there were, they could only speak Telugu. But why should they bother? Only a handful of tourists drive down to reach this village and the rich heritage brings in little benefit to the villagers.

Gandikota village

Gandikota village

Gandikota is really an amazing place to see.    The size and scale of the place, if not as huge as the Grand Canyon,  is such that pictures cannot do it justice. You have to see it for yourself to really appreciate it. So go visit……


Rubilu’s bamboo home

Where we love is home; home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.
Wakro, in Arunachal, is inhabited primarily by the Mishmis. Mishmis are one of the many tribes that belong to Arunachal Pradesh. Divided into three sub-tribes namely Miju, Digaru and Idu, Mishmis are well-known for their expertise in weaving and handicrafts. One of our ‘not-to-be-missed activities’ during our stay in Wakro was to visit an authentic Mishmi bamboo long house.
In and around Wakro
The ‘other activities’ that we had planned were not less invigorating either. We were woken up everyday, before 4.30 am,  by the cacophony of birds and the hoots and calls of the endangered Hoolock gibbons, the only ape species found in India. As dusk descends early in these parts, by 4.30 pm it’s dark. With no TV, phone calls or internet to pester you, it’s always library time. After an early dinner it’s time for bed. Sleep came easy and why not? We had plenty of things to do between dawn and dusk.
The road from Wakro to Medo
Uncle Moosa called up one of his students, Rubilu, who was glad enough to show us her bamboo home. We headed to Medo village, 20 km from Wakro, to meet Rubi and her family.

We first went to meet Rubi’s aunt, Bihem, a government school teacher, who is also an organic farmer and a very strong crusader against the usage of opium. Opium smoking is an integral part of Mishmi culture and many of their ceremonies require its use.

In front of Bihem's home
Bamboo houses are built long and rectangular in size and are raised about 2 to 4 feet from the ground. The houses are supported by wooden or bamboo posts.  Beneath the house, domestic animals like pigs, poultry and goats are reared and sheltered.
The Mishmi bamboo homes  may not be lavish, but are cosy and exude warmth. Life is simple in these places, without ostentation, but the culture and traditions are rich.
Rubilu's home
Rubi’s father, the village headman and known in these places as the ‘Gaon Burah’, was having a meeting with a few gentlemen in the living room. Without disturbing the men we moved through the long corridor.  The corridor opened on the right side into many other rooms.
The kitchen was at the end of the corridor, and we smelt it before we entered it. Rubi’s mom had already placed a kettle on the fire and was preparing tea for us. On top of the fire,  was a rectangular wooden frame that lay suspended from the ceiling. This was used to smoke meat, corn and or even dry fire wood. We sat around the fire and drank the sweet and spicy black tea. The floor of the kitchen was made of thin reed planks and the waste water could be discarded  through the floor. Even the vegetable waste was deposited beneath the house where the pigs and other animals lived.
Rubi's mother

Rubi’s mother

Rubi’s mother looked different from the chubby Mishmi ladies we had seen around. She had high cheek bones and a leaner figure. Later we learnt that she belonged to a different tribe, the Khamti tribe.
Inside the kitchen

Inside the kitchen

The kitchen was devoid of any hi-tech gadgets but what caught our eyes were the rows of colorful bottles that lined the window sills. Pickled bamboo shoots, Bhoot jhalokia chillies and many other pickled edible fruits, roots and shoots filled the bottles.
Her small but modest kitchen garden had all kinds of medicinal herbs, edible plants and fruit trees. The granary, toilet and washroom were built away from the main house.
 Inside the living room, the walls were not only adorned  with lovely portraits of smiling and chubby Mishmi babies, but also with what looked like the remains of a kill. Seeing my aghast expression, Rubi’s father explained that the skeletal remains of Mithun heads, Gaur heads and other animals were not to showcase the fighting skills of the valiant Mishmi men but were only the skulls of the animals that were sacrificed by the family.
The wall
He also said that even in these modern days, people here prefer to live in their bamboo houses not only because of the fact that bamboo is plentiful here, but it also gave them a sense of pride and togetherness. Though a lot of modern concrete homes have come up in Arunachal, the common practice is to build a part of the home, mostly the kitchen and dining area, in bamboo and the rest of the rooms in concrete. It did remind me of the many ancestral homes in Kerala, where some of the rooms, mostly the bathrooms and kitchen, are modernized leaving the inner courtyard or ‘nadumittam’ intact.
Rubi with her father
Even as we made our way back to Wakro, we could feel the sweet spicy flavor of the black tea and the warmth of that humble bamboo home.
Thank you Rubi  for taking us into your home.
————————————————————————————————————————————–
[Here is a story written by Rubi that was published in Children’s World, May 2011.]
                                                                                                                                MY MOTHER

Rubilu

 Rubilu Dellang,

cl. VII, APNE Library volunteer

As soon as I was born, I was looked upon with great pride by my mother. I have also realized that my greatest supporter in life is my mother. I am very thankful to my maternal grandparents for giving me such an adorable mom. Let me tell her story…… My mother belongs to the Khamti society of Chongkham in Arunachal Pradesh, but my father is of Mishmi tribe. At the age of seven or eight, my mother started going to the fields to help her father (my grandfather), even though she was put in a school. When the school bell rang, she would rush to the nearby stream, wash her legs and hands and would run home. She would eat her breakfast quickly, dress up and would rush to her school. She failed in her class III exams three times, but she also enjoyed studying with her juniors! Actually my mom was very talented, because, even though she did not go to school daily, she learnt how to read and write well. In those days, studying was not so important for Arunachali girls, as it is today. My grandparents did not encourage their children going to school, as they gave more importance to working in the rice fields. So my mother gave up studies when she was in class eight. When my mother was fifteen, she fell in love with a handsome youth. Most girls and boys in the Khamti society find their own partners for marriage. It is a common custom even today. After she left school, her parents moved to an interior part of Chongkham, to a village named Manmao. From that time, my mother found it easier to meet my father. When she was twenty, she got married to my dad and they moved to a Mishmi village called ‘Hooking’. My mother told me that in his youth, father was very arrogant. But, after he was chosen as the ‘gaon burah’ (village chief ), he became quite friendly to all. After marriage, my mom did not get much importance at her new home, when compared to my aunts and uncles.  My paternal grandparents did not like my mother very much, as they liked my aunts and uncles. This was because she was not from Mishmi society. But at home, we and father love her very much. My mom and dad work very hard for us.

[Rubilu is a reader activist and library volunteer at the APNE library, Wakro. A bright student, she loves to write stories about her childhood and her village. She is now a Class X student in Government Higher Secondary School, Tezu.]


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