This is exactly what ran through my rather awed mind when I encountered Tenzing Bhutia, a young man I met in the inner streets of Gangtok. I don’t know whether this should be a funny post or an overwhelmed one because my Sikkim sojourn was copious amounts of both actually. After the disaster of a family holiday to Panchmari, theMaa and the father owed me one.
The plane journey from Delhi to Bagdogra was how most of our airborne journeys are, with the father staring at and then imitating the passengers he finds amusing. And mind you, the man has anything but a soft voice. So when I saw a bunch of over enthusiastic Chinese passengers board the flight, I looked at the father pleadingly, urging him not to embark upon what he calls ‘friendly banter’, which normally includes asking inane questions to foreigners, telling them awful things about places they have travelled thousands of miles to visit and then directing them to world famous eateries such as Ganga Jamuna eat-at –your own- risk tikki waale. But luckily, he obliged. Good for me but disappointing for you guys coz I am certain you expected a baap related anecdote this time too no? Well, sorry.
This one is only about Sikkim and to be honest I could write about it a million times and still not get enough, though you guys might ,so let me just stick to one post. Feel lucky I even took you into consideration. Now there are things that were great, those that were good and some that I could certainly do without. So here are some tips on how not to behave like Nicole Ritche in a World Bank summit, while visiting the North East and other random observations of course.
The seven Sisters: Yes there are seven, get it? Guwahati is not the same as Gangtok is not the same as Aizwal is not the same as Dispur is not the same as BLOODY CHINA!! SO please don’t act like a complete ignoramus and do what the flight attendant did when handing out boarding passes and asking a Sikkimese girl for her passport. Seriously, I get that the momo guy with stubby fingers and Loreal silky hair is all you know about the Northeast but seriously man, do your homework. Also all of them do not eat dogs.
The Royal Parivaar decend: Now here’s the thing with vacationing with a family from the defence forces. Here’s how a typical day goes---we wake at 0600 hours, SIR! We brush teeth at 0615 hours, SIR! We sit at the dump throne at 0630 hours SIR! Official fun- having time begins at 0700 hours SIR! OVER AND OUT. And to top this, the father who always suffers from the Acchchi bahu from a K-serial syndrome will start brewing our cups of morning tea at 5AM and switching on geysers and will generally potter around doing other homely chores , while The Maa and I curl up into the warmer parts of our beds. He will make meticulous lists of where, how and when fun is to be had in the course of the day. Not a minute earlier or later.
Now we are well aware of the earthquake that the state of Sikkim was witness to and our hearts truly go out to all those who have lost loved ones in the disaster. Therefore it is very important not to act like an insensitive retard and take family pictures in front of broken buildings and destroyed houses, grinning away like a Talib right after the Afghan take over.
Child’s play? : So as the Parivaar made it’s way to the Rumtek monastery, I was all ready to soak in all that this place of wonder had to offer. Being a Buddhist, monasteries are always a big deal for me. So we made our way inside and I gaped at the exquisite carvings and statues that adorned every nook and corner of the place. There was an indescribable sense of calm. I got talking to one of the monks about the origins of the place, a little history and about the monastery in general. We spoke in whispers so as to not disturb the peaceful ambience. As he continued in hushed tones, a sudden loud sound of a temple bell rang through our ears. It didn’t stop and went on till the time the monk said “Oh no, what is wrong with these children?” He hastily lifted his maroon robes and darted across the corridor, only to see a 10 year old banging his head on the 5 foot tall holy gong, while his parents looked on proudly. It’s times like these when I feel like just air-lifting and dropping them in North Waziristan. The kid was rabid, out of control and behaved like an IIT-ian in a Victoria Secret fashion show.
The parents finally emerged. Now I don’t want to make a brash judgment about where these guys were from. Let me allow you guys to decide this time. So the mother of the brat audaciously looked the monk up and down then revealed her pearl white teeth through her cherry red lips and said “Sorry panditji, humaara Sunny toh bada shraarti hai!” So not only did she convert him to Hinduism, she also laughed her guts out when the brat pointed at the monk and screamed “mummy, inko monkey kehete hai.”
The Maa and the father, while looking at my livid face, thanked the powers that be for I practice the faith only within the four walls of our home. Had I been a member of the clergy, I would totally do a Burma on them.
It’s raining men: Indian women never get to say this and we have pretty much resigned to our fate. Even the prettiest of our sisterhood is faced with the usual dose of the most egoistic, bigoted, hypocritical, desperate morons that walked the earth. And if this wasn’t enough, they also have the guts to be ugly as hell. But not in the Northeast. Cutie after cutie, hottie after hottie--- tons of well dressed, courteous men who will not gape, stare at or letch, so have no fear and strut around in your nothings. The men are truly a sight for sore eyes and other parts, of course.
But then there is the question of what to do with our mainland men. I’d say ladies, please carry them along as cabin baggage. Boyfriends, husbands or both, just carry them all. Because trust me, your shopping bags in Gangtok can get pretty heavy, what with all the delightfully cheap, gorgeous shoes, clothes and bags that could in 5 minutes make you look like a red carpet celebrity in under 2K. For someone on sabbatical, it was surreal. There was not the least bit of shame while maxing out my credit card, then faking a breakdown leading to maxing out the Father’s credit card. 6 pairs of Charles&Keiths at a 60 % off is well worth the drama.
Baba Mandir: While most kids grew up on a copious dose of their grandmother’s tales, we the progeny of the olive green were raised on tales of war heroes, and men who without a second thought, laid down their lives to protect the borders of a largely ungrateful nation. I had always wanted to visit the shrine of Harbhajan Singh, who for generations, has been the stuff legends are made of in the Indian Army and him being from the same regiment as The Father made it even more special. This is all I want to write here actually, as I am still to get over what I saw at 14400 feet above sea level at the Nathula Pass, where incidentally it is always 2 degrees and therefore wearing shorts and a t-shirt is not the smartest thing to do (yes, I had to show off my spanking legs, I just HAD to). Your body WILL turn blue, and will begin to resemble Dev Anand's skin after another 50 facelifts and you might need an ambulance (yes, that would be me again). So there.
As I said earlier, I could go on for another 4 posts, but shall refrain. The ‘open letter’ fiasco, by the way, has reached the hills as well. So when I met Tenzing for the first time he said to me “Shahana Nair Joshi? Wait, are you that letter girl? Oh shit, my sister worships you.” As a result of that I was invited for a traditional Tibetan meal and was taken around to the most quaint non touristy places including a jam session on a hill overlooking the whole city, with a local jazz band who were mindblowing.
Was this moment, right here, right now well worth a rabid rant that caused a mindless nation to loathe me?
Oh hell yeah.