All holidays are always fun. But some are fulfilling too. My recent one to Sikkim was one such beautiful amalgam. Everything about this trip was unusual for me. I wasn’t part of any planning, had no clue about the itinerary, didn’t care to know about the places we were visiting or the home-stays we were staying at, except that I felt certain of being an utter misfit in this very dedicated group of birders as co-travellers. But in hindsight, this absence of any agenda, information or expectation of the trip made it the most holistic holiday experience for me. Every day of this journey needs to be preserved in words apart from the pictures, but the stay in Kewzing alone warrants a dedicated travelogue of its own.
Kewzing in South Sikkim was our first destination and it welcomed us with a thunderous downpour. The real trip began with a bright and glorious sunrise to which I was not a witness. My day began with a warm and fuzzy morning, with the sip of Darjeeling tea and the taste of a pseudo solo trip, and both were refreshingly delicious. The birders including my husband had left and would leave early every morning to scourge any glimpse of the winged beauties.
The beautiful Bon Farmhouse Home-stay resonates with a very different chirp apart from all the Flycatchers and Barwings surrounding it. And that is of the little boisterous soul of Temposhering, all of five years, this kiddo can be your trusted guide and wonderful companion. I felt an instant affinity to him and I think he has some really happy vibe. He was so eager to take me around that him and I wasted no more time, got dressed and ready for the neighbourhood monastery. Perched on a quiet bend was this quaint and serene monastery and Tempo showed me every bit of it with native authority. He even explained the ritual of praying, bowing down three times, which objects to touch with sanctity and which not to. We lingered for a while talking to young monks, clicking pictures with them and just having a laugh.
|The lovely Bon Farmhouse|
|The quaint monastery|
On the way down, Tempo warned me in a hush, “There’s a dog there, so walk lightly or else we’ll be pounced at”. We exchanged some whispers in the willows and he picked up a dried branch for our security. You can say he was my personal chaperon there. And what an amazing one! He took me downhill for another walk, pointing at flowers and butterflies, strolling through the meadows till the edge of the forest. No sooner did he see some gray clouds packing together, that he advised to return home. While this little boy’s energy and excitement is infectious, his mental receptiveness, keenness and sharpness totally bowled me over. For a five year old, he is incredible.
Pristine environment and a relaxed mind whet your appetite like nothing else. And we gorged on the freshest hand-picked ningro(wild ferns), nakima (wild orchids), squashes, tree tomatoes and other local lip smacking food right from the Bon farm. After a hearty meal, soaking in the languid mountain air surrounded by fresh moss-covered garden walls where pretty butterflies do their own flamenco to the songs of Blue whistling thrushes and Rufous-capped babblers is premium luxury. The stillness of mind which the movement of nature brings is magical. It’s the time when you sit down to admire the splendour of the microcosmic world in the larger and incredulous cosmic picture.
As the sun dipped down, I went exploring the local market. Walking through the cobbled and curved paths I reached a little market square which was way too quiet to be called a market. Nevertheless, I trotted up and down, bought myself slippers, disappointedly asked around for some local thukpa and finally ended at the last block on the street. The name of that decrepit inn kind of caught my attention. “Hungry Jack”. It looked quite dingy and I almost turned back. But then I thought, come on if I wouldn’t step out of my usual self now, when else? And so I made myself comfortable in that shady country tavern all by myself. A couple of minutes later I was already mingling with a bunch of strangers, who looked pretty amused to see me there alone and a few minutes past we were cheering over a local drink. As frivolous as the evening seems, there are certain moments about a trip that you look back at and smile. A moment of being your uninhibited self, it reveals a bit about yourself that you have come of age in your own way.
|Wooded Trail to quietitude|
My idea of a hill holiday has always been of going for walks with nothing in mind. And the next morning was just this. It is so liberating when there are no plans, no fear of missing out on anything and thus everything you come across is a windfall. Tempo, my friend, was at the door at six thirty, ready to take me around. I asked him to let me sleep in some extra and he agreed. After a couple of hours, we were outdoors, walking through the picturesque wooded trails where the sun beams came in slits, wild flowers fenced the paths and misty clouds hid the distant peaks. We trekked to meet Tempo’s friends in the local basti, chatted with them and came prancing down to a tiny brook of fresh water. Splashing and splishing there, I almost felt childlike with no care in the world. Then out of nowhere he said, “You are very cute…and pretty. I like you.” With the widest smile I ruffled his hair and replied in earnest, “I like you too… Tempo.” The sheer simplicity and innocence of his compliment is what I will hold onto for the longest time.
|With Tempo (centre blue t-shirt) and his freinds|
Later in the day, as I sat by myself cohering my thoughts, I felt wrapped in a meditative moment. For that precise moment, nothing else mattered, the rest of the world with its trappings dissolved. My apprehensions to fit or misfit in a group of naturalists, outside my comfort zone, rested in peace. I could only think of Khalil Gibran’s lines, “…let there be spaces in your togetherness”. When my husband and I in particular and everyone else in general could be left to do or not do as they chose. The flow of life is so harmoniously simple when expectations are minimal.
And as I walked to the monastery that evening cocooned in joy, I sincerely felt that you need to have a divine grace in your life to experience even these random moments of unrestrained bliss. And I only feel humbled and grateful to live these instances of sheer personal growth in awareness. How I wish I can retain this ease of living as my Kewzing souvenir.