11 December, 2008

Aunty in Arunachal: The Hoga Hoga Syndrome

What I love the most about traveling is the numerous possibilities it promises. The people, each with their own quirks, the different landscapes, so spectacular in their variety, the various modes of transportation, each at their own pace, the different moods and delicate flavours of each place. The stimuli your senses receive as you travel from the hurried metropolis that is Delhi to the bustle of Guwahati, the quiet chatter of Tezpur and finally the grand Buddhist town of Tawang is bewildering to say the least.

Let me skip through the dropping of my laptop from the topmost berth and thank-heavens-there-is-a-God who saved it from breaking, the 12 hour journey in the cab where four people were sitting in the front seat (one of them being a certain me), the buying of yummy yummy yummy “kamala” (oranges) on the way to Tawang, the breathtaking beauty of Sela (its this pass atop which you are above the clouds, somewhere very close to that utopian place called paradise) etc etc. So lets just hop from saaddi Dilli to Tawang.

Tawang. The entire town proudly displays its scars of the ’62 war. The army flaunts its power with pride, helicopters whirr above the mountains in practice sessions, any place you go to eat will have a few soldiers having a hearty meal, you meet abandoned moss-covered, snow-clad, bullet-riddled bunkers with surprising regularity…Situated atop a mountain, the town boasts of the second oldest, second largest monastery in Asia. Everywhere you look, Buddhism leaves its beautiful print: in the colourful prayer wheels dotting every lane, in the maroon-clad monks and “anis” (female monks), in the juniper twigs lit throughout the market place which imparts a heady aroma, in the ornate gateways, in the ready smiles of the people and the warm open air about them.

As you walk through the market, you are treated to an awe-inspiring spectacle of the upper Himalayas, dusted with snow at this time of the year. The vegetation (a spectrum of rhododendrons, the precious cancer curing Taxus spp. and ferns of every imaginable shape) is drying up now, reflecting the colours of the sun, as if the forests are on fire. In this land of the rising sun, the day begins at 5:00 am, and packs up at an alarming 4:30 pm. 4:30 pm!!!! That took some time getting used to. By 5 its pitch dark and the entire town starts its 'nocturnal' activities. The boys (ALL the boys) rush off to the snooker tables: its developed into artful gambling here with people actually getting tatoos on their forearms just to show them as they play, the girls taking care of the more mundane activities of the household variety. And most interestingly, the people here never say NO. The standard reply to “Yeh ho jayega kya?” is “Hoga hoga.”

But what amuses me is that even so far away, when I walk through the marketplace, I see boys with spikey hair and ground-kissing jeans, I see girls in weather-defying skirts, with eye-shadow of colours that would put a rainbow to shame, I hear Himesh crooning through some flimsy Chinese speakers, I can find pirated dvds of the latest Bollywood releases, I can spot more daru dukaans (liquor shops) than stationery shops and the garbage finds place everywhere except dustbins. But I also see someone hobbling on crutches, wearing a worn-out uniform with an undefeated air, I see the moon (at an un-earthly 11:00 am) as charmingly imperfect as ever, I see the STD booth lady smile at me in warm familiarity, I feel the chill in the air and the spring in my step, I rub my frozen fingers as I sit down to my now-routine candle-light dinner, I see my smile reflected in the foggy mirror in my room.

It’s a beautiful place, this eastern haven of our awe-inspiring country. But for once I am finding beautiful, as a word, incompetent.


PS: How could I possibly refrain from mentioning the friendly furballs of snow: the short-legged, fluffy dogs of Tawang? And to top it, its puppy season (yay!).


  1. I would have said that am jealous again.. but i don't like repeatin my comments.. so let's jus say am Envious, with a capital E.. ;P

    p.s. ur last comment seems to have worked.. goin to Simla..yipee!! :D

  2. Just like "alien" did, I say Grrrr with a capital G :p
    More so on that last line?

    Chandni, how about a few pics? Pleaseee. Damn, I am sure you're loving it. Btw, are u inviting any of us for new years atleast? ;-) we will get to see the place n you'll have awesome company too :D

    Enjoy n yes, this time just keep scribbling. You must me fast asleep by this hour-right? :-)

  3. In as few words as possible, I envy you, miss chandni.

  4. Woh sab to theek hai. Tell me whether the toilets are dry or do you get to flush the turds?

  5. Alien: Yay for Shimla!!!! Enjoy yourself and do post about ur trip :D

    Prasoon: Yes the next post will definitely be a "picturesque" one. Come for christmas...there is a huge celebration here!

    Abhi: Same advice as alien: go for a trip :)

    Marvin: Toilets have (miraculously) a facility to flush which means turds are taken care of very nicely. Saala defecating on my blog >:(

  6. "But I also see someone hobbling on crutches, wearing a worn-out uniform with an undefeated air"

    Wonderful !

    And you are a lucky lady. What is it you do exactly ?

    just yesterday a friend was telling me of boys playing cricket at a village in the zanskar where there is no road, no electricity no nothing, where the Indian state does not exist and has no relevance. and zanskari boys who reap no benefits from out civilization played cricket in the magnificent aweinspiring wilderness.

    ours is a truly truly awesome country. I want to be back in the mountains so badly !

  7. fluffy puppies... wow. hmmm.. its hard to believe you are sooo far away in a place thats so different yet part of the same country. sigh. missing you girlie.



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