Friday, 8 May 2015
It was raining very heavily and I was thankful that I am in the house - a concrete house. The incessant rain that is changing the direction of the fall every now and then as if like a rain during the cyclone, reminds me of the night during the patrolling in the jungle of the southern foothills of the Himalayas.
It was at Chowki (Chowki in Hindi is a office/gate) a place near the border of India and Bhutan as the name suggests it is a gateway to Bhutan in the olden days without any pomp and show or indications of it being the gateway, but served as the only easy access to Bhutan following the Chowki ri; as river follows the least resistant path and following the river is the sure and easy route to the destination, except for the requirement of having to crisscross the river time and again. Here too you have to cross the river 18 times to be exact to reach Khalatsho the nearest Bhutanese village from India. The people of that village and other Bhutanese refer to Chowki as Tshokhe.
That fateful night we were spending the night on the bank of the river Chowki as always in a make shift tent made of plastic that other people normally use to cover the consignment being carried by the truck. Two such plastic tents are enough to accommodate the patrol members of twenty even after providing some more space to the patrol leader. We use that because it is lighter to carry, it is tough and it is water proof.
On that day in the pond formed by the drying river like that of an oxbow lake, my comrades caught a fish that weighed almost two hundred grams. It would not be enough for all the people, so I was offered the privilege to have it in the way that I have seen in national geography. I covered the fish in leaves after marinating it with just saline water and put it below the fire after digging a small pit.
The Gomchen - a religious man who was accompanying us said that we should not burn or emit any stench of burning fish or other substances. He also told me that such stench may cause the local deities to get enraged and may bring sudden down pours. I shot him down with a smirk and carried on with the preparation of the roasted fish.
Not only the smell oozed by the roasted fish was so aromatic and pleasing to the nose it also tasted so good. I let all, who are interested to taste, to taste it. The delicious taste of the roasted fish made me think about preparing fish in the same way and having again in future. Before the dusk, we had our dinner and went to sleep placing sentries at all the corners locked and loaded.
We were barely gone to sleep when there was lightning and winds coupled with rain hit us. When I got up to see what the commotion was all about I was already wet with rain hitting me from no particular direction as such, it was coming from all the directions with equal force. All my comrades were busy catching hold of the ends of the plastic sheet. The strings that were used to tie the ends of the sheet were already broken. I too got up and caught hold of the sheet dangling at my side. The plastic sheet moved crazily in the ever changing wind direction. The only reason it was stopped from flying away leaving us exposed was us catching hold of it from all ends. We were protecting the sheet being carried away that whole night instead of the sheet protecting us from the downpour.
I could almost sense the grievance of the Gomchen for not listening to him to not to burn the fish. I was not sure what caused the weather to go bad so suddenly. But whatever may be thereafter it surely discourage me to try to roast anything while sleeping under the precarious tent. Call it coincident but I never dared to try out whether it is not. Holding on by the end of the sheet whole night with rain beating you from all directions is not worth it.
I have never allowed anyone to burn anything while on patrolling after that incident. Such are the ways in which the superstitions get ingrained in our system. I guess. Whether to believe it or experiment it and have a horrible night; the option is entirely yours……