Friday, September 20, 2013

Chaamsire Number Five

No wonder Bhutan is called the land of Thunder Dragon or for now let us just call is land of thunder.. When my office called me to investigate the sudden disappearances near Paro on the way to Taktshang Lhakhang every 15 days all I said was “Challenge Accepted” but little did I know the trip would actually turn out to be the weirdest adventure of my life.










15th March 2020

The ides of March is when I started my journey to the cliff monastery of Bhutan from the Paro valley. About driving for one hour I started to notice a deep blue tone merging with the clear blue sky. In no time it was dark like the evening had decided to come early and it started thundering and lightning. Soon it was pouring like cats and dogs and I could hardly see the path ahead of me. I switched on the navigation on my trusted safari storme and kept moving on. But soon there were some kind of inferences and the navigation was cut off. I took my cell phone out but there was no range. I parked my car and waited for some other car to come which could help me. Hours passed, rain stopped but no one came. I decided to go ahead without a navigation support but what I saw next was……
I was in an area I was totally unfamiliar with, but was pretty sure it was not Himalayas or Bhutan. Where had I come? There were no birds chirping in the area. The pines were all gone! There was a deep valley right ahead of me. And the weirdest part was – It was all dry here like it had not rained at all! I knew this was the land of the disappearances, but I was alone here as of now, and I had to find the others who disappeared, but how? I kept going ahead observing the area. No birds, small moderate plants and trees, but all plants had a peculiar reddish and golden tinge to them. After every five kilometers I could see one tall Sal tree. Only after crossing 4 such trees I realized something was written on the leaves of these trees. I stepped out, plucked a huge leaf to read. It was in Dzongkha, but lucky me as I had learnt Dzongkha in the past 2 months for this mission, I understood every word of it.
Miss me I cry
And all you do is lie
I was strong like the mountain wall
And you caged me in this land alone

 We were more in world that was unknown to you
But now am I all that remains; my future blue
I am small and crave someone in my dry creek
Cause a friend is all that I seek

Follow me to the river bend
For that is where you will comprehend
The power buried by the dragon master
The power my feeble self is bound to master.

My mind was too flogged to make meaning of any of this, and it was getting dark so I decided to camp there for the night. I must have dozed off sometime while writing my journal cause when I was woken up by a thundering growl of some kind. I almost threw the Journal. There were five such growls and then it all stopped. The sun was up, spreading light onto this mysterious land, and I restarted my journey.

16th March 2020

I must have driven almost a 70 km now, but still no sign of life. The wind outside was cold and it was getting foggy. I decided to stop again and started reading the Dzongkha poem. I read it almost 5 times and it all made sense, Dry creek – Destination, River Bend – Path but dragon master and small feeble self – who could that be. The more I thought about it the more it confused me. I closed my eyes to get some answers and still could find none. When I opened my eyes and looked ahead my heart skipped a couple of beats. I saw something in the fog, something scary and weird! But what was it? I started the car, it roared back to life and I started following the devilish shadow. The fog started to fade out but there was no sign of that being anywhere.
I reached a lake, fog floating over it. When the fog thinned out a bit, I could see a house at some distance. I waited to see it what I saw was real as the fog descended over the lake again. But when the fog cleared this time the house was gone! And moreover it was getting dark now when it had only been five hours post the day break. What is wrong in this strange place? The place had started to creep me out. I decided to spend the night near this lake and continue my journey as soon as there was light. Having woken up just five hours ago, I didn’t get a wink of sleep throughout the night – which lasted exactly 5 hours. Next morning break was also after 5 scary thunder growls.

17th March 2020

I freshened up, had some of the food I had brought with me anticipating something like this might happen, and resumes my venture. Another 20 kilometers or so and the roads got really rough. Stony, uneven, meandering roads and it was all a downhill. The roads lead to a stream with sparkling clear water. I started driving along the stream which changed into a greenish hue and went deep into the forest. I had no option but to follow it as it would soon get dark. The clock of this land was obsessed with the number 5 according to my observation.
The river the dried out after about 20 more kilometers and it was turning weirdly hot. That is when I realized what the lines of the verse meant –

I am small and crave someone in my dry creek
'Cause a friend is all that I seek 
Follow me to the river bend
For that is where you will comprehend

This has to be it; whatever it is it has to be here. I set my camp there as moving in the dark could be reckless and my five our day was almost over. I was awake the whole night today as well, not because I was not tired but because I could sense I was close to whatever this land is hiding from the rest of the world. The growling started again, louder than ever, my heart beating fast as if trying to jump out of my chest and in the darkness I saw the devil face yet again. I was eagerly waiting for the sun to announce the commencement of the new day and started my journey as soon as the paths were visible.

18th March 2020

I kept going ahead on the graveled path where once the river flowed. After about two hours I could see the same house I had seen near the lake, at some distance. I drove fast towards the house while keeping a constant gaze on the house. After reaching the house I was drowned in numerous incenses, all reminding me of temples. I knocked but no one replied. The door was open and I went in. the rooms were all red and black giving it a very ethnic yet gothic look. I could not find anyone in the room and turned to go away. But the devil face was standing right behind me, and I almost screeched my lungs out, while it laughed its devilish laughter. After bouts of screams and shouts when I calmed a bit she told me she was a “Chaamsire” the ancient dragon of Bhutan.
She told me that as dragons were becoming haughty an powerful in the past the dragon masters created this dimension and locked them here giving them the task of maintaining a balance in nature and protecting the purity of Bhutan. But Chaamsires transform into dragons only after 100 years and need a human to blow the dragon spell on them, else this dimension would disintegrate and they would cease to exist. Since the old dragon died and she was the only Chaamshire left and was yet to be the dragon, the world had started to merge itself with the real world. She created this spell to let people come in and help her transform into a dragon to save the world but the spell had created new problems. It started organizing the world according to the humans that came in and since I was the fifth person to enter the world organized itself to the numeric value of five. The poem was her spell and I was the only one to have reached her out of the five who came in.
I was listening to this intently while she explained her growl as the tool to balance day and night. How the dragons have survived so long, how they walk on earth once every year to continue their line and bless the land of Bhutan. It was all very interesting while looking at the Chaamshire scared me out as well. Heat radiated from her body and she had a golden aura around her. She asked me to rest for the day and we would perform the ritual the next day. I was eager to leave this freaking lonely hell whole and agreed to the Chaamshire. She gave me the book of spells and worded the required spell for me in Hindi as the book was in ancient Dzongkha. But little did she know I knew how to read Dzongkha. She didn’t even realize that after I traced her using her poem, I wonder if Dragons were suppose to be this dumb! Anyways the spell spoke of sacrifice of 5 people for the completion of the ritual. So she definitely indented to kill me. I kept scanning the book for an alternative the whole night.

19th March 2020

I read the spell for the ritual and the Chaamshire slowly started to grow in size. I kept repeating the spell till it completely transformed and waited. It was waiting for me to complete the spell, to recite the part of the sacrifice so that it could kill me. I nervously started reciting, praying to God for my safety, not even anticipating the future. I carefully recited each and every word and waited there with my eyes closed for Fates to play their game.

“Taktshang Lhakhang 5 km ahead”, my safari navigation roared to life. I stared at the screen and the date displayed was 20th March 2020. I breathed a sigh of relief and saw the spell book lying on the seat. I had successfully recited the teleport spell and the dragon had not sensed the difference in the words. Dragons are dumb! No wonder the dragon masters won over them! I drove towards Taktshang Lhakhang, called up my heads but didn’t tell them the story as I knew the situation was averted for the next 100 years. I returned the book to the monks there saying it was my family legacy. They bought my story and gave me five gold coins, symbols of the dragon and all I could do was laugh to myself. How I hated dragons and the number five now! 

PS - This post is written for the "I AM EXPLORER" competition organised by Indiblogger and www.tatasafari.com/

ALL PICTURES ARE PERSONAL.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Land of my Dreams

“GRASS IS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE”

Truly said by someone, because we always fail to value what is always with us. Whenever people are asked about their dream destinations it is always Switzerland, New Zealand, USA, UK or Mauritius but no one ever says India, though India is blessed by natures’ beauty in equal measures. So if I had to pick my Dream destination it would be a place in India and that place would undoubtedly be Sikkim.

I had visited this mountainous land some years back with my family and fell in love with it instantly. It was on my 16th birthday and our first ever visit to a place outside Orissa or Maharashtra. As it was a family trip it has a special place in my memories but my biggest regret related to the trip would be losing all the clicked pictures as my old camera played its last ever trick with me. My data card got corrupted and all that were left with me were memories full of picturesque scenes that my eyes could capture.

Sikkim is nothing less than heaven on earth, and people who love the Scandinavian countries pay a visit here to see something equally or maybe more pure. The best way to reach Sikkim is via Siliguri or Bagdora in West Bengal where you get bus or taxis for Sikkim. The way to Sikkim itself is enchanting as River Teesta gives you company till you reach Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Every corner of Sikkim sings to me, but there are places I just have to visit.


  1. Gangtok, located at the height of 5400ft, is the largest city of Sikkim and
    access to the rest of the state. It is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site after the construction of the Enchey Monastery. It is also comparatively warm and is house to large variety of flora and fauna. Gangtok is an inexpensive and amazing shopping hub with all shops concentrated on the M.G. Marg, and for foodies – you will not want to eat anything after tasting the momos here. From Gangtok the way to north leads to Tsomgo Lake.
  2. Tsomgo lake is an ethereal lake situated at an height of 12,400 ft. the most interesting feature of the lake is its water, which is said to change its colour according to seasons. It freezes completely in the winters turning white, while autumn renders a sea green colour to it. During springs and summers the blooming flowers of the area and the blue crystal clear water of the lake sketch a breath taking image. The lake is also sacred for the locals. And for me the best part of this place that I would love to relive again is the ride on the beautifully decorated yaks on the lake; frozen lake of course.
  3. Nathula Pass and Baba Mandir  - further north of Tsomgo is the temple of a Army Officer and the Tibet Indian pass called Nathula.  It is one of the highest motorable roads in the world and and is very well maintained by Indian Army. Lucky tourists also get a glimpse of road winding down the Chumbi valley and are allowed to go close to the international border to see Chinese army on the other side of a barbed wire border line. All once in a life time chance, as you need permit to visit Nathula. And how much I miss gauging the wonder in my baby brother's eye at the sight of the whole place covered with snow and testing the strength of our voice through our echos.
  4. Rumtek –
    South of Gangtok, at about an hour’s distance is the largest monastery of Sikkim – Rumtek Monastery. It is said to be a replica of the Tsurpu Monastery of Tibet and is the seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa of the Kargyu sect of Buddhism. 
     Rumtek is situated on a hill that is terraced with paddy fields and is often visited by fog giving the area an amazing atmosphere. And I could spend hours listening to the path bells and the prayer wheels of the Monastery..

  5. Lachen and Lachung valley – the North of Sikkim is purely Himalayas, untouched by pollution and Lachung and Lachen are the stars. These valley towns are mostly covered by snow half the year and lush green valley chants of purity the rest of the time. Waterfalls and sparkling streams, Monasteries and wood houses, Yaks and wooly dogs, apples peaches lichies and apricots, these places give the entire essence of Sikkim.
  6. Gurudongmar Lake –
    Covered by mountains from all the sides this milky white lake is a must see in Sikkim. It is one of the height lakes in the world and is one of the sources of Teesta River.
  7. Yumthang Valley – Or valley of flowers as it is called, is home to the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, and has over twenty-four species of the rhododendron. In springs it is surreal to see the entire valley bathed in colours courtesy to rhododendrons and is closed from December to march cause of heavy snowfall. Bollywood lovers remember the song “Rahoon mein unse se” from the movie Vijaypath? This is where the gorgeous Tabu confessed her love, so if you are going there with your lovers you know exactly what to do.
  8. Dzongo – It is the trekkers’ paradise, reason it is the access point to Mt. Khangchendzonga biosphere reserve and the starting area for the trek up to the summit of world’s 4th highest peak starts about 5 km from here. It is also house the the red Indian Panda’s. Mogli lovers remember Papu the panda? You might find his family here.
  9. Pelling –
    The most important city of West Sikkim and is the 2
    nd fastest growing tourist destination of Sikkim. It has its own beautiful landscape of flower valleys and snow capped mountains with access to two serene monasteries. Pemayangste monastery is barely 1km from Pelling, while a half an hour walk on the hill opposite the monastery leads to Sanga Choling monastery. The Khangchendzonga Festival is held at Pelling every year, which offers a plethora of fun activities like water rafting, kayaking, trekking, mountain biking, traditional sports and bird- watching.
  10. Namchi – About 80km from Gangtok lies Namchi, aka ‘top of the sky’. Set in a scenic location, Namchi offers an unmatched view of the Khangchendzonga range and the Rangit valley. The Sherdup Choeling Monastery and the Dichen Choeling monastery are the main attraction od Namchi. Around 2 km from Namchi is Ngadak monastery and situated on a hill just above Ngadak monastery is a Rock Garden, full of rare flowers and plants all contributing to a  breathtaking view.
Where the sunbeams dance on water blue and white
Where God's people hum just praise and nature love
Where sky meets the mountain peak to paint a picture serene
Where Red Pandas and Rhododendron sketch some part of the mystic world
My heart runs there to be a part of it
My heart resides there to be a part of it

Ah I wish I could give up the noisy Mumbai roads for just a week and teleport myself to Sikkim with my family right away. My mom and brother being adventure freaks like me could spend the whole day chatting walking and admiring the serenity of nature while Dad would immerse himself in books about monasteries of Sikkim. We enjoyed the trip to the tiny state years ago and would love to visit the place yet again to relive the memories of our best travel ever.

Here is a recent track by A.R. Rehman take takes me directly to Rumtek!


Written for the Happy Travellers contest organized by Indiblogger.com and Yatra.com.
Photo courtesy: Google Baba