Once in a while, in a life time, everyone tend to lose their way often travelling all alone. This is the time when one gets an opportunity to exercise one’s own reasoning – the power of intuition that everyone is bestowed upon with. Life otherwise would be dull, had there not been any jigsaw puzzles that puts our intuitions to test. And my intuition brought me back to the bosom of my loving mother.
Hours of gradual descent along thick chirpine forests took us to a stream – Tsharzam Chhu that ultimately joined the roaring bubbles of Kuri Chhu few meters below our foot path. With scorching sun above our head it was already time for lunch.
As we approached the stream, “Boys come along with me, we’ll go and fetch some firewood,” Aku Tshering lead us to the confluence. Other members proceeded through the path to prepare the halt place. The river banks weren’t in dearth of such woods. It had woods piled in a hay-wire fashion. To grab a bundle each had not been a problem for us.
On our return, my eyes caught hold of a young plant by the side of the river bank drooping with heavy fruits on it. It was an Amla tree. On a long journey, Amla serves a dual purpose of quenching thirst as well as hunger. No wonder Amla is one of the prized ingredients in traditional medicines since time immemorial.
“It’s ripe. Let me take some for the group to munch before our lunch gets cooked,” and I pulled out a branch, plucked a handful and slid them into my gho. Before I could collect enough of it my friends were all gone.
“Which way did they go?” I wondered. With my ears troubled with constant loud noise of rapids, tracing the sound of their footsteps or conversations had not been possible.
There was a path leading up and I took that with bundle of woods in my arms.
I climbed up and up. There was no sign of any halt place or the group.
Meanwhile lots of Amla fruits could be seen on either side fully ripe and ready for travelers to taste its delight. I being one could not resist plucking them here and there while at the back of my mind group’s whereabouts kept lingering persistently.
“Hurray! A smoke there, I’m almost there.”
“No…it could be clouds over that hill top.” My mind was getting diverged.
“But…but its rising. It’s a smoke. It could be from the group’s halt place,” one part of my mind insisted.
“Well then, try it out,” another part gave in to that idea.
Again, I climbed up higher with the bundle of woods still in my arms. But I was nowhere getting closer to that smoke. With every step of mine towards that smoke, it kept on moving a step further. I was gradually becoming panicky. My clothes were drenched with profuse sweating and my arms went numb holding those woods for long.
“I’m telling you it could be clouds,” the second part warned again.
“Umm…you could be right,” replied the first part.
“What do we do now? I’m not going any further from here,” declared the second part.
“I’m not going either.” My minds finally compromised.
“Alright,” I said dropping the woods to the ground, “Let me think it over and decide.”
Before I could realize I was lost, I had already travelled long enough that I could only hear the noise of Kurichhu faintly from down below and the front pouch of my gho were brimmed with Amlas.
At that moment I decided not to pursue that smoke further and started to descend.
As I approached the Kuri chhu banks again, I could hear faint scream of a woman along with the noise of this fast flowing river. I responded to that scream from time to time and descended towards it.
Down below from the cliff, I finally discovered the group. Some members took a nap while few elderly people sat around in a gossip. I could see my mother on a huge boulder constantly staring towards Kuri Chhu. I stood there, not knowing what to do. With my face blushed with shame to appear before the group, I dropped the woods and gradually emptied my pouch.
“Ama!” I shouted. Hearing my voice, she came running towards me as I went towards her. She held me in her arms and cried, “My Lepo, I thought you were drowned in that river,” and she thanked Kenchog Sum for our reunion…