Christmas at Lachung

Happy new year to my ever anonymous readers (minus the stalkers, go to hell you guys). So 2020 is finally over. Even though the concept of time is an illusion created to keep the limited human imagination from going insane and 2021 has indeed started with some massive cacophonic vibes still we can hope for a better time ahead. My life seem to have gone on a roll since Christmas eve 2020 and I don't think I got to relax for a bit since the early morning of 24th of December. As if 2020 was slogging to overcompensate for an otherwise dull year all throughout. So many things happened during such a short span of time that my mind is in total chaos.

I had plans for a week long Sikkim trip with my friend A. However, I panicked and chickened out at the last moment I am not entirely sure why. He probably hates my guts now and won't ever forgive me. But then something even odder happened. On a total whim I went to Gangtok and from thereon, wait for it, to north Sikkim; the very same place I was supposed to be at but only a week prior and of course with different people. And most people around me seem to snigger when I say life has a weird way of turning out at times.

I had been to Gangtok Groove many times before but Christmas eve was a whole different story. Festivity was at peak with live music and a very enthusiastic music loving crowd. Even though I don't understand much of western music the ambiance was way too wholesome. It felt good. In last couple of years I had almost forgotten how good I am with people when they don't try to gaslight me constantly. And talking about people, this time I was travelling with two complete strangers. Well, they were so at least in the beginning. Since I don't mention anybody by name on the blog I am going to call them by their sun signs. Let's call the first one Gemini and the other one Leo. And boy, what an odd pair they were. Gemini was a cerebral, sensitive, and intellectual with a touch of broodiness. His gentle, melancholic eyes were always wandering somewhere far off. He would laugh very rarely and when he did, you would want to really stare at him. Partly because smile looked good on him and partly because it's very blinkandyoumiss, like looking up at a meteor shower in the night sky. The other one, Leo, he was a Leo alright. He would grab your hand with his leonine paw and just drag you along; you gotta keep up for your own sake. He would talk about his adventures relentlessly and yet you wouldn't find him condescending, even for a bit. He would just emanate lot of juvenile innocence and perhaps a hell lot of sunshine. As a sociable introvert I was feeling exhilarated in his company most of the time. In case anyone is wondering, yes after meeting an endless number of bland idiotic disappointing people since 2018 I was indeed having the time of my life refereeing between the two. Even the breathtaking landscape of Lachung took a backseat at times.

Lachung, however, was indeed beautiful. My previous trip in 2014 to Gurudongmer wasn't exactly full of fond memories. This time the mountain gods were kind to me. Our driver was a funny Lepcha man who kept us entertained the whole trip. He was one of those people who just live their life with an unwavering sense of humour. He was telling us stories about the Lachungpas (or what the residents of Lachung call themselves) that would make me look like a snob racist here upon retelling. But we weren't there to judge or anthropologically profile the Lachungpas. Our hosts were a family of three sisters and the youngest one was the chirpiest of the lot. Chong was an undergrad student in Gangtok and also managed the homestay with her sisters. Quite ironically she picked the most reticent one in the group to start a conversation. Our Gemini man was no match for her lively demeanor. She reminded me of a newborn mountain river; so young and gushing with so much life. May the gods bless her. On the other hand, our Leo was so smitten he wouldn't stop talking about her for the next two days.

Next morning our car wouldn't start and I was on the verge of experiencing some major deja vu from my 2014 fiasco. So I tried to concentrate on savouring the beauty around us instead. Lachung was lit up under the golden hue of morning sun and the almost barren ridges clutching the valley within were staring back at us with thousands of years of indifferent wisdom. Sikkim shares border with China and hence the military is almost omnipresent here. I was looking at the green barracks stacked up neatly against the hills and thinking about the ones who had to spend month there being away from civilian life. Perhaps we Indians don't appreciate our armed forces enough. 

Yumthang and Zero Point/Yumesamdong are situated at 11800 ft and 15300 ft respectively. Yumthang valley was stark naked barring a few clusters of dried up flowers. This place apparently comes to life in summer. Now the valley seemed to be hibernating. Looking at the dead flowers I couldn't help think about the story of Hades and Persephone. Persephone had gone back to her husband in the underworld for winter. Flowers would bloom when she visits her mother again. But the spring is still far away; let her reunite with her husband meanwhile. We had stopped by the river bank en route Yumthang. Just a small patch of white sand with the Lachung river flowing in between; more picturesque than Yumthang. We had the most bizarre breakfast at Yumthang. Bread-jam, warm milk, and maggi. It's a miracle that none of us puked all over the valley or had an explosive diarrhea afterwards.

Zero Point took another hour and a half from Yumthang. Foliage began to change shades with brown being the dominant hue. Roads were lined with snow. Snow capped peaks were much nearer, sun was almost blinding here. Small streams were hanging frozen off the cliffs here and there. They looked slightly greenish compared to the dazzling whiteness of the snow. Zero Point was bustling with tourists. Middle aged uncle was posing while pointing at a small patch of snow. So much for aesthetic subtlety. Our rented snow boots were all wet inside with chunks of melting snow. As the sun was moving towards the west wind's hungry bite was getting more ferocious. It was cue for us to bid adieu to the mountains of Lachung and head back to Gangtok.