Sikkim Revisited/4

I woke up next morning to a spectacular view of the Kanchenjunga peeking from behind the clouds. The surge of excitement slowly began to rush through my half-asleep body. I recalled with a pang of resentment how my everyday life was like back in Calcutta. City of joy my foot. And few days later I would be back to reality. The philosophy of impermanence suddenly turned into cold, harsh reality check. But it was not the time to fret over my future misery. I remained in bed rewinding our today’s itinerary in my head. Today we were going to visit Yuksom. Another second visit for me. But before that it was time to visit another very important place.

Kizom Cafe had everything that a good hillside cafe could offer – good view, great food, nice people to make you feel at home, cosy corner with a sofa and a bookshelf. Yet I fell in love with Kizom Cafe for a very different yet an extremely valid reason. Cedar. The son of the cafe owner. Golden retriever in species. Age I forgot to ask, but could not be more than one year. An unstoppable force once unleashed. Oozing cuteness. Beware of the cute dog upsetting your coffee cup yet you wouldn’t be able to feel the slightest hint of annoyance despite such brazen display of impertinence. Yes I fell in love not with the cafe but with its host. Shameless me.

I was engrossed in deep conversation with Cedar when a very familiar sound reached my ear. The sound of long horn and cymbals was coming from somewhere very nearby. At first I thought it was coming from Sanga Choeling but it seemed to be coming from a closer source. We went out on the terrace. A long procession was on its way. We watched their progression until it slowly disappeared from our view.

Khecheopalri Lake, like any other sacred location, has several myths shrouding it. Some says it is made out of the footprint of Tara. Some says, no, it is the footprint of Buddha himself. Some says, oye hello, Lord Shiva himself came and stomped his foot on this very spot and turned it into a lake. But whichever of these myths holds the truest of all, its divine status is indisputable. Khecheopalri means the palace of flying yoginis. It is considered to be the wish fulfilling lake for whoever prays to it. I did light a few incense sticks and hung prayer flags on its bank. But honestly, I don’t remember what I exactly wished for while mouthing my prayers. Or maybe for once I did not wish to fall into the trap of misguided egocentrism that we always mistake for praying. There is a different kind of glory in not getting what you want so badly. Let the universe gives you what you deserve, instead of begging for it. I rather enjoyed feeding the resident fishes of Khecheopalri.

There is a Buddhist pilgrimage circuit in Sikkim comprising of Sanga Choeling monastery, Norbugang chorten, Pemayangtse monastery, the Rabdentse ruins, Khecheopelri Lake, Dubdi monastery and Tashiding monastery. Out of which I had yet to visit the last two. On this Yuksom trip Dubdi was on my list. It is the oldest and the first monastery of Sikkim, founded by the first Chogyal of Sikkim in 1701. When we reached the base it had started drizzling again. We started hiking through thick woods. On some parts the trail turned narrow and precipitous and extremely slippery due to rain. We walked for about an hour until we reached the gate. To my utmost disappointment we found the door of the temple closed. Not a single soul was to be seen anywhere except a solitary dog that was visibly annoyed for having its siesta interrupted by our presence. However a woman appeared out of nowhere and she turned out to be the caretaker of the main temple. She unlocked the gate for us and yes, we had to pay entry fees. The outside of the building was newly constructed but the inside walls were ancient and covered in obscure frescos of gods and goddesses. The rain was showing no sign to cease anytime soon. We began to descend. We were feeling ravenous. It’s lunchtime. And then head back for Pelling. The best part of the trip was yet to come.

To be continued