The Inner Line Permit – Arunachal House
“When are you going?” “I have my flight tomorrow morning, sir.” The clerk at the Kolkata Arunachal House looked at me with a blank face. Then he mocked at me. I was not aware that traveling inside my country demands so many documents for identifications and verifications. They looked at my documents as if those are fake. They asked me purpose and duration of my stay. After waiting eight long hours, I got my visa for Arunachal. I was thinking about my geography lesson during my childhood. Arunachal Pradesh is a state of India. I could not relate. Even though it is a state of India, I need a visa for it. For a limited purpose. You need another permit to work there, another for doing business. We, the government of India, replaced the noun ‘visa’ to a three word phrase “Inner Line Permit”.
And then, at the entry gate of Bhalukpong, a small town beside the river Kameng, the men wearing the olive green uniform will come for the permit for Arunachal and grant your entry to another country, formally a state within the territorial boundary of India, Arunachal Pradesh, the land of the rising sun.
“People are advised not to travel this area after sunset.”
The first thing you notice before entering Bhalukpong is the monkeys sitting beside the road. And then the forest. Then you will find the river. The riverbank is full of stones of many colors, shapes, and sizes. These are like a kaleidoscope with broken mirrors.
The river is ordinary. It is like any river flows beneath the mountains. Even the water is the same. There are gigantic trees at the riverbed. The main stem of the trees are huge and then they are divided into infinite branches.
Then you will see two sisters are busy running and jumping on the riverbed. They have dozens of stainless steel plates and torn clothes. The are fishing at the river. Does the river have memories? Is not this the same river when the Chinese marched on 1962? Or the memories of war have lost into the long trees, colored pebbles, the olive green men, and the sisters.
The Eternal Fog
How far can you see? A thousand meters? Two thousand meters? A hundred meters? The road to Bomdila will warn you about the fog. The sign beside the road says, “Foggy area, drive carefully.” However, these sign wouldn’t make any sense until you couldn’t see more than three feet from the front seat of the car. The road curves unpredictably, without any warning. Sometimes the road ends, and one wrong pressure on accelerator ends your stay in this world.
The magical world of Tenga valley of Arunachal is binary. You will hear the sound of your car engine and will see the thick veil of fog all around you. Slowly you will lose impression about how far you drive, or how many blind curves you have reached, or where is your destination, or where you are coming from. Only the fog and the sound of engine become truth. It is like you are living for a moment, without memory, without future. There is no milestone to achieve. There is no river you have seen in your childhood. There is no fragrance in mind. It is only an opaque veil of numbness covered us at the passage of time.
Then you will see a bird hoping before your windscreen. And then a tribe of house sparrows falling like dry leaves of end winter. A serpentine river is glittering like silver as the sun penetrates the veil. The river guides you to Arunachal, the land of rising sun
Tawang: City of Dreams
How can a man die better, than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the temple of his gods?”
Se la pass: A road of love, treason, and valor
While crossing the Se La pass of Arunachal, at least, one person of your co-traveler will tell you the legends of Jaswant Singh Rawat, a rifleman of 4th Battalion of Garhwal Rifles, Infantry division. On 7th November 1962, after the fall of Tawang, the Chinese came down as all the clouds come down to Nuranang Falls. Jaswant Singh, against all odds of mighty Chinese, alone in the dark cold, with the cruel winds, is standing still.
Visit Se la pass without your protection on hand or skull. Because the woman Se la, the secret lover of Jaswant Singh, will greet you with her cruel, cold wind. The wind will cut your skin as it cut the Chinese when she jumped over the cliff on the fateful evening of November’62.
Some say it was Noor, sister of Sela, who told the Chinese about Jaswant Singh. An act of treason on the jealousy of her sister’s love. Or it was the cold which favored the Chinese against the unmatched valor of Jaswant Singh Rawat.
The City of Dreams
In a cold and sunny morning you will wake up from sleep, but not from your dreams. What have you dreamt last night? Or, last afternoon siesta? Or, many years ago after you saw the river? In Tawang, you will never wake up from your dreams. A city enclosed by snow-clad mountains like high walls of black and white shades. The trees are blooming with red wildflowers. A monastery as big as a mountain itself guarding the north. The furry street dogs, the hot water bottles of Mon Valley restaurant, the pink blossoms of Peach trees, the dragon marked pottery sellers give you a sense of freedom which you can achieve in your dreams.
Your visit of Tawang will become incomplete without visiting Tawang in early morning sun. The high mountains, monks with crimson red uniform, the eternal silence, the big statue of lord Buddha, the vibrant, cruel, and beautiful wall arts about the Buddhist stories of past, and the gigantic monastery itself ae not part of the world we wake everyday, they come from your about the river which you have seen many centuries ago.
Zemithang: Breathtaking landscapes
As you are returning from Zemithang, you will stop noticing waterfalls beside the road. Not because those are not spectacular, but because they become so familiar scene beside your window that you will stop seeing. I lost count how many waterfalls I saw during the hundred kilometers breathtaking road to Zemithang. The waters are coming from the sky as the clouds covered the pick of the mountains.
You will see a big Buddhist stupa near Zemithang. Many years ago, a young monk from NorthEastern province of India saw an identical architecture of Bodhnath Stupa from the window of monk hostel in Kathmandu. He had never seen such gigantic and spectacular architecture in his province. He saw it too from his breakfast table. Half a pound of bread, a bowl of potato soup and a big fat white carrot was the breakfast for monks. He picked up the white carrot and a knife from the kitchen. Next day was his last day in Kathmandu. Before the dawn, in a mad hour, he made a miniature of Boudhanath by cutting the carrot. He picked up his sack and started returning his long way to home. Then he crossed the old silk route near Tibetan border. He crossed the high mountains of Se La. The cruel dry wind soaked up the water of carrot. He had not stopped until he reached the holy land of Zemithang.
Down below the high mountains, beside the river, he made an exact copy of what he sculpted on the carrot. The carrot was dried up, and that bend the top of the stupa.
Then you will return with the dance of the birds of many colors, waterfalls at your left, and the endless sea of mountains at your right. You will reach to the gigantic landing of Lumla where they made a statue of Tara, the god of creation, dares to touch the sky. The sun rays fall upon the eyes of Tara, and she is watching the entire valley through her eyes of nature.
Bumla: End of Desires
The memories of war remain on the signs of landmines, the abandoned bunkers of Indian soldiers where they have spent the last days of their lives, the green camps. The road to Bumla is not a place from our earth we know. The bi-color mountains, the endless valley covered by snow, the golden geese making sounds while swimming at the coldest of water, the colorful Buddhist flags, the fog upon the Pt So lake, and the memories of war make this place indescribable. This place is beyond the definition of beautiful. It is a place where your desires end. It is an end of your memories too.
The story of war become long forgotten while the cloud comes down to kiss the invincible mountains. The memories of river will be lost under the frozen lakes. The desire for love will end on the roof the world of Bumla pass.