A Traveler’s Inn: Bhutan Crossing
“The immigration office of Bhutan is closed. Government holiday.” They told us before we reach for our papers. The train was already late for an hour and a half and we rushed to the Bhutan immigration office at Jaigaon from Hasimara station. As the office closed, we went for lunch. Then we checked the room. It was a nice cozy room with warm sunlight. We took the room for Rs. 1050. Right now, sitting on the sofa, I am writing this to you. The last sunlight falls on my pen. It created a nice shadow over the yellow toned handmade paper. Spending the afternoon is easy here. You just have to sit beside the window and watch people from different parts of two countries. The Bhutan gate is standing still as a symbol of the last Himalayan monarchy.
The Immigration Office
Your notion of the happy country will be shattered when you walk out from the immigration office of Phoolshilong. The rule is simple. You have to fill a form and submit your biometric details to get the permit of Bhutan. And for this, you will leave your human skin outside of the office gate because of the hostile applicants with an internet speed slower than a snail and with those familiar faces of pimps who will put 65 applications just before you make your move to counter. You will push and will be pushed by any random people. After all these adventures and endeavors, you will come out with your permit stamped only after 6 hours.
The Tiger’s Nest
“You have to make the climb to reach the Tiger’s Nest.”
We forgot how many times we sit to refill our breath. We lost in the turns, on the ups and downs, at the long stairs, and during the climb. The monastery is made on the cliff of a high mountain where even eagles couldn’t dare. Probably the monks built the monastery in such desolate place to keep away the demons.
When I entered into it, it gave those ancient feelings of long stairs, darkness, and the fort. They have the god with weapons, slaying demons. The paintings of the walls are about past wars, stories of heroes, the fallen angels, humans, and demons. The colors of the painting are gorgeous and vibrant. They are drawn very carefully. The winter is long and harsh in Bhutan. Probably the monks painted those many years ago during the long, dark, and cruel winters.
The entire architecture is a test of human endurance and marvel of engineering. While returning, the stairs become longer. Our breaths become heavy. I was looking at the monastery gasping in agony. They have built this impossible enduring the hostile terrain, lack of supplies, and wild weather. We are just mere visitors.
Paro river: The only thing moves in Paro
Even the time stops in Paro. The afternoons can be spent by the riverbank of Paro. Slowly, your time will stop running. Your senses become senile. You will enter into numbness. The sound of the birds and the moving water will start diluting. The numbness of mind, the setting sun, the golden light, the endless stories, the lazy dogs, the local children feeding the fish, the endless sea of round stones, the immovable mountains surrounded the Paro valley, the identical pagoda style buildings, the indifferent shopkeepers are the constant theme of this little town. It is like our memories, a passage of numbness, without beginning or an ending.
As your clock moves past eight in a Sunday morning, you will see men carrying long bags towards the walled garden beside the fortress of Paro. The archers are coming. Men with their bows, wearing traditional clothes of Bhutan will start gathering beside the archery range. Men from different ages, from different social status, come together to the great passion of archery.
Before the beginning, they wash their hands with holy water. The leather of the archer’s ring will be soaked in water. The there will be a prayer with a Buddhist chant. The low temperature of Paro valley, the morning sun, the backlighting, the leafless brown trees with thousand branches, the peach of the chant, the waving flags of archery range, the concentric circles of the target, and the archers will take you far beyond from the modern land to the ages if the Huns and Mongols.
And then the Archer will bend. His torso and the bow will come parallel. His holding hand is inert like a stone. His legs are rooted into the earth. The string of the bow is making a perpendicular angle from the midpoint. And then you will hear the sound. The vibration of the string. The fly of an arrow, cutting through the cold towards the concentric circles of your mind.
The sense of an ending
As the mule gets old, she left to deserted land. A land where the grass is not green. Trees with fallen leaves and long shadows of empty branches, old mule without the company of her master, branches of dead trees vertically dig into the ground, and shadow of endless mountains makes you think about home.
As we grow older, we could barely notice green than the vibrant mornings of our childhood. Our world becomes dry, leafless, and solitary. Is it happiness? I saw the grandfather walking down the boulevard with his grandchild who is wearing a fiery red sweater. Some of the leafless trees have a pinch of green shade at the tips of the branches.