Cover of Miles DavisThere is something about the monsoon. As you sleep, the rains pour and there’s a cool breeze wafting about when you walk. It makes you move. So I drove around the western and central parts of the country. I thought it would be a whet way to get myself reacquainted. Nothing beats the road. Not even the road blocks and the landslides. Miles Davis blew his horn as I began my journey, dubbed the return of the prodigal son by a friend. It was beautiful- the mountains, the forests, the houses along the way and the birds in the trees.
There was something amiss. It was the horn of Miles. So I shut him off and listened to the sounds of nature, now more intimate.
How distant and unreal Thimphu seemed when images of pastoral life passed by! Thimphu is the exception, not the norm, to how the majority of our country-men live. I was beginning to feel alive. Horses grazing by the roadside, cows and bulls idling by- horses and bulls, a villager told me, have now lost their usage and are left to themselves. They were everywhere- in meadows, bushes and brushes. It felt a bit sad that their status and role in the pastoral setting had come to an end due to mechanized farming but on the other hand, they were no more beasts of burden. Things do change and if this is the price of progress, so be it.
Roads, houses, schools, BHUs, electricity grids, shops- everything had tripled. I stopped over in Khuruthang in Punakha. The proprietor of the hotel I was staying in was glued to the TV along with a handful of clients. The show of the day was the BBS coverage of the NA deliberations. It was good to see our brethren tuning into the matters of the day. They all had opinions about the NA in general and individuals in particular. It varied as the weather on my journey did.
What were they looking forward to? I had to ask. The return of their MPs back to the folds that voted them onto the national channel, they told me. And what were they going to ask them? I had to prod on. They were rather coy. Perhaps they have a thing or two planned, I didn’t bother them anymore.
On BBS, it was now the evening news. I went outside and saw a man, grey and shabby haired, sitting in a rundown shack facing the majestic Mochhu and the breathtaking Dzong. They said he was a Tsagay, that he was paralyzed in one leg. I greeted him. He just looked back- blank and oblivious. He must have had happier times. It was a contrast- the landscape in front of him and his own setting. I bought him a Pepsi and bid him adieu. The encounters left me thinking and with a head full of reflections, I went to bed.
I drove to Wangduephodrang and thought, “this is a Bhutanese version of what Jaigaon used to look like!” Queer and peculiar! I drove on, savouring the sights and sounds. To Phobjikha, where the mist blanketed everything, to Trongsa, where the Dzong looks like it’s a giant aircraft carrier hovering in a sea of mist, to Zhemgang, where there really wasn’t anything besides country hamlets with names such as Dangdung and Reefer and a hotel cum bar called Bajay and eventually to Bumthang, where resorts are springing up like mushrooms, giving the lhakhangs a run for its butter lamps.
The drive back to the capital was exhausting. Suddenly the monsoon didn’t seem so inviting. What did seem romantic was the fact that we still live in a country that is far more real than anything you can ever find or see in the world. You don’t need to venture far, just get out of Thimphu and go to Dochula.