A Lonely Journey to the US (Part II)
|(Picture courtesy: Google Images)|
They were all seated at the back seat and kept the front seat for me. I gestured to my Ata to sit on the front seat to which he stubbornly declined without even a word. As I stepped onto the sit, the driver (Anna’s co-worker) turned the engine ignition bringing ‘our car’ into life in a roaring fashion. After tapping a few times on the gas pedal (accelerator) oozing out a thick smoke from the rear exhaust, it rolled to a full momentum meandering along the road above Zilukha Lower Secondary School. Just as it was about to make a U-turn at Chophel-Jungshina-Zilukha tri-junction, my phone beeped. It was from my long time friend Kinzang Chophel whom at that time was training for traditional physician (Menpa) at Institute of Traditional Medicines, the only institute in the country catering to people of traditional Tibetan diagnosis and medication. We have been friends since 4th standard at Tsebar Lower Secondary School, under Pema Gatshel district. During our stay in Thimphu after being graduated from high school, we had spent time together here and there, but at the last hours, we couldn’t meet since we were both caught up in our own busy world. I assured him that it was okay and that I would write to him from the US after seeing him crying over the phone. I bade him farewell, and dialed again to my mom and dad who were already up waiting for my call at Khawar goenpa, a village under Khar geog, Pema Gatshel District. As I heard their voice from that small mysterious device, I broke down into tears but quickly realized that it was not good to cry. My dad, a clergy, informed me that the journey would be safe and peaceful for he had already performed all the rituals necessary to ward off the evil spirits and to please our protective deity. I called them off, and immediately dialed to my uncle Jangchuk and Aunt Pema. They were also up and like not taking anything into granted, my uncle (a clergy like my dad) was also performing a “serkem”-a ritual to please the protective deity for my safe journey to a place unknown. I could hear him reciting the prayer and in time also answering to my call.
Meantime our Maruti Taxi has already entered the Thimphu downtown through the Zorzin lam. The street was quiet, fresh, and clean unlike the normal hours, which becomes dusty, busy and crazy! Just about the first ever five-Star hotel in Bhutan-Taj Tashi, our car made a left turn cruising down hill till the roundabout from where it took a right turn and headed in a full speed. The town was still quiet and about to mature out of dawn that made us difficult to recognize those early risers: some logging and some merely walking along the street. But two men looked rather familiar to me, so I stopped our quiet yet very friendly looking driver. Two men who I later recognized as Khochung (uncle) Yongba and Khothkin Bogar, approached us seeing me waving at them. After we exchanged a few words, we hit the road once again; this time in full speed on the only expressway in Bhutan towards Paro. The chilly wind of the Semtokha valley drove my sleep away completely, and the valley offered a spectacular scene of Thimchu (wangchu river) snaking down the valley.
However, I can easily say that it was the most emotionally challenged and boring trip I have taken thus far. There was a total silence in the car except the roaring of the car and the hissing sound of the approaching wind! Time to time I looked back in quest to break the silence, but I couldn’t utter anything. I lost my speech, literally! All three of them were facing at the different directions as if to hide their tears or something else. Of course, that’s exactly what I had to do. Soon we were on a dusty and bumpy section of the road leading to the Chuzom checkpost. The road alignment and a work to upgrade the previous single-lane road to double-lane in preparation for the most important event in the history of Bhutan-the coronation of the Fifth King by Project Dantak was in full swing. The driver bravely maneuvered around, negotiated the turns and snarling potholes and in about 8 AM we entered the beautiful Paro valley.
....to be cont'd