My car was whirling on the curvy, rocky highway of NH-31A, the sole connector of Sikkim to the Indian territory. It was a 12 hour ride and as for me, you could connect me to a barrel of scopolamine (drug for motion sickness) but still my vomitus would flow more heavily than rain pouring down from the palm of Indra, the rain God himself. I was on my way to Gurudongmar (Sikkim) for my 15 day’s Medical Aid Program (15th-31st December, 2011) and the series of infinite mountains in front of my eyes gave a slight ache to my heart. I was not a traveler then, not a traveler, not a nature lover, but a competitive book worm (I’m a medical student, I guess that says all). I had googled about Sikkim, a small state, rested in the lap of the Great Himalayas. The summary of the place was cold, wet and cloudy, so the vision I had in my head was that of “Forks” from the movie “Twilight” and I was sure not the kind of person who fancied meeting a vampire.
But there are certain experiences in your life that change your belief, your thinking, your vision, your soul, that change you. The trip to Sikkim was one for me.
We had halted at five spots till Chungthang and then we drove North-West to Lachen and finally via Thampu we reached Gurudongmar, one of the highest lakes in the world at an altitude of 17,000 ft. It seemed like the remotest area on planet Earth- no electricity, no network coverage and forget technology, no people even (I mean a population of 500, in a 100 km radius is like a drop in the ocean, for a country that had just celebrated its billionth birth). As the Sun was setting fast, I hurried with the routine check-up of my six valuable patients, but the real fact was I was as hungry as a pig and I didn’t want the symphony of my stomach’s hunger to be heard out loud. It was definitely possible; the place was so silent that I could practically hear my heartbeat without a stethoscope. But soon dinner was served around a bonfire where we sat with the 22 Sikh Regiment and heard the stories of the great battles and wars they had fought, as we savored hot noodles and momos, the army cook had prepared. The war stories were definitely terrifying, but the story about Gurudongmar and its creation was all fascinating. It was believed that the Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak, had visited the place on his journey to China and Tibet and had dug the lake all by his walking stick (hence the name) for the settlers then. They said his stick was still there in the form of a tree, guarding its water. After everyone slipped to their tents, I went to the lake. It seemed not real, but a beautiful dream, an imagination, that had sprung out of my head, glittering like Kohinoor under the moonlight. It was for the first time in my life that my mind was at peace, not planning any new venture, not planning any surgical degree, not planning any future at all. It had never occurred to me before that all my life I had been nothing but a robot, a robot that was biologically active but not alive. I had blamed the Sun of rising early on the dawn of my examination day; I had blamed the clock of ticking fast while I could not complete my paper; I had blamed time, for not giving me extra seconds, to accommodate my love of “poetry-writing”, in the hectic schedule of my medical profession. But that moment changed it all. The stagnant water and the stillness of the mountains seemed to have handcuffed time in fetters of pure beauty and knowledge. The holy place, its sacred water and the Guru himself seemed to enlighten me with a message, clear and loud.
We always have enough seconds..but we choose to be biologically active rather than truly living; we work for “future perfect” while we make our “present tense”; we choose being a “puppet”, a “slave” of time, rather than becoming its master.
I went ahead and read the Prakrit inscription on the cliff, the message from the Guru himself~
”In the end, what is time for an individual, just the number of heartbeats he or she gets.”
I was stunned, melted in deep thoughts; I was no more the “living-dead” and it was indeed ironical that the flow of my life was inspired by the stillness of the great Himalayas and the stagnant water of the Gurudongmar lake.
About the Author: I’m Taruni Pandey, a 3rd year student of “Bachelor Of Medicine and Surgery”, Manipal Medical College.
I’m a trained vocalist, artist and a freelance writer. Poetry is my life and my passion!
Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter our next Travel Writing competition and tell your story.