But the truth was that I was hesitant to visit my parents. For Gelephu becomes beastly hot in summer. A lot of expenses incurs during travels. And I’ve to walk solid two hours over the most infamous river in Bhutan, the Maokhola, from Gelephu town to reach my village.
So until last week, it had been almost a year, 12 months of excuses and ignoring, I decided to visit my parents. As you would imagine, Gelephu was boiling, then, in almost 36 Degree Celsius. And I had to walk across the 1.8 km long Maokhola, under the hot sun.
After the lunch, I readied my journey from Gelephu town. But I couldn’t walk, go home alone. I needed people going to Chuzargang to tag along. I’ll tell you why. A lonely rough road was its only connection with Gelephu. But the course of this road was always altered by monsoon flashfloods. Moreover, this road was infected with youth, high on drugs or alcohol, attacking travelers. It was wild elephants, poisonous snakes and leeches infected. Also, the Moakhola River was known for claiming lives of people, at least two every summer.
So, I looked for people of my village in Gelephu town. But how do we recognize them? The people of Chuzargang are tanned. They wear their ghos high above their knees and carry green rug sacks on their backs. They are peasants, illiterate or semi-literate and are very tough and strong in physicality. They’re uncommonly humble. And remember, they always wear slippers.
It was a late hot afternoon. As I was sweating profusely, I saw two men in burnt skins, wearing half pants. They wore sleepers. They must be from my village, I reckoned.
I asked them, “Are you from Chuzargang?” one of them nodded. I requested them if I could tag along with them to my village. They agreed. I was lucky that they had a farm tractor returning to Chuzargang, as one of them was the tractor driver. This tractor was donated by READ Bhutan to the people of Chuzargang to promote farm mechanization. Remarkably, Chuzargang is among the highest producers of rice, maize, areca nuts, fruits (banana, lemon, litchi, pineapple, coconuts, jack fruit, mango, pomegranate) and vegetables in our country.
They said before we start the journey, we’ve to charge ourselves as the route is very long and tiring. We entered a bar and ordered three containers of tongpa and a plate of djuma. My head swung; additional tips by the sun heat, ha-ha.
We drove. It was a bumpy ride over the course of the rough road. After a dozen of minutes, we came over the Maokhola. A long bamboo bridge connects the two banks. When the river swells during summer, this temporary bridge will be washed away and the villagers have to use boats.
Oh, over this river, during the last election campaign, the DPT government had promised constructing 1.8 km long motorable bridge. With sheer confidence and ease though. This mega promise was even reflected in their party manifesto.
Now, it has been exactly four years that the people here have been anticipating the bridge, desperately, disgruntling. And, the interesting part? People have named the river, rather sarcastically, Prem Khola against the name of the Gelephu MP. And Prem Bridge, for the promised motorable bridge.
There are several other small streams to cross. Bicycle is one of the modes of transportation here. Now you would know the reason why people of this region wear their ghos above their knees and only wear sleepers. Yes, it’s because of the streams.
After that we climbed a hillock. As soon as we scaled the summit a woman cried, “Come lopons, we’ve bangchang, beer, djuma, and momo!” She was underneath a small plastic sheet of a hut, displaying the beverages and snacks. My companions stopped the tractor engine and asked me to come with them. He ordered two bottles of bangchang and two plates of momo.
As the sun stood in the west, we reached Chuzargang. It’s a large village where fertile rice and maize fields, fed by water canals, stretch for acres and acres all sides. Areca nut and banana plants surrounded each typical house, mud-and-dung washed walls and courtyard. Green vegetables and fruits were grown abundantly, and cattle grazing contentedly nearby.
Men and women were tilling the fields or weeding gardens. Children ran from one corner of the fields to the other, jumping joyously like a bunch of colourful dragonflies. A group of young men were enjoying an early dinner with bangchang (local wine). They recognized me, I recognized them. I sat, talked with them over the course of bangchang. I sat there, with them, nostalgic as I drank the local wine.
Oh jeez, I was in my village, home. I was real happy and felt good. It felt good to be back, to be meeting my parents, to be feeling home, comfortable. And more importantly, it felt good to be not avoiding, making excuses. I was happy not to be complaining of travel expenses, sun heat, the infamous Maokhola, snakes and leeches.