Thursday, April 24, 2008

Peeping Tom, not I

During a recent trip to Sikkim, I fell ill halfway through a trek and descended to a village called Tsokha with a friend while the rest of our group went on. My friend and I spent three days in Tsokha whilst waiting for the others to return. Tsokha is a village that exists only for the purpose of adventure tourism - located at a height of 9000-10,000 ft, it is one of the halts on the popular Dzongri – Goecha La treks. All Tsokha has is a few houses, a camp-site, three shacks that call themselves ‘cafes’ and sell trinkets and snacks to trekkers, a lot of itinerant trekkers – most of them firangs, and a small monastery.

In Tsokha, we rented a room from a villager; it was big enough for us to empty our backpacks and spread out our stuff untidily rather than do the daily drill of unpack sleeping bag – sleep – wake up – unpack new set of clothes – pack used clothes – pack sleeping bag. As I was unwell, one of our porters had descended with us and he ensured that we had a pampered existence. He would bring us tea at 7:30 a.m. and breakfast at 8:30 a.m. After breakfast, my friend would go off on a long hike while I lazily strolled around Tsokha – visiting the monastery, sitting at the chai shops and chatting endlessly with total strangers etc. My friend would return around one, and we would have lunch together and chat a bit. Each day, by 2 in the afternoon, a mist would roll in accompanied by a sharp, biting wind that encouraged all but the most adventurous to stay in – either in tents or in their rooms. By half past two, we would be huddled in our sleeping bags in the rooms. Once more, we would depend on our porter to brave the cold and bring us evening tea as well as dinner.

Unfortunately, this was one trip on which I had forgotten to bring a book to read and I found myself at a loss for things to do to keep myself occupied once we were cooped up in the room. Then, on the second such afternoon, I remembered the number of birds I had seen in the thicket near the common toilet, which was behind the block of rooms we were staying in. It was quite a pretty location for a loo – mountains all around, a valley below, and in the adjacent thicket there were rhododendron bushes, magnolia trees, some bamboo and lots of bushes; the richness of the flora accounting for both a large number of birds that twittered and chirped away the day and an interminable procession of bees/wasps that droned on in a threatening manner and encouraged one to hurry up with one’s business lest they decide to attack.

Luckily, one of the windows of my room faced the thicket and I settled down at the window that afternoon to see whatever birds I could before the mist became too thick. Aah, I thought, the luxury of seeing birds without being exposed to the cold mist and the wind. I saw a magpie or two, and some unidentified small birds. Mostly though, I saw crows flying to and fro in a most frazzled manner, as if searching for something they had lost. I could chart the approach of the mist by looking at the flowers on the magnolia tree nearby. As the first tendrils of the mist crept over the tree, they only served to highlight its vibrancy – bursting-with-life, voluptuous, bright white magnolia flowers contrasted against a background of dull, grayish-white, amorphous mist. Slowly the jealous mist called up reinforcements and grew thicker, fewer and fewer of the lively magnolia flowers were visible; until finally the curdled-with-jealousy thick mist hid them altogether.

At this point I turned away from the window to describe the change in scenery to my friend. I turned back to the window a minute later, only to view the not-so-appealing sight of the ample rear end of some man lowering his trousers. My initial response was irritation with the man for intruding on a scene of such beauty; for a moment I toyed with the idea of scaring him by tapping eerily on the window pane, or of embarrassing him by opening the window and asking him the time.

Then I realized that to any external observer I was the intruder, sitting with my nose pressed against the window-pane, at a window that overlooked the path to the loo - probably one of those weird kinky psychos, the type who get their thrills by trekking 10,000 ft high to secretly observe other people answering the call of nature. Given where I was sitting and what I seemed to be doing, I could hardly accuse the man with his pants down of being uncouth or boorish, so what if he preferred watering the trees to using a man-made facility !

I wondered then whether other people approaching the loo had been embarrassed / shocked into abandoning plan when they saw a face wearing an earnest, keenly observant expression in the window-pane. Did they scuttle back to their rooms to report in shocked tones the weird behaviour being exhibited by the lady (??) in room no. 3 ? In case they did, and you heard about it too, this is the true and accurate version of events – I’m not a despo Peeping Tom, it’s all a simple misunderstanding.

Zenobia D. Driver


Anita said...

ha ha. thank god, the man did not see you. now that would have been really awkward.

Sikkim sounds very nice

Entropy said...

Hi Anita,
:-) Well, that guy did not see me. But as I mentioned, maybe others did. Most embarassed I am about that.

heh heh brilliant thought just struck me. Hopefully, of course, since it was misty, they could not figure out which one of us - me or friend - was at window and have labelled him a perv. :-)

Aqua said...

Hahahaha. Have rolled on the ground laughing. what a story. and now i have this extremely funny picture in my mind.

AND where were you all this time Miss Ruskin Bond. Your story was delightful. Loved your descriptions..."jealous mist". Lovely. I enjoyed yr post more than this dreary book by Jhumpa L (Unaccustomed Earth).

Entropy said...

Hi Aqua,
:-) Thanks for the compliments. I'm lovin' it. Totally made my day.

Anonymous said...

Paint away! Your word-pictures are delicious!

Entropy said...

Hi Venky,
:-) Think I need another vacation in order to visit more places and write about them. Work seems so dreary comparatively.

The good thing is that there isn't too much work, so I can gently ease out of holiday-mode by spending time in office surfing the net. ;-)


Anonymous said...

I agree... the "jealous mist" picture is so accurate that I can see it clearly in my mind's eye..

Zen, why not take to book (not slide) writing...?! honestly..!!


Entropy said...

Hi Suruchi,
Thanks for the comment. very encouraging.

Arya said...

Nice blog. A treat to read. A beautiful
description of the place.
I would just take the oppurtunity to ask you something and probably criticise you for not explicitly mentioning it. Is elctricity present there? Can I charge the battery of my camera in Tsoka?
Since you have named yourself "Entropy" I take this liberty of assuming that you are related "somehow" to physics or chemistry. This assumption has nothing to do to the question I posed.