Chapter 1 Trip To Gangtok

Snow fascinates me. Growing up I’d devoured countless books on hopeful fairytales and whimsical castles and dreamy snow. They made the growing up easy and gave wings to the dreams of adulthood. I particularly remember flipping through their pages before buying; to ensure the photographs were there. That was the beginning of my relationship with whitewashed landscapes, upon which stood pines and firs and the sledge dogs ran about cabins made of wood.

I’d planned a trip to London on our 3rd anniversary; only to learn that it snowed the previous day we reached. We spent a week in London and couple of days in Edinburgh, but it didn’t snow. And I was left exhorting the Almighty to drop at least a flake or two for me. But nothing! Utter dismay!

Three years thence, we made a trip to Gangtok. It was the March of 2010. Call it destiny or mere coincidence, but Gangtok wasn’t even the part of the plan. We had a holiday voucher from a resort chain which was about to expire in couple of weeks. It was kind of a layover between the shoulder season and the off. If you haven’t heard of Gangtok, it’s the capital of Sikkim, a breathtakingly beautiful state in Northeast India, nearly 5,500 feet above the sea level.

We arrived in Gangtok at sundown. Mr. Norbu drove us from the airport to the hotel; a good six hours drive and enough for all of us to get nicely acquainted with each other and have him show us around for the entire trip. On the second day, Norbu drove us to Nathula border, a point where India meets China 14,200 feet above the sea level. It was a good four hours drive offering spectacular views of snowcapped mountains soaring skywards from deep valleys to one side and muddied roads soecked with puddles of newly fallen ice on the other.

I waited with baited breath for what was about to come. My wait of years would soon be over. We reached Nathula. The entire place resembled heaven to me. It was rapture exploding within me and I was frantically waiting for Norbu to park the car. I was in my comprehensive snow-gear – the shoes, the jacket, the cap, the glasses. I looked and walked like a robot covered from top to bottom, barring the face, all set to make snow-balls and hit my husband, to make the snowman, click pictures in all possible poses….the typical snow activity I’d been seeing in all romantic movies all those years.

Norbu parked the car and we were out in the snow, to be on our own. It shone brightly as if it never did before I arrived, as if the snow was all out there welcoming me, its crazy but die-hard fan of ages. The sun above seemed eminently close. It’s rays seemed to hit the snow only to bounce back and illuminate our already radiant faces and spirits. I was levitating with exhilaration. We clicked couple of pictures so I could show off back home. We were happy! Every single soul out there was happy.

We started taking a walk, rather waddling, and I felt something happening to me. A feeling I never had before, never in my entire life. I was choking. I couldn’t understand if my heart was beating at an incredible speed or if had stopped beating altogether. I felt the sun rays hitting my head as if to hammer me and the cool breeze squeeze out every breath out of me. Before I could realize what was happening, I collapsed. My husband panicked. Norbu ran for help. They shifted me to the car. After a while, I regained conscious. Norbu got me a coffee and I was warm enough to speak.

We were contemplating it to be a sunstroke. But Norbu foreboded, “Mam isn’t well. Get her checked as soon as possible”. He was right. It wasn’t just a sunstroke. It was much more than that. It was evident few months later after a lifechanging incident that shook my world.
I still remember Norbu; he may be unaware of what happened to me after the trip and that it was his trained eyes which saw what we didn’t. I owe you, Norbu…

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