Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Memorable Weekend

I was so disappointed when I had this terrible sore throat after making such a fabulous plan for the weekend. I was literally overjoyed when my sister’s friend, Pema invited us for an herbal stone bath at her place, Drukgyel, a beautiful settlement in the outskirts of Paro. I have very fond memories of Paro, a place I had spent most of my childhood days. Paro is a beautiful and a peaceful town in the western part of Bhutan. As the country’s only international airport is located there, the town is usually full of tourists and handicraft shops. Besides, my parents lived there for more than 15 years, a place where they had seen their children grow from kids to teenagers and then as adults. I lived there a little lesser though but vacations were always awesome.
My heart ached whenever my sister told Pema that she is afraid that we may not be able to come to her place this weekend. Pema is a very sweet girl whom I know since she was a kid. She was one of my sister’s best friends since kindergarten and who was equally excited about our visit. With some awkwardness, I hear my sister say Azhim (Sister) is sick and she may not be able to drive us there.  As she hung her phone, I would tell her I would be all right by the end of the week. I was in bed for two days, could not even go to office with such awful pain. I felt bad; I could not afford to miss the stone bath in any way. It wasn't something I had never experienced in life but it was definitely something I would experience as an adult. I only have very vague memories of childhood stone bathes.

With genuine prayers, I felt little better on the third day and then more better on the fourth day. The fifth day, FRIDAY, there wasn't any sign of cold, sore, anything and I was ready to drive my team to Paro. It took an hour to reach Paro which is usually a 45 minutes drive from Thimphu. We listened to our common favorite, Jason Mraz half the way and the later half we listened to the latest Bollywood hits I had just downloaded that morning for the event. We reached Drukgyel at around 7:00 PM safe and sound. Our host were waiting for us outside with broad smiles. A lady in her late forties with a kind looking face smiled as we got off the car. She was Pema’s mother, with whom we had actually hesitated a little before though my sister kept saying that we needn't feel uncomfortable as aunty is such a sweet heart. So true, I thought when I saw aunty and talked to her. We were escorted to their beautiful warm bungalow. Inside, we were offered suja (Butter tea) with popcorn and zabchi (Fried Rice Flour).
Everything was kept ready by our lovely host. At one end of the ground we had the tub ready with hot stones and the other end had the bonfire with a little tent. The night was beautiful. It had been a while since I was like that under the clear beautiful sky with clear stars and a half moon. The stone bath was awesome. As I got in the tub, I imagined viruses /bacteria and all other unidentified microorganisms leaving my head, heart, lungs and all other parts of the body I was affected with. I felt like all sins, allergies and all other pains leaving my body and bidding me farewell. I had a peaceful half an hour sleep in the tub and after spending another half an hour playing with the warm water, I had to come out as the others were waiting impatiently for their turn. While we got in the tub turn wise turn, the rest of us sat around the fire drinking hot suja and wine talking about movies, books, economy and unemployment issues. By 12 midnight, every one of us had got in the tub twice. Dinner was ready when we returned home. Aunty was waiting for us with the same smile, she looked tired though. I felt really sorry, a little guilty for making her wait for so long and making her work for us. She did not make us feel it in any way though. 
After such delicious and a heavy dinner, our beds were ready. I had such a peaceful night’s sleep in the warm comfy bed. I dreamt about sleeping under the stars that night and I could literally feel myself smiling throughout the night.  I felt really happy and grateful for the wonderful night and even more grateful to the wonderful host.
The next day, I was woken up by the sound of a strong wind that blew through the window. Terrified by the sound, I opened the curtain to see a beautiful apple orchard, only then did I realize that I wasn't home.  I hurried to the washroom and by the time I reached the living room, everyone was surrounding the bhukari sipping their morning tea. I was the second last one to wake up.  A little embarrassed, I joined them quickly. Aunty made me feel better by saying, you must have been tired after such a long drive. I smiled at her gesture though I knew it wasn't really a long drive.

After having a heavy breakfast again, we packed up to come back home. Aunty hurriedly packed some red rice and vegetables for us and left to attend a neighbour’s puja wishing us a safe journey back home and inviting us again over another stone bath. As she left, I sat by the window and watched her walk. As she disappeared, I felt something unusual about the day. The day looked too gloomy to have a better mood but my mood changed in seconds when I saw thin sugary snow fall inconsistently from the sky.
The beautiful sight of Drukgyel after the snow fall (11/01/2014) and the stone bath tub that made our weekend (Below at the left)

Everything was really so unusual about the weekend, I jumped out of the place and went out. Wow, the snow started falling a little heavier with more snow accumulating on the ground. We went for a walk, played snow balls, made little snow men and took pictures. We laughed as we chased each other, I slept on the snow, ate some of it and I felt really happy from within. I realized I haven’t laughed like that for quite long.

At 4:00PM when the snowfall had stopped, we started our journey back home. The snow hadn't melted. The road was slippery and Pema wanted us to stay back, but we had to move as some of our friends had other important appointments the next day. It took us two hours to get back to Thimphu. We spent half an hour on the road block, a car had fallen off the road and it was being pulled out by a crane. Luckily there were no casualties.
It seemed like Thimphu had a lighter snow fall as the snow had all melted by the time we reached home. Finally we were back home to sit around the heater, too lazy to cook making the cold winter as an excuse, and as always all three of us agree to eat some cup noodles and get into bed. As I get in the bed, I reflect the wonderful weekend we had and thanked god and our lovely host before I soar into my dreamland.  :)

The next day, I took my friend’s little sons out to play the little snow left in some corners of Thimphu :)