|DOING AWAY WITH TRADITION WITHOUT RAISING AN EYEBROW AND BEING PRAISED FOR IT. NOW THAT'S TOUGH! POSSIBLE BUT TOUGH!||
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Red Bag On The Snow
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
It is nice and bright as I write, but an ominous looking cloud is on the prowl, ready to engulf the sun any moment now. The days so far have been pleasant. The nights below freezing. The Kanchanjunga looks majestic in its radiance. Just below it - I can see that the higher altitudes have already experienced their first snowfall. We, at about 7500 feet above sea level, couldn't be far behind. For now, might as well enjoy the warmth.
Yuletide is upon us! I can hear the rooster crowing and flapping it's wings, completely oblivious that it's on its last leg. A few days from now, it will be on a plate with potatoes as company.
I heard on the news last night that an unusual cold wave has hit North India. It has been a few degrees below normal and has already claimed a few lives. Poor people! What else can I say? I am privileged indeed. It is very easy to omit the obvious sometimes.
I remember this incident from a few years ago. It had been snowing the whole day and there was excitement all around on the season's first snowfall. Children were scurrying around and a few had their tongues out to catch the falling flakes. Some tourists from the plains were experiencing this spectacle for the first time and they were particularly chirpy with delight. Shutters clicking away as if this was the last day of their lives.
"Just wait till tomorrow!," I thought to myself with a tinge of arrogance.
Amidst all this melodrama was a small man with a red bag slung over his shoulder trying to get a lift. Traffic was quicker than usual - all drivers were eager to reach Darjeeling before navigation became impossible. So, here was this man darting after each passing vehicle. It was obvious that he was a bit tipsy. Probably had been frequenting the taverns to buy some warmth. I went home before darkness set in.
The next day was bright and sunny. I had snowed all night. The thick white carpet coupled with the azure skies made everything look like a Christmas cake. I, armed with a camera, ventured out to capture this pristine beauty for posterity. I took to the road just above my house in search of interesting subjects. This road leads to Darjeeling too and though motorable, it is seldom used and is for most of the time forlorn and peaceful. Very good for walks.
I trundled through the snow creating its first set of footsteps, enjoying the pleasurable feeling of snow giving way underfoot going 'Crunch, crunch, crunch'. I noticed something in the distance. Who wouldn't notice a red blob against a stark white background? I quickened my pace to quench my curiosity.
It was a red bag. Strange! Who would have left a bag right in the middle of the road? Could it be a prank? I surveyed around for clues. I suddenly notice something in the drain lining the road a few metres away. It was the man from the previous evening, embedded in snow and ice. Stiff. Tired of flagging down unconcerned drivers, he had decided to hike back home, a good 8 km from here - this being the shorter route. I got the shock of my life, particularly since no one was around. Just the red bag, the frozen man and I.
I did what any good citizen would do - report the matter to the police. Being the first witness, I had to do some paperwork. Red tapism is rapant in India but I didn't mind it this time. I was asked to file a witness report which included the description of the man, where he was found, in what state he was in, other information of interest and finally the contents of the back pack - a few hundred rupees, a pair of new slippers, a little skirt (both fit for a little girl), a flash-light and a pair of jeans.
A man came rushing into the police station.
"He is my uncle. I asked him to stay back last evening but he denied. He said that his little girl was waiting for her gifts."
This story can go on but it will serve no purpose. So I end with these words. To those who are alive, you are privileged. To those who are reading this, you are honoured. Don't forget it - ever.
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