A green citrus fruit camouflaged with its green leaves ripen into golden balls; some wrinkled and round, some fair and oval while others full of scars. Below, the earth crust of the field was broken into dust particles by animals feeding on dying weeds after harvest. The cattle would be released onto field and local festival would begin. There would be a lull in storm of farming activities.
People in my village would look for means to get cash for paying taxes to the government which was huge by their monetary ownership though it was minimal by urban standard. The village almost functioned independently except for salt. People would strive to make money by only means available, the golden fruit. A day before journey, the best fruit would be collected, counted and packed into bamboo baskets based on carrying strength of human or horse.
The strongest man could carry ten Pon(one pon=80 pieces) which meant around 800 pieces of orange while average man could carry seven pons. An average horse could carry twelve pons of orange. When I was around ten years of age, I was asked by Atse, the husband of my mother’s younger sister to tag along. He weaved a basket fit for my size and small t-shaped stick was picked up from nearby forest to support basket to take occasional rest without having to keep on the ground.
I counted the oranges I could carry. I was convinced that I could carry three pons but when I picked up the basket, I found it quite impossible. So I settled for two which came to 160 pieces of orange. On top of that we had to carry padkos and pans to prepare food on the way and some blanket to cover during the night.
With the weight of our basket, one had to take rest almost every ten steps with the help of T-sticks which would support basket as we stood still. If you had horse, it would too do same after every few steps of trot. On the first day, we reached only another village as we started late after propitiating local deity before stepping out of our community boundary.
There was no water around. Even few households of that community had to fetch water from far below taking almost a half day. Since, we didn’t own horses; there was no worry of not finding fodder at night. So, we camped under a huge parasol of mango tree that hardly bears fruit. So, me, akhu, and another man contented ourselves eating packed lunch left over. For water, we drank locally brewed ara we brought in jerry can from home. As we sleep, I asked whether we were near to buyer’s camp. My aku told me that the distance would be five to six times more than what we had just covered that day. I felt like crying. We had to crossed the dangerous path passed through steep cliff, we had crossed the jungle where tiger growled somewhere, we had to cross the vast expanse of land that slid under our feet and we had to cross the threatening river gushing. We had to ascend up the hills and descend down the hills covering each snaky path step and step. Yet I was told, we didn’t cover any distance. My back was aching almost rendering me immobile. I silently sobbed on pillow of grasses and leaves before falling asleep.
I slept like a rotten log. I neither heard the howl of village mongrels nor the honking of deer on other side of the slope. When they woke me up before dawn to continue our journey down to Drangme Chu, I felt like a horse being dragged into water against its will. As I crossed one of the longest suspension bridges over Drangme Chhu, the biggest river in the kingdom of Bhutan, I got cold feet. The snaky movement made me afraid of throwing me over into the river. The sight of sleepy river below made me sick. My feet seemed to be immobilized. However, on the other side of river huge iron chain dangling on giant tree welcomed us. We bowed to it reverently as I was told it was chain made by Great Thangtong Gyelpo.
After half an hour, we came across another river called Demri, a tributary of Great Drangme Chu. The bridge had developed cracks as two gewogs failed to come to mutual agreement to share construction labour. Kengkhar gewog, seconded by Jurme under Mongar District felt that Shumar Gewog under Pema Gatshel should share the responsibility while Shumar geowg contested that since they didn’t use the bridge and kengkharpa used it for trade, they should be left alone. After crossing the Damri, we halted for lunch.
There were many rough ovens erected of three stones of same size in triangular manner. When travelers left, they didn’t dismantle since many travelers frequently lunched and dined here. While elders prepared lunch, I went to eat a grape-like fruits available from nearby trees. I don’t even remember their names. There were lemon tree growing in wild with golden fruits.
After lunch of Kharang and raddish curry, elders discussed which way to follow. One way was to follow marong chu path, towards source of tributary river of Damri in the vale and next was to follow, crest of highest pass upward Udiri. After discussions, elder decided to follow river path as there was no water on other path as they were sure we wouldn’t reach our destination, Domkhar above Nangkor in Pemagatshel.
Clutched on elders’ hand, one had to cross that same groaning river 23 times before climbing up towards Nangkor just before said river bifurcated again into two tributaries. We halted at the base of the hill by the evening. It was ideal halt as we needed to have sufficient rest before we start arduous uphill journey. From there I could hear strange noise as if other part of the cliff was crumbling. I was told it was walking noise of truck Gari. That night, the childish longing to see that giant moving beast gave me hope that I could walk another day to see it.