Use Condoms – Protect Yourself from AIDS
So reads a sticker in my room. The common bathroom stinks. I’m going to skip my bath today. Downstairs men are seated at low tables with beer bottles and mugs. Cigarette smoke lingers in the dingy air. One woman is doing a bottoms-up straight from a bottle. Other women masked in layers of lipstick and mascara are cuddling up next to men. Clearly I have not chosen the right place to stay.
It is evening. The Sunday market is winding up. Nearby is a recently opened water fountain. It is a nice place to relax in view of the misty sprays, splashing jets and the patterns they trace. Evening sees the crowds hanging around this fountain.
I head down to the bridge. It is of a single span with suspension cables rising to the centre and then falling away to the banks on either side of the river. In fact, there are two rivers that flow down their separate valleys and join some distance away from the bridge. Where these rivers join, they seem to test each other in circles like fighters moving around in a ring. Then they clash in numerous eddies, deep current and surface ripples. They come to a compromise that knows no defeat and only victory. They dissolve their individual selves into a single flow and journey downslope through the verdant valley further on and ahead.
The banks of the rivers are full of stones in different sizes, shapes, colours and grains. Some men are attempting to fish in the shallow waters. A few women are washing clothes. Boys have stripped to their undies and are bathing in the cold waters. By the left bank, some boys are playing cricket. The green cover of the slopes in the background is decorated here and there with fresh hues of purples and oranges. The air is cool and refreshing by the river.
‘Are you searching for something?’ I ask a villager. He is digging at the river bank. The river has deposited many feet of sandy sediment. The man is digging through this embankment with his bare hands.
‘This is good for building… makes house strong,’ he points to coarse sand he has collected on a plastic sheet. He throws away all stones. It’s only sand he is interested in right now.
I leave him to his task and head back to town. There is really nothing for me at Jorethang. I stopped only because the bandh called by the Gorkhas will cease only tomorrow morning. First thing tomorrow, I shall head for Guwahati, via Siliguri.