There is something enchanting about Khecheopalri Lake and the dense forests around it in West Sikkim. From 32 kms below, in my home in Gyalshing, like estranged lovers, the lake would constantly appear in my thoughts. When my grandfather was alive, day trips to the lake from Gyalshing had been a regular tradition. We would feed the trout fish and watch them emerge from below the lake creating a cacophony of several small wavelets. The lake would cease being still and calm as we observed the fish splashing about feeding on puffed rice. The lake serves as a local deity to several families and communities around Gyalshing irrespective of religion. As a norm the first harvests of jackfruits and paddy in my family is always offered to the monasteries of Pemayangtse and Khecheopalri. I knew I had grown attached to the lake since childhood and it was time to resurrect the relationship. So I decided to follow the trail of thoughts and visit the holy lake.
The gota gaari left Gyalshing syndicate at 1 pm. I shared the middle row with a drowsy boju on one side and a young woman on the other side. We began the steep climb to Pelling slicing through the chilly Rabdentse forests. At some point, while traversing through the quaint town of Darap, the vehicle was infested by a strong smell of rum. This was followed by an announcement by the boju that it was time for her regular dosage of ‘dabai pani’ or local liquor. We erupted in approving laughter and the boju gulped down her spirit much like one would gulp down water. We immersed in conversations where it struck us that the boju had known my grandfather. This made me feel excited and as I gazed outside the window I witnessed the golden light swallowing Rimbi khola (river) and the brown patches of autumn forests around it. I imagined speaking to the inanimate river and forests and wondered if they would tell me all that they witnessed of my ancestors.
The vehicle made a steep climb to Khechuperi swiftly zooming past frightening cliffs and gurgling streams.