Sunday, 8 February 2015


Pic source: Google
“Wake up brother; it is time to go or else others will be out before us.”
“Oh no, can we go tomorrow, today is unusually cold,” said the nine year old boy, pulling the thick blanket over his head. But, his 15-year-old brother would not let him sleep and prod the young boy to wake up and accompany him.

It is January and Bumthang was reeling under cold wave. Many said it is the coldest January in some years. The valley has not seen snowfall this winter despite the plummeting temperature but a thick blanket of frost would always be there to greet each morning. The best option would be staying under the thick blankets like nine year old Sangay, but boys like him have to yield to the whims of elders at home.

Sangay reluctantly woke up and the contours on his face was an indication of how much he hated waking up, but his brother Wangchuk will always drag his small brother with him on his special task. At 15, Wangchuk is an adventurous young boy on the one hand but, too timid to embark adventure of this kind on his own especially during the early mornings and late nights.

Some people in the valley have the habit of scouring the banks of the river early in the morning for dead fishes lying frozen by the bank of the river. The fishes are apparently hunted down by otters in the night and some of their hunts are left behind. This is what the elders say to their children although no can substantiate such a claim. Sometimes, the carcasses of the fish are intact, while at other times, the predator would have devoured the head leaving the rest for human scavengers.

When Wangchuk woke up early, it is a sign he will be heading straight to the banks of Chamkharchu looking out for what otters have left behind for early morning human scavengers if any. He will be walking along the banks and scourge the river banks and shorelines with keen eyes while his small brother struggle to keep pace with him. “Acho, wait for me,” Sangay pleads from time to time and Wangchuk asks him to hurry up behind him.

“Today we are going till Chakhar following the river-bank. Looks like no one has made it before us,” Wangchuk tells his young brother. And on and on they walk, navigating their steps carefully between the round stones, shaped so when they are carried by river for long distance. The early morning mist was always thick in winter mornings reducing the visibility to just few metres. This meant the boys especially the elder will have to look out and scan the shorelines with extra vigil or else they will miss the precious quarry they came looking for at this early hour.

Wangchuk’s excitement on that particular morning to make as far as possible right below that legendary iron castle have to be cut short midway when he saw another man wearing thick overcoat was walking the opposite way. The two brothers immediately turn back knowing the futility of finding any fish further up.
Suddenly, Sangay called out, “Acho.”
“Acho, look back, there is something behind you,” Sangay called out and when his big brother looked back, Sangay pointed his finger to where the object lay.
Wangchuk sprinted to the spot. The little boy watched his brother bend his back and pull out a large  trout whose half body lay in the water while the other half remained frozen on the edge of the river. The brothers became excited as their early morning sacrifice paid off.
"This is why I bring you along. Four eyes can see better than two," said Wangchuk.
Further down, Sangay finds another fish whose head was missing apparently eaten by the otter which hunted the fish down.

Seeing the boys carrying fishes, a man on the other side of the river on same mission shouted and waved. The boys waved back but did not respond to incoherent shouts. The sound of the fast flowing river drowned every other sound while they were on the river bank.

Happily they return home. “Tonight, we will eat fish for the dinner,” declared Wangchuk. To this, Sangay nodded in agreement. When Wangchuk asks Sangay, if he is coming tomorrow with him, the young boy replied that he will go another time but, not too soon.

Gyembo Namgyal
February 8, 2015 10:55 PM

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