A sprained ankle, a painful souvenir from my visit to Nathu La, found me marking time in my guest suite at the Sonam Gyatso Mountaineering Institute in Gangtok. Its most ‘VIP’ feature was an awesome view of the snow-coated Kanchenjunga range. With no chance of, nor ability for prolonged activity, I spent a few days hobbling: from my bed to the window, from my bed to the washroom, and from my bed to the terrace for a breath of fresh air.
An efficient caretaker of the guest house fussed over me, drawing my attention to the spanking new LCD on the wall. Perhaps some TV viewing might take my mind off the aching joint? Nothing could have been furthest from the truth. The cable for some inexplicable reason was airing only one channel in a language I comprehended. That channel was airing breaking news around the controversy-ridden Rahul Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Know what I mean…?
Anyhow, in between reading and staring out of the window – my only recourse – I began noticing the play of light on the Kanchenjunga peak. I took the early-to-bed-early-to-rise adage to a whole new high. In order to capture the many moods of this much revered mountain peak, I began to sleep post sunset and waking before crack of dawn. The first time it was an absolute waste of effort. It threatened to be a cloudy morn and I never got a glimpse of the shy guy the entire day. It didn’t help my already forlorn self. A day to stay indoors alright.
But post lunch, ignoring medical advice and throwing caution to the biting wind outside, I requested for a ride to nearby Vajra, one of the only two cinema halls in Gangtok. Shah Rukh Khan to the rescue. Used to the multiplex experience for long now, it was a pleasant surprise to be directed to a ‘box’. One that quickly dissipated as I painfully walked up slippery stairs. (The return journey would be eventful, one that would leave me with a mild muscular strain in my forearm, but then, that’s another story). I watched My Name Is Khan in the company of frisky rodents and two men-in-fatigues. One of who was definitely playing truant as his walkie-talkie continued to crackle every now and then. Just before intermission, a tray bearing staff of the hall served us tea and coffee on thick, chipped china. Just like in them old days…
The following day I peered out long and hard at the sky and finally spotted stars. It was going to be a bright and sunny day. I would have danced a jig in delight if able! It would end up being the only clear day for the rest of my recuperation period. But it was worth it. Despite flogging myself for not carrying a more sophisticated camera, I did manage some amateur shots of Mt Kanchenjunga. The early morning blush. The dazzling white of oblique rays. The blinding glare of a blazing afternoon sun The fiery hues at dusk.