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FINDING THOKMAY --- Story of the Hills

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Moinak Dutta is a published author and poet

Sneha and her father went into the dining hall first. It was adjacent to the double storied hut they were staying in. No one dared to venture to the hills during this season, but Sneha’s father had a different take on hills. According to Partho, solemnity of the Hills come out best in winter.

“In summer hills turn maidens. They dress themselves up, quite contrary to the plains...” Partho would say. Sneha would try to understand what her father was trying to say. Not that she realised everything but then her mother would explain things to her. Her mom, Kaushani loved folklores. 

Recently she bought her a book by Sudha Murthy. It had stories that enthralled Sneha.
“In our times, we had those granny’s tales, we called them Thakurmar Jhuli,”Kaushani would tell Sneha.

This morning, the hills were covered in mist. So they all decided to laze. Breakfast would be served soon at the hall. Barring them only one more family had tucked themselves into that fairly decent double storied hut. The caretaker, Ajay, would wake early in the morning and then he would bathe and dress up in leather jacket and jeans. He always appeared as someone who was going to do some party.

“Ask your father, he would explain things to you better,” Kaushani would reply. 

Now that they were sitting at the table, she and her dad, Sneha thought it would be great if she would make that query. After all her father had spent his life in the hills at one point.

“Dad, why are the locals always smiling?”

Partho was then trying to read something pinned on the softboard at the dining hall, notes of those who had come earlier to this place had left their handwritten memories attached to the lodge.

He answered: “Due to the location”

“Location?”

“Yes... these people are constantly fighting for their survival...they don’t even know when an avalanche or a landslide would come down upon them and they would all get killed. Besides the population being sparse and the level of pollution minimum, the exhaustion and stress factors are minimal too. Add to that, the silence and the awesome natural bounty here, not tarnished, it is almost like living in a heaven, free from din and bustle, needless hurries.”

Partho kept on explaining. Sneha tried to grasp what her dad was saying. Just then Kaushani entered with a boy few years older to Sneha. Partho smiled at the boy. Sneha was not sure what to do. But seeing her father smile, she smiled too.

“Partho, have you got something to record a voice or a song?” Kaushani asked.

Sneha said in excitement: “Of course...dad’s phone!’

“Why?” Partho asked. “Bring it out nah...” Kaushani pleaded.

Partho brought his cell phone and gave it to Kaushani and told to the boy:

“Thokmay, play it once for us, please, will you?”

The boy was shabbily dressed. He brought out from his back pocket of ragged jeans, a flute and started playing it. The mist, fog, the chill, the silence of the morn, the coldness of the place and that tune of the flute, all got intertwined. He was playing the flute with eyes closed, only his fingers were running to and fro, on the holes of the wooden pipe. The tune was so marvellous that even after the boy stopped playing it, Kaushani forgot to press the off button on the phone which recorded the tune.

An unhindered sense of satiety filled the hall. Kaushani asked the caretaker to add one plate extra to the order of breakfast they had placed. Partho and Sneha started talking with the boy.

“Come you boy, the unhindered!” Partho patted his shoulders.

Partho laughed. By then breakfast arrived.

“Why football dad? Don’t they play other games?” Sneha asked.

“We love to play football because that’s easy for us, we need only a ball. When we do not get a ball, we play with smaller rubber balls. Nowadays, we also play cricket and hockey, but they are expensive games.”

“I will give you money, you can buy a cricket bat, or a hockey stick or any sports good you want to buy,” Partho said. Thokmay nodded and giggled.

“Now play on kid...let's have an encore,” Kaushani said.

And he started playing the flute again. 

“Breakfast?” Sneha asked.

“You keep eating,” Kaushani told her daughter.

“Thokmay? You?”

“I will...but first let me play a different tune for you...it is a Tibetan song...”

Thokmay wiped his mouth with the back of his palm and got ready to churn out another stream of music from his wooden pipe.

(*Thokmay- a typical name of a boy with Tibetan origin, meaning unobstructed or unhindered)