“You replace my car. I don’t want anything else” the owner of the Maruti Alto said.
My driver was helpless. He kept negotiating. The next offer was even more ludicrous.
“You can keep my car. Leave your car to me” The owner of the alto was telling this genuinely. It was an offer and not a joke.
This was part of the conversation that we had with some Arunachalis while we were returning to Assam. Our car was involved in an accident and the other party started coming up with these kind of demands. The public which had gathered also supported this same line of arguments. In any other part of India, it would have simply gone to litigation and payment of accidental damage by the insurance company. Not in Arunachal. We were advised not to involve the police because once the tribe gets involved they back off from the situation apparently.
I don’t know this experience of mine is the norm in Arunachal, however this lack of law and order and the concept of community justice was something that I could not digest during my Arunachal trip.
As we neared Bhalukpong, we could see the distant blue mountains clearly beyond which lay the deep valleys of Arunachal. Arunachal Pradesh is one of the states which still needs an inner line permit for entry. Our inner line permits were checked at Bhalukpong Check post and after that only we were allowed into the state.
The inner line permit system was evolved by the British Government to control the movement of people from mainland India to these states where the British Empire had substantial economic interests at stake. The Government of India, in the name of protecting the indigenous culture and also in the name of security, still follows the inner line permit system for visitors to certain states in India. I couldn’t agree with the logic of this system and throughout the time I was at the checkpost kept thinking as to why this system should be allowed in the Union of India, where every states are equal partners.
Bomdi La and its Beautiful Monastery
I stood in the huge courtyard gazing at the monastery against the backdrop of the Himalayas. Pale, cold wind blew from the valley, while fluffy clouds moved atop the brown mountains that surrounded us. Laying in the lap of these mountains, the monastery in Bomdi La is a beauty. In fact, I found the setting of Bomdi La monastery to be more inspiring than Tawang monastery.
As you ascend the steps, you find the same pattern as other Tibetan monasteries. The mural embellished entrance, the huge prayer hall and then the Buddha statues. The most interesting feature that I could see all around was the cylindrical structures that could be rolled about an axle that could be found at many places in the compound. These cylinders, the believers say can absolve you of any sins if you were to turn them in clockwise direction. I could see them turning them as they went on to pray inside the monastery.
For a minute I laughed it off as a curious superstition. Questions like whether true sin existed came racing to my mind first. Even if they did, how is a mere rotation of a cylinder going to absolve someone of it? However, there is no need for a believer to see logic in something. And once we believe in something, it is true irrespective of whether it appears logical or not. I too reverently turned the cylinder once and emerged purified.
The War Memorials of Tawang
As you cross Sela pass and Tawang, you encounter remembrances of the 1962 war with China. The Jaswantgarh memorial, the War memorial in Tawang, the light and sound show that is conducted near the Tawang war memorial are all aimed at keeping the memory of the brave soldiers who laid down their lives for our country alive.
We also happened to visit Bumla pass, located at the Indo-Tibetan border. Unlike Nathu La, this border is not used for trade between the two countries. Bum La is for most parts of the year snow covered, and is also located at about an altitude of 15000 ft. The mountains that surround the place proclaim loudly how difficult a job is being done by our brave jawans. My appreciation of the brave soldiers of our country increased tremendously after the visit to Bum La.
Tawang monastery is another highlight of Tawang. One of the largest Buddhist monasteries in the world, it offers a good view of Tawang right at its entrance. I had visited on the day of Losar which is the Tibetan new year. As a result the celebrations were in full swing in Tawang. Prayers started as early as three in the morning.
Tawang is also home to some other attractions like Madhuri Lake, Jung falls, 6th Lamas birth place etc. Above all, its the ride through the towering mountains of Arunachal that will keep you attracted to the place. Some day, I would return on my bike to Tawang, I scribbled in my mind as I was returning from the place.