“We cannot risk your life and hence cannot issue permit” said the lady inspector on the other side of the telephone. This was probably fifth call from our side in last three hours and eleventh in last three days requesting permit for Nathu La (pass). The officer in Gangtok, Sikkim did not issue permit for Nathu La on day 1 because of heavy snowfall the previous day and subsequent road closure. Day2 the Sun was bright and so were our hopes but it did not clear the roads yet…so we eagerly waited for the Sun to rise again in its full valor. Day3 Sun was shining, the temperature soared a bit, weather looked perfect! happy and cheerful we came out on the road to catch the vehicle to Nathu La and this is what we saw….
As we saw some vehicles on the way with high hopes we called up Tamang Uncle if we can get the permit. While Tamang Uncle was checking with the authorities we went into to see the beautiful Gangtok Flower show …with Nishtha’s fingers crossed!
And this was the time when the lady inspector said “We cannot risk your life and hence cannot issue permit.” Disappointed, disheartened, we were as we were not going to get another chance to see the first ‘must see’ thing in our list.
The glum continued for some time when Nupur asked what is the second must see in Gangtok and I spontaneously and sarcastically replied “Bhaichung Bhutia”, the ace footballer of India…and so the awesome foursome Nishtha, Kavita, Nupur and myself went across Gangtok in search of Bhaichung Bhutia!!
We hopped in a cab and asked bhaiya to take us to the footballer’s house. Puzzled..he looked at us and dropped us at the main taxi stand saying he does not know where Bhutia stays.
We were teasing Nishtha about how people over here do not know his place? Come to Mumbai and we can show house of the Bachchans, the Khans, the Tendulkars…the next thing we did was searching on the Google maps. While it was downloading we caught a little footballer and went up to him for the address, he smiled and signed don’t know and went ahead!
The otherwise useful Google map was of no help this time. People around must be amused at what we were searching so eagerly and asking whosoever we met on the road. This time we went up to an ON DUTY Traffic police stationed at a traffic island.
We approached her with a smile and terrified at spotting some civilians on the island, she hurriedly sent us back and once we were away from the island, smiled back! The last resort was to check at the Paljor stadium and off we went.
God helps those, those who help themselves! Finally at the stadium..though we didn’t spot him..Nishtha recollected that she had seen him in an Audi!! That clue was good enough for us to find his house. So now our mission was to find a road in the city … broad enough to accommodate an Audi. Going downhill to downtown Sichey, we met two police officer who mentioned ” we usually provide security at big events where he comes …but otherwise we have’nt seen him.”
Just before we were going to cancel this wild card entry in our ‘must see’ list in Gangtok, the officer said he lives somewhere near St. Mary’s school.” Yippee…now we were searching for a school ..much to the relief of local people who must have had a good laugh at our crazy search.
“Straight down then left”….”third left second right”….”little up” and there were we…at St Mary’s school. Looked around asked a laundry man..he was miffed..soon we went to the next shop the brother sister duo had a hearty laugh and as we tried to move…they asked us to wait for a while.
He came back in a while with seven other people…. “they will take you to his place.” We smiled and started to walk without knowing what next! On the way we were just calculating if an Audi can fit on this road?? two left…then right ..a little up we were back on the loop where we came from…we followed the ladies and kept inquiring about Gangtok, football and the footballer ..guessing which must be the house…the road was narrowing and so were the chances of an Audi fitting in.
“Here it is” the ladies smiled and we were standing right in front of Bhaichung Bhutia’s house..happy, surprised and waiting to see him.
P.S. : Though we started with a stupid idea ‘searching Bhaichung Bhutia’, it gave us an opportunity to interact with people of the city… know them… and it all enriched us with a unique exploration experience of the city, its people, the terrain, remote settlements (which we would have not seen otherwise). More importantly it was all about having lots of fun without the usual site seeing and on a positive note it gives us chance to come back to Sikkim and Gangtok just to visit Nathu La and of course meeting Bhaichung Bhutia 😉 …may be this time in a helicopter!!