Tawang, the hidden paradise of the east, is located at an altitude of 10,000 feet. The sharp turns we took every hundred metres on that constant uphill ride quite affected my empty stomach. I realised the cold was not that intense while crossing Tipi. I had been there once before, on an annual hostel picnic, back in my college days. But every time we ascended from the sea level, my acute mountain sickness came into play.
But the scenic beauty of every nook of Arunachal Pradesh keeps attracting people. For me, the journey was different and special too, this being my first solo trip to this part of the world. I shared a taxi with an Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel, his wife and their two kids, an Indian Army jawan from Mizoram and a young Buddhist guy from Tawang. It was warm inside and cold outside – the perfect blend. I could see school-going kids waving at the army trucks with sparkling smiles on their faces. We used to do the same, back in our day. That was quite a memory.
The road to paradise is often described as brutal by the locals, as well as by the people from low lying areas and this proved to be true. On the other hand, the beauty among those clusters of hills kept balancing the equation every time.
The 325 km distance from Tezpur (Assam) to Tawang via NH13 takes about 12 hours, including three stoppages. However, the tremendous pace of highway construction in those tough terrains is well evident to each passerby.
In the morning, I had a cup of tea on my balcony, in the heart of the city. The whole place was foggy. Sunbeams illuminated the icy droplets of water all over the iron rail. The Tawang monastery was vividly visible from my place. I buckled up.
The cold sensation near the doorway of the monastery was enough to validate the different atmosphere inside the monastery. A serenity can be felt by every soul while walking through the monastery.
The Tawang monastery is known as the “Galden Namgey Lhatse” meaning, “Celestial paradise in a clear night.”
However, instead of experiencing bliss in the large assembly hall of the monastery, a faint picture from the previous day of my journey flickered before my eyes. The image of children residing in temporary sheds alongside the highway construction sites. They were busy playing with stones from the road.
There is a saying, “Anything that costs you your peace is too expensive.”
I have always considered this to be true. My mind was filled with hundreds of questions as if there was an avalanche inside my brain. I was standing still in the assembly hall, facing the golden Buddha.
The next destination was the tall Buddha statue near the circuit house of the city. On the walk down from the monastery, the preparation of the city for the coming season of tourism was quite clear. The classroom recitations of textbook lessons echoing out from a school reminded me of my school days. Life is good in this part of the world.
By the time I reached, the shrine was closed. I decided to stay and enjoy the view from that hilltop. Few personals from the Indian Army in the mechanical workshop barrack, adjacent to the shrine, had been trying to fix a generator. The wind was really cold and the panoramic view of the mountains was worth seeing.
The backpack was heavy so I grabbed a seat on a concrete block facing the city and I was still able to see and listen to the school I had come across. I waited for dusk.
The monastery was shining by then in the distance, as the light gradually dimmed.
I acknowledged Confucius’ saying: “Education breeds confidence, confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”