“I proposed to two Czech girls on my way up but they were not interested. When I reached the summit, Krishna Patil was sitting there and as I was getting ready to propose to her on camera…the battery died.” Tapi Mra let out an infectious laugh. The diminutive Everester had a slight hunch and looked very unlike a mountaineer. We bumped into him at Itanagar's state museum where he had come to donate his mountaineering equipements to inspire others to take up the sports. My friend Z, A and I were bowled over by his friendly and humble attitude. He insisted on dropping us off at the Sumo counter to Ziro and told us that Arunachal was the land of ‘khushi khushi’….or a place where things happen at its own sweet pace. Here you cannot push people to hurry things up.
Itanagar is a political potboiler, a city of indefinite bandhs, many tribe specific unions and sudden rallies. It did not help that the district is home to the Nyishi tribe, considered impatient and still adhering to their traditional ‘revenge’ culture. Though friendly, their attitude was summed up by one Lokum who told A, “we wont trust you if you beat around the bush. To us you have to talk straight.” To the rest of the Indians (read - from the plains) who can talk about everything except coming to the point, this definitely is a tall order.
Since the weather was stiflingly humid, we escaped as soon as we could and just before all transportation stopped due to Vishwakarma puja. A mind blowing vista of different types of terrain, culture, people and vegetation opened up, each of which was nothing like I had ever seen before. I silently prayed that the ever increasing hordes of marauding tourists would spare this beautiful state somehow.
The only fact that marred the perfection was that despite thick vegetation, we never saw any birds. The mornings were eerily quiet. R, a school teacher from the Miji tribe told us… “unlike you, we eat our wildlife.” Despite the fact that my ears ached to hear the chirping of birds, strangely I didn’t feel too horrible about it.
Talking to random strangers, breathing in the mountain air and looking at all the smiling faces, I felt that this definitely is the land of 'khushi khushi' – or the land of happy people.