Towards the west in the north-eastern State of Sikkim was yet another tourist place named ‘Pelling’, a 110 kms drive from the capital of the State, Gangtok. After a rather drowsy drive from Gangtok towards the pre-booked cottages being our lodging for the night in Pelling, the episode began with our car finally pulling into the cottage’s driveway – almost an hour before midnight.
Alighting from the car, what we saw with our somnolent eyes was a silhouette of an old-fashioned wooden cottage far away, barely visible thanks to the dimly lit street lights outside the cottage. By then, dark though it was, we comprehended that the left hand side of the street was a green property, with tall, lanky treesstalling all the far-off marvels. The place seemed to be concealed in the shadowy cold calm for us to hear the intense buzzing sound of the night bugs like the Cicadas moving their ‘tymbals’ louder than usual. The idea of other visitors being accommodated already? – Hah, it was clearly a distant possibility!
Out in the winds, shivering in the chilly weather (believe me, 13 degrees is cold), we were straining our eyes to spot just anybody – the staff or another human perhaps? – who’d guide us to the entrance to the property – the entrance which seems to be missing like a door in a maze!
Finally, after a while of chaotic hither and thither, to pass in the property, we used one of the lumpy passages, all covered in the wet mud, the mud which felt just like an homely, baked-earth aroma that rises from the land just after the first rain. The passage was sided by towering plants on both sides, that goes steep down from the street on left and then after a straight march, a minute further, goes right up to the cottages through the wrecked wooden steps alike.
Finally a sight of the cottage staff dozing on a workbench, underneath the street lights, was, to be honest, quite a relief. He pleasantly showed us the way to our duplex cottages (which was surprising given that we’d disturbed his sleep).
It was while glancing and checking into the first of the cottages, that we glimpsed the first few drops of red blood on the flooring, splattered from the door to the bed. An instant later, we realised that it was one of the boys’ right leg that was bleeding. He didn’t seem to be in pain though and there didn’t seem to be a wound – just a thin stream of blood rolling drop by drop down the legs… like a leaking tap. Furthermore, it was hard for us to ignore our uninvited roommates – some tiny, some worryingly large bugs and insects. They’d called dibs on the cottage’s walls, while we were free to use the rest of it.
Kids that we were then, we girls already panicked with the sight of all those winged strangers followed by the mounting dark night outside, un-willing to stroll any further, grabbed one of the cottages at the limits itself while the rest of them ambled ahead. The next row of cottages was located a 15 minutes’ walk away, marching far-in the dark through the muddy alleyway followed by the bridge overhead the water-stream and all the stretched patches of grasses too.
While we girls freshened up for the bed-time, with the playing cards all set already, awaiting the boys to join around, our eyes uninterruptedly kept a track on the growing number of bugs and their movements, turn by turn. “Aaann Aaann”, there were these unintentional small screams of ours, every now and then owing to any close encounters with those scary little creatures. It was then that we grasped this sense, sense of being trapped under a four fenced roof shielded by these bugs, beetles and insects of all types and species, some shiny, some terrifyingly yellow and green and brown, some with long antennae and some with way too many legs to count. We named these little, but scaring-the-shit-out-of-us, creatures as the ‘LITTLE MONSTERS FOR THE NIGHT’!
Then joined the boys, joined with a twofold narrative occurrences – one where one of the boys, en route their cottages, got bit on his leg by a slimy worm which grew in size on sucking his blood. The other incident was a parallel one with the only difference being the boy who got bit and that this time, the blood sucking attack happened on their way back to us.
So, by now we were clear about one thing – we were under attack, we were under a damn attack, attacked by the blood-sucking leeches outside the cottages (thanks to Mr. Google for the quick research on name and description) and by bugs and insects from inside. And oil in the fire, no sun is rising in the dark sky for hours more!
The goose bumps were set in already and there was this weird feeling, a delusional feeling of some tiny creatures moving all over our body again and again accompanied by the bizarre noises of the night bugs from all around us. Now to be a little brave, we decided to start playing the cards with our favourite game, ‘Not Drum’. It was just the second round of the game when my twin sister, all of a sudden with a loud yell, pointed towards the ceiling just above us to show the lustrous black bug that could horrify even the boldest with its glistening body and two round blue eyes staring right at you as if it were to swoop at you anytime and bingo, you are dead already.
Somehow, convincing ourselves of the fact that we are indeed humans, far larger in size and strength than those bugs around us, we moved on with the game for two more hours, finally dispersing for a good night’s sleep (hoping to get some that is). As far as I can recollect, I was fast asleep by then for an hour or so, only when my friend , suffering from cold, woke me up to help her call her parents from the other cottage just at the side. Guess what, the cell phones were running out of network and I actually , ACTUALLY moved out in that eerily silent night with the blankets still wrapped all around me. And it was just for me to gather that, though being a horror-film fanatic, how afraid I was of the little monsters and the terrifying night buzzing sounds. Praying continuously to God for letting me encounter a Black Panther, if the need be, but no little monsters or leeches anymore, I very well deserve to say that I undertook the most audacious task of my life that night and finally fell asleep!
Just as the school times’ essays read ‘Every dark cloud has a silver lining’, our story had a silver lining too. The morning was utterly spectacular and full of content. We could notice ourselves living in a wooden house located right in the middle of a beautiful expanse of greenery and vegetation spread far-far wide. And the sight of those colourful flowers all over the place, oh my god, it was simply breathtaking! There were no more horrors of the bugs and the insects from the night before, but only the vibrant birds and butterflies all around. And of course, not to forget the sight of too many people, human beings at last!
All I know, as I write this, is the feeling of “WOW” after an unforgettable night, a night at Pelling, that even today, after six whole years, feels the same, truly a disparate episode of bugs, leeches and the dark…