ART THERAPY TURNED LIFE LESSON
by Rajesh Gurung
Eighteen eager hearts awaited. The thought of the very night air infused with the aroma of food cooking over a campfire sent many a palate salivating. Eighteen greening faces; each with his own vision of how a camp under a naked sky and open to the elements should be. Dr. Suchart dreamt of dry fish cooked the Bhutanese style, his lips moistening his dry lips and graying mustache, his beady eyes glinting in anticipation.
Fate chose otherwise. The first night had us scurrying us into Asha’s sister’s house, for the look of the evening sky didn’t bode well. Dinner having ingested, every one was indoors. The brave hearts who had laid their beds outside announcing; “We will brave it. This plastic sheet will do the trick” came in last sheepishly, there bravado dissipated. The downpour let up as dawn broke over the beautiful Kabjsa valley.
How do we go down the steep rough slippery road? was on everybody’s mind. The road had been newly hewed along the side of the mountain, steep and narrow, a fresh red wound.
Our hearts leaped into our mouths every time the bus jittered, slipped and struggled. Many a times its rear end swerved on its own like it had a mind of it’s own. After an hour or so of the torture, we sighed a collective sigh of relief. Dr. Suchart cried out loud , “You are a superman!”, lifting his pudgy hands, two thumbs ups directed at the driver. “Yes, good, good”, Mr. Sampote intoned in his meager English vocabulary. “You are a great driver!” Dr. continued, clapping with gusto. We followed suit, clapping and laughing, each heart thinking the ordeal was over.
Spending the second night in a hotel in trongsa -the torrent leaving us no choice- we continued. A rock here, a tree there along the road augured a rough journey. It was not long before we reached the first road block. Whole trees, their roots still clutching mounds of soil, reluctant to let go of their life giver, leaned across the road. We found a corpulent driver at a trunk, hacking away with an axe, while spectators gave directions and suggested options, gesticulating. They sprinted helter skelter at the onslaught of a new barrage of falling rocks. The driver continued, ignoring their “hey get away from there! Rock are falling!”. He seemed to have guessed the rocks would miss him.
The second landslide took us longer to clear. This time, the VAST gang chipped in, clearing away rocks, cutting away stray branches. The torrent had dribbled to a drizzle. It slowly worked its way to our skin sending shivers. We took our seats with heavy second skin. Not shaken by the elements, though cold, we made the best of it by sharing anecdotes, singing, cracking up at dry jokes and laughing at the face of elements. Our spirits soared, rose on wet wings, free and untethered.
What was meant to be a “Art therapy” had turned into a therapy of sorts. We learnt, philosophized, opened our hearts to the realization we were but human and it did not behoove us to feel we were any greater, that we could fly but had to land in the end. Nature, the greatest teacher of all taught us our place.