MIDWAY: Dhumba debacle

Dhumba Tal is an hour away from Jomsom and is nestled amidst towering mountains. You can only walk up to there. No other way. I was tired and sweat coated every inch of my body when I made it. It was a warm, sunny day. Blue skies and snow-covered mountains greeted me everywhere I looked. When I noticed how clean the turquoise-coloured water of the lake was, swimming immediately sprang up in my mind. And why not? You wouldn’t get this clean water even in five-star hotels. I was perspiring and it was a warm day. The water may have been cold, but who cared!

Not a single soul was visible as I started stripping. Skinny-dipping was what I had in mind. I couldn’t wait to feel the recently thawed water caress my skin. It felt magical as my bare chest heaved in the pristine air. Oh, this was going to be fun.

Then I heard a faraway cry of “Ohie…Youuuu!” break the silence. Even the birds twittering nearby took off. I turned around and saw a monk in a distant hill frantically flailing both his hands in the air. Has he gone mad? Why is he doing that? He started running towards me. It was all downhill and he quickly came upon me. He didn’t even wait to catch his breath. I can’t swim, he said. Strictly forbidden. No swimming.

I asked him why. He said a deity resided in the lake and as a mark of respect, no one should swim. My disgust was palpable. I told him what about the fish? They swim here all the time. If they can, so should I. He laughed. I told him I was serious. Look, I said, this is crap. People bathe in the Ganga to become enlightened. They never are. It should be the fish that should be enlightened in that river, they bathe all the time. But they never will be, will they? We should be able to swim and enjoy, anywhere.

The monk got angry and said I’ll die if I swam. How cruel! I turned away and told him to buzz off. I didn’t want to see him anymore. I wasn’t swimming either. He’d already spoiled my mood. I’d brought a couple of sandwiches and a drink. I put on my clothes and sat eating my food. It didn’t take long to forget my little fiasco. The beauty of the place does that to you. But these old myths, they get in your way. I wish I could get rid of a few of them.