My host, a young Bhutia, had a sick mother. She was so unwell that I saw her face just once in my two-day stay at their house. There was no hospital or clinic for at least 34 km and so they decided to keep her at home. She was put on doctor’s medication and her condition monitored at home. She had jaundice.
On my first night, my young host, his cousin and I sat at his kitchen, warming ourselves in the crackling fire, sipping tea. I’ve always been an outdoor person and, when we were younger, my father took me to many of his fishing trips in the river. Those memories have lingered on after many years and old memories always ring louder and better. Between talks of hunting and trekking, where my host boasted of having killed a bear with just a spear, I asked if they fished at all or if there were any rivers nearby?
The elated cousins started talking about their fishing trips and, without any hesitation, suggested that we go for a fishing trip the next day. I agreed readily without asking too much. But I asked what gear we were going to use for fishing. Nothing, they said. I was amazed! But I had seen people fish with their bare hands. Then there’s that time-tested method of diverting the river and drying up a small area. It didn’t seem that difficult.
The next morning the three of us started off with a jolly guy named David from Spain. He was staying at the cousin’s homestay. We had nothing much but a bottle of water and a knife. Soon enough we were in the woods climbing down into a gorge, from where we could hear the sound of the roaring water. It turned out to be nothing more than a stream, not big enough to be called a river.
By the time we reached the stream, David was almost hysterical. We found ourselves with 5-6 six leaches on each of us. After that we made a point to stay out of the bushes as much as we could.
The two cousins soon began the task of diverting the stream and drying up small portion of it with rocks, leaves and woods. David and I helped them with the task. I still had fishes on my mind. After a laborious one and a half hour, we managed to divert the stream to one side and dry a portion of the stream. I couldn’t see any fishes. The two cousins began fumbling their hands between rocks. My host raised his hand so high that we all looked at him.
‘Is it a fish?’ I asked.‘It’s a frog,’ he admitted, not too proud of the catch before throwing it on a rock. It was slimy dark-brown rock, a kind I had never seen before. The frog limped again. He took it by its feet and hit against a stone and put it in a small container we were carrying.
‘What are we going to do with that?’ David asked amused.
‘We’ll eat!’ said the cousin, who spoke better English than my host.
‘Can we eat this?’ asked David still amused. Then, to my surprise, he said, ‘I’ll try.’
We caught just 4 huge frogs. My interest waned. So did theirs. We followed the river upstream and came upon a waterfall where we indulged in some photography.
We were soaked wet and hungry so we headed home soon after.
At night David came to our homestay again and asked, ‘Have you cooked those frogs?’ My host has a sorry look on his face. ‘No. I dried it in the fire. My father said it will be a good medicine for my mother.’
David was okay with the idea. He said he didn’t want to have it in the first place - except for fun and the idea of doing something new and for adapting to the locals- which is a beautiful way of travelling.
The next day I left my homestay hoping and wishing that the frogs would do wonders to my host mother. Not catching a fish on a fishing trip was nothing to regret!