Chapter Six: Sunny Side Up
My rendezvous with Ashinde became a thing of delight within hours of meeting him. He was a kind man with soft eyes with lines around them from smiling so much. I noticed his eyes smiled even when his lips did not. He felt not like a stranger, but a friend and philosopher I soon found out, also my guide.
After my mid-evening snack, I headed to my room. It was small but clean, and that was enough for me. A single bed, a table and chair packed into one corner and a frame photograph of the Himalayan range on the wall, this was the modest composition of the room. I opened the drapes and saw a vision of darkness, with just little lights, like ants on fire, lighting up the whole valley. I smiled to myself and turned to head straight to the loo. I peeped in and found the essentials considerably clean and sighed with relief. I was fussy about bathrooms.
I dove into bed and closed my eyes just for a second and blacked out till 4. 40 am next morning.
I woke to the wet feel of my own drool on my hand and the sound of some very soothing instrumental music. It took a moment to register where I was but it all made sense when I looked outside the window. There it was, my first solo sunrise.
I sat up and just stared. The sky was grey and the world was slowly waking. Now blue, now lilac, now pink. And suddenly, like a fired match in the sky, the sun burnt the blue canvas and the birds welcomed its arrival. I had just witnessed the death of night and the birth of day. The moment was poetic.
I leapt for my bag and pulled out my diary. I turned to the first page and wrote:
Sunny side up
Riding the sky
Dipped in crimson
Blue says goodbye...
I decided to venture out and explore. I wanted to know the source of the music, for one. Is this how life is in the hills? I couldn’t help but feel left out. As if we city folk were being kept out of this beautiful secret. But then again...the sun rose in the city too...
Half-way down the stairs, I knew what the music was. It was Buddhist music. They called it Honkyoku. Japanese Zen monks played honkyoku for enlightenment and alms. The instruments used were mostly inspired by sounds in nature, to help one soothe the mind. I walked into the backyard to find Ashinde with a cup which had curly shapes of steam rising from it. He sat on a seemingly pointy rock, but seemed unusually comfortable for the surface he was sitting on. He was looking at the space from where I entered even before I had stepped out, almost as if expecting to see me. I gave him a friendly smile but he looked and turned away. His indifference to my presence made me nervous. “Beautiful sunrise,” I said, an attempt to make conversation, which was met with silence. Just when I thought I knew Ashinde as a talkative, ready-to-help, friendly bloke, he pulled this new one. Men, I mentally sighed. When for some more time he didn’t speak, I decided to make peace with the silence.
“I was mourning the passing of the night, while you celebrated the sunrise,” I heard him say. I turned my face toward him and saw him looking at me with resilient eyes. He held my stare and his eyes softened, a facial metamorphosis rarely seen. Just like the night had given way to light, Ashinde’s face had lit up. Every moment death, every moment life, I thought to myself.
“Where are you going, Little one? Why on this journey alone?” I heard my thought breaking. “Aah, but you are wise. You understand, one must voyage through the seas of thought alone,” Ashinde said before I could say anything. “That, and also, no one wanted to be my pillion!” I laughed. “So where are you off to from here?” “The next stop is Dhanaulti at 16 00 hours. Provided I leave from here on time,” I peeked at my watch. I had enough time to sightsee and have a filling breakfast. My thoughts wandered to Ashinde’s special omelette. “Oh, I come with you? I have hotel there too. You give me ride. I be your pillion. I am not scared of dying, you see,” he said winking at me and then chuckling. “Okay, okay, I‘ll give you a ride ... Only if you feed me your world famous sunny-side-up and let me stay at your other hotel for 108 bucks!”