August 03, 2020
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Chintz-Wrapt Foothills

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Chintz-Wrapt Foothills

I’ve been yammering on about the beauty of the Lohit Valley in Arunachal Pradesh ever since my first visit in 2002. Lohit became my favourite district in the country, Tezu my favourite small town, the Mishmi Hills my favourite mountains etc etc. I made three trips in four years, partially—ok, largely—fuelled by an obsession with finding the wreck of a WWII Dakota. But that plane has been landed, another three years have passed and now I’m back without an assignment or a quest, nervously squiring my slightly sceptical wife on our first holiday to my personal Shangri La.

We stay in my friend Jogin’s quarters in the terai town of Tezu, a compact three-room sarkari ‘SPT bungalow’. That stands for ‘semi permanent type’, apparently—a sobriquet I’m tempted to adopt myself. We were both assembled in the 1960s. At night we have a small fire in the garden under the twinkling embers of the galaxies. I love going to bed under the chintz-patterned machhardani, with big furry Chinese acrylic blankets in electric blue and cherry red. Waking to lal chai and sunlight on the peppermint green mock-Tudor Assamese IKRA walls. There are hibiscus, poinsettias and sunbirds in the front garden, banana and papaya trees in the back. There is no hot water and when I finally submit to a bath, my shrieks shatter the calm of the neighbourhood. I recover my dignity on the sunny verandah glaring at the freshly snow-dusted peaks that loom over Tezu. I could have spent the entire holiday savouring this idyll, but of course, my fellow traveller wanted to travel.

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