Iam going to die, thought Rigzin. Carrying him with its talons, the eagle soared into the brightening sky over the rugged Himalayan peaks. Icy cold winds numbed his fingers and toes. His ears and tip of his button nose felt a sharp pain. His chuba and his cap did not stop the cold winds from rattling his bones. With his eyes shut tight, he prayed to the Spirit of the Himalayas to take care of his aged grandmother and parents.
Yeti wiped his eyes and said, “Oh, a sweet child!” Sherpa Snoregay looked at him in surprise.
“You too have emotions like people!” An idea struck him... if only it would work. “Yeti, it has been many nights since you saw your family. Wouldn’t your grandmother and parents be crying for you? Shouldn’t you go back to them?”
The beast thought for a moment. The Sherpa kept his fingers crossed. “Maybe... maybe not. My family don’t cry for me. You tell story!”
“Oh dear,” said the Sherpa, and continued his story.
After what seemed like a very long time of flying, Rigzin felt the earth coming up towards him. Was he going to crash-land somewhere in the mountains? To his great surprise and relief, the eagle gently put him down near a large lake. It looked like a broken fragment of azure sky on the ground. The golden eagle wrapped its feathers around the boy to make him warm. Rigzin stopped shivering and looked at the beauty around him.
In the wetlands around the lake grew many shrubs. Migratory birds fished in the freshwater of the rivers that flowed into the lake. “Where am I?” asked Rigzin aloud, trembling. He turned around to look at the eagle but it wasn’t there. In its place stood a Tibetan monk. The feathers too had transformed into his maroon shawl. The boy looked at the smiling monk in confusion.
“Do not be afraid, Rigzin. To answer your question, you are at the edge of Pangong Tso, the largest lake in the Himalayas. It straddles the border between Ladakh in India and Tibet. It is over 130 km long, and the larger part of the lake belongs to China and the smaller to India.”
“This lake is full of colours. I see many shades of blue, green and red. It looks so magical.” Rigzin’s eyes shone and he clapped his hands in delight.
“Yes, it is. Even its name translates to ‘the enchanted long lake’. Come with me to our monastery. We are having a thanksgiving festival today.”
“I would love to... but how and where do I find the precious stone that I lost in the mountains somewhere? How do I keep my promise?” His eyes glittered with unshed tears.
“Rigzin, you must trust me and the bigger forces of the universe,” said the monk sternly. He lifted the boy, put him on his shoulders and headed briskly towards his monastery.
Across the land, Rigzin saw poles stuck in the ground with brightly coloured prayer flags fluttering in the wind. The beauty of Ladakh, high up in the Himalayas, made him forget his fears.
The monastery was filled with people — tourists and locals. From his perch, Rigzin saw monks wearing colourful clothes and huge frightening masks. They were enacting plays while they danced to the beats of large drums.
“We call these dances chhams . After this is over, you will feast with us.”
Yeti looked interested. “What boy eat?” he asked licking his lips.
Rigzin was given a bowl of thukpa and momos . After eating the noodle soup, he tried to cut a momo with his spoon but it was hard. Rigzin was puzzled. Momos are never hard inside. He wondered why it was so.
Snoregay stopped his story. He yawned and said, “That’s all for tonight. Good night, Yeti.”
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