“Oh, rope car. Would’ve been a great experience, huh?”
When I heard we’d be riding on a rope car, my imagination went wild. For about five seconds, every thriller and every adventure movie I had ever sat through flashed in front of my eyes. I thought of heroes hanging on a rope so weak that it would give away at any moment. And that image disappeared to be replaced with famous love scenes set in a fancy snow-capped mountain with the heroine banging her fists against the car’s glass while her evil father’s hunch men tortured her lover down below. I could even see her tears freezing in the icy cold.
So when they told us to get on board, I shivered a little. From uncontrollable thrill. But as we approached the car, I saw that it showed no signs whatsoever of having carried a distressed Juliet pining for her Romeo. Why, it was just a hallow red box with glass panes for windows!
We climbed in and the guard locked the door shut. I looked around, it wasn’t what you’d call an average car. It was more like a small railway compartment. Only a little cleaner. Otherwise, it had similar flooring, the unmistakable “No Smoking” sign, and the — all-too-familiar — congestion.
They allowed about 20 people into one car. We all had some standing space and had to make some more to reach out for groupfies. I turned my focus to what mattered more: The experience of riding a rope car.
The noise gave it away. We were about to soar.
The me within me — the one who isn’t embarrassed to squeal in excitement or applaud in enthusiasm when in public — stood on the tip of her toes. This was bound to be a treat.
My friends had been shifting about talking in such excited tones that we didn’t realise when the car began moving. When we did, however, it was like someone had grabbed my treat away. We felt close to nothing. We were so-called soaring slower than my slowest walking pace.
But, I stuck to my corner, hoping to look down at the beautiful world below. I felt like the all-seeing, as if I couldn’t even miss that little girl in her school uniform being mean to a squirrel.
But I couldn’t see all.
All I could see was asbestos roofings and garbage strewn all over the land. It wasn’t worth standing by the window. There were no flowers and no lush greenery. The movies had misguided me. Again.
It was painful to look at the harsh reality of that corner of the city. It was all the more difficult to digest the sight because I know Gangtok is a tourist destination.
But it is a city like any other. And where there are people, there’s bound to be a face you don’t see in brochures. Because that’s inevitable. People being people isn’t a pretty sight.
Having replayed that entire day in my mind, I turned to my father, and his question.
His eyes had lit up in awe. He looked thrilled at the idea of skirting through the sky, defying all known laws of gravity and Earth-binding responsibilities.
I looked into those ageing, black holes and replied, “Hell, yes!”