Chhumleivak was tired. They had been wandering for what felt like forever, uphill and downhill and overhill and underhill- in fact any combination of hills and wandering you could think of. Done. And they was tired.
They had swarmed through forests of bamboo and been poked, pricked and prodded in every way imaginable. They had slid and slithered on the shiny bamboo leaves that were strewn on the ground. They pushed through dark dank caves that were full of the smells of wet earth and old old secrets, to come out very near the same place they had gone in. Trudged up over the bumpy boulders and the rough fallen branches that were brought down by last year’s rains and down through a desolate grove of banana trees left all dusty and greenless by the Sumos that drove in a great almighty hurry on the road to Lunglei. The best, of course, was when they went over a river and woh could feel the cold-ish ticklish slightly zing-zing underneath. Sort of like the feeling you get when you sit on that rock in Wah-ka-dait and put your feet in the rapids, just MORE everything because a river has a lot more water in it than the streams we have here.
Now you probably guessed already, but Chhumleivak are one of what you call ‘clouds’. All clouds are the same, they just take turns at doing different jobs. Which reminds me, it is your turn at feeding the chicken this week. Anyway, they take turns at being in the sky, when they are called Chhumvanraang or Chhumtuipai (or Chhumtuipailo) and a dozen other names you wouldn’t remember anyway so I’m not going to tell you, and when they are on the ground they are called Chhumleivak.
Chhumleivak, like I was saying, was tired. It was nearing the end of their season, and the excitement at getting a turn on the ground was fading. They longed to be back in the sky, being pushed along by Tohmon (the wind) or basking in the warm lap of Ka Sngi(the sun). And as you know very well, when you have been walking through the hills and you get tired, it becomes very hard to concentrate on where you are going. And just like that, just because they were so tired, Chhumleivak began to break apart. What had started as a large strong brooding mass began to show cracks. They started to get thinner, and some bits began to straggle. That’s right, when you are in the hills, it is not a good idea to straggle at all! And just as they were passing a little village that was heroically holding on to a hillside, it happened. One of the bits of Chhumleivak accidentally wandered into an open window!
Now Dhobi-ka-Kutta (this was before he went to Secunderabad and became a big star) kinda-sorta-accidentally-deliberately was in the same village at the time. He was kinda-sorta passing through, but kinda-sorta looking for something to eat, and maybe even a warm place to sleep. And the smell of fresh pork-smoked-on-a-charcoal-fire was enough to make him kinda-sorta want to stay. It was an easy hunt. A nonchalant keep-to-the-shadows walk that brought him up close, a slow on-the-belly-creep-up behind the woman washing dishes outside and a mad dash to grab a mouthful and run run run! The run itself was punctuated by a muffled yelp as a well-aimed stone warned him not to try that trick again. But the pork, with a bit of leftover rice that was kept by a backdoor for pig feed made a great meal, and now he wanted a nap. And for some strange reason I cannot account for, he decided to go into a house, crawl under a bed and get some well deserved rest.
Chhumleivak was scared. This place smelt different from all the places woh* had been so far. It smelt warm and closed up, but not like the damp warmth of the caves. It felt hard, but not like the hard of the rocks in the streams or the packed earth in that large flat place. It tasted like the trees, but was too smooth to be them. Woh felt wohs way around, moving towards a strange sound, like one Tohmon would make, but quieter, somehow.
And Chhumleivak (the rest of them) was angry. They had regrouped on the other side of the village and found that a bit of them was missing! This had never happened before! Missing! And almost end of season, just as they were getting ready to become Chhumtuipai! How? Where? Now if you’ve watched clouds, which I know you have, you know that they can get together very very quickly. Just while you’re not looking, the sunshine will fade, the trees stop whispering and giggling, and the almost dry washing has a very real chance of getting another rinse. And that is what happened. Chhumleivak told the Chhumvanrang, who quickly got everybody together. Some went to go wake old Thunder (fast asleep as usual) while others went to call Chhumtuipai. Tohmon got involved as only Tohmon can, blowing this way and that, into every cave and through every tree. Chhumtuipai let go their load of rainwater, hoping to flush the missing Chhumleivak out. Even Kong Sngi lent a hand, shining as hard as possible everywhere that wasn’t covered by Chhumtuipai. And Tohmon. Whoosh here and whoosh there, blowing so hard that the lost Chhumleivak would have been blown to bits if woh were actually in the way! What a to-do there was! Even old Thunder (late as usual) bellowing away, telling everyone (who already knew) that Chhumleivak was missing! What a to-do I say.
I don’t know what Dhobi-ka-Kutta was dreaming about, but dreaming he was. But there was something on the edges of his dream, something kinda-sorta wet, but not in an unpleasant way, kinda-sorta cold but not sharp. And he could feel that kinda-sorta wet-cold something on his nose. He twitched once, he twitched twice, then he opened his eyes. Now I must tell you this, I rather admire Dhobi-ka-Kutta’s nerves. It is a rather startling thing to wake from a nice after breakfast nap because there is a wet-cold on your nose, and to open your eyes and find yourself face to face with a bit of Chhumleivak! It’s not funny, I tell you. You’d probably die of fright if it happened to you! But Dhobi-ka-Kutta (with his nerves of steel) wasn’t frightened at all. He just sniffed once at Chhumleivak, and cocked his head in surprise. Now THIS was something you didn’t see every day! Not that there was very much to see, mind you, just a little wispy-cloudy sorta thing under a bed in a room. And there definitely wasn’t a wispy-cloudy sorta thing there when Dhobi-ka-Kutta went to sleep!
And what was that ruckus outside?
Grumble grumble grumble BOOM went old Thunder. Grumble BOOM! Dhobi-ka-Kutta wondered what old Thunder was on about. Never the most articulate at best, old Thunder could be quite hard to understand when woken from a nap. And since he seemed in no danger from the wispy-cloudy thing, he sat down again to try and understand what old Thunder was saying. Aaah, thought Dhobi-ka-Kutta, as he finally made the connection between the great excitement outside and the cloudy-wispy thingy he had just met. So he stood back up, took a nice long stretch (as you should always do after a nap), reached under his super-cape into his super-utility belt and pulled out a super nudge-o-matic. Heh heh no, he didn’t. I just made that up to see if you were awake.
Anyway, he knew that he needed to help. The cloudy-wispy thing didn’t look like it could be lifted by the scruff of the neck (what neck) and marched out. And it didn’t seem to react when he called to it either. Aaah, he thought again as he hit on an idea. And very very gently, Dhobi-ka-Kutta started nudging Chhumleivak with his nose. Nudge he went, nudge nudge out from under the bed. Nudge he went, nudge nudge towards the window. Nudge he went, nudge nudge up towards the window sill. Till finally one bounce, two bounce and OUT the window went Chhumleivak. Free! Home! Yay!
Things quietened down pretty fast after that. Dhobi-ka-Kutta managed to sneak out without too much trouble, and old Thunder went back to sleep. Kong Sngi had to work extra hard to make sure the laundry dried, and Chhumtupai went back to wherever it is they hang out when it is not raining. Chhumleivak became Chuumvanrang (change in plan) the next season, and had a nice long break before they took a turn on the ground again.
And so it is, before you close your windows at night, you should always look under the bed, just in case there is a little bit of Chhumleivak hiding there. How will you know if there is? Well, just like Dhobi-ka-Kutta, you’ll feel something kinda-sorta wet-cold on your nose!
*I have been told by very reliable sources that ‘woh’ is the correct singular pronoun for sunsets, lightning and clouds. Apparently they do not have genders as we know it, and so ‘woh’ is the only correct (and more importantly polite) descriptor. I am yet to be told if this pronoun also fits others. In a group, they can be referred to as ‘they’.
thanks @ misual.com for the beginnings of this story!