Doctor wanted to sprint to his residence, but one of his invalid legs failed him. He was sure that he had never run as fast as he was running right now. When he arrived at his door, he was bathed in sweat. He was alarmed to find the door ajar, and the room lit. “Did His Highness find out?”, he shivered, and his face turned ashen. As he turned to slip away, a feminine voice issued from his room, “Get in, Doctor!” He rushed inside. Pedi Wangmo was seated at Doctor’s chair crossed legged, rapping Doctor’s huge wooden table.
“I’m running out of patience now, Doctor.”, she growled as soon as Doctor put his bag down and stood near the table, head bowed. “Well,”, she demanded. “Your Highness, I’ve administered His Highness three very potent doses. His health has started deteriorating progressively, albeit slowly, as intended. Please have patience.”, said Doctor timidly.
“Patience sounds melodious only to those who’ve nothing worthwhile to wait for. Every second of this endless wait is dragging me farther from the throne!”, yelled Pedi Wangmo.
“Your Highness, if I give His Highness anything that will immediately degrade his health, we will be exposed. Just a couple of months more and you’ll see the result to your satisfaction.”, Doctor pleaded.
“Six months. If your effort doesn’t show results within six months, I shall be led to believe that all your herbs and potions are nothing but a sticky web of your lust to trap and defile unsuspecting women blindly trusting your quackery.”, Pedi Wangmo thundered menacingly. She was informed by her plant at the Palace of Chagdor’s worsening health, but she worried that Doctor might get complacent. Keeping Doctor in her firm grip till the completion of her mission was crucial. Without waiting for Doctor’s reply, Pedi Wangmo flew out of the room.
Jigme Pao hurriedly walked towards the palace. He had a lot of things to discuss with Chagdor Namgyal, that concerned both ecclesiastical and administrative affairs of the kingdom. As he neared the palace entrance, his saw Chagdor Namgyal sunning himself at the palace garden. Jigme Pao halted. He was least prepared to see the Chogyal with his head shaved. As Jigme Pao approached, Chagdor stood up. Both shared deep mutual reverence. Jigme Pao bowed and Chagdor reciprocated gracefully.
“Let’s go inside, Your Holiness. I’ve a lot to show you.”, said Chagdor smiling, and led the way.
“Here, have a look at this, Your Holiness!”, Chagdor lifted a sheaf of paper as soon as they entered his private room, and held it out to Jigme Pao. Only upon entering Chagdor’s room did Jigme Pao notice that Chagdor’s face was quite pallid and his frame looked emaciated and as a result, his robe appeared to be hanging loose. Jigme Pao was greatly troubled. Receiving the papers, Jigme Pao said, gently, “Your Highness, you don’t look very well. I entreat you to heed my advice of taking some months off your study and palace affairs and have good rest.”
“Oh, I’m fine, Your Holiness. I’ve faith in the Tibetan doctor. Please do go through them. I’ve devised script for the Lepcha Language, and I’m in the process of recording their customs using that script.”, Chagdor said beaming, indicating the papers he had just given to Jigme Pao. Chagdor’s private room was littered with papers, various scriptures and manuscripts.
There was no trace of ailment plaguing his health in Chagdor’s voice. Doctor’s face suddenly flashed into Jigme Pao’s mind. A feeling of inexplicable foreboding washed over him. Brushing it aside as unfounded suspicion, Jigme Pao turned his glance to the Lepcha script that Chagdor had devised.
“Also, Your Holiness,”, Chagdor said, rousing from his chair, “I’ve have detailed a form of dance here.” He reached for another sheaf of paper and placed it on the table, and said, “I urge Your Holiness to see if there’s any room for its improvement. Our Lamas performing this ‘Rongchham’ will look magnificent. I’m sure Your Holiness would agree with me that this ‘Chham’ will go a long way in preserving our martial and native traditions.” Jigme Pao was struck by the exuberance Chagor displayed even as his health appeared failing.
Jigme Pao remembered how Chagdor had, a couple of years back, issued the edict mandating every three sons of Bhutia families to be ordained as a monk in the Pemayangtse Monastery. The monastery was enlarged under Chagor’s initiative, and was also richly endowed by the palace. Vivid pictures of Pemayangtse Monastery’s consecration inundated his mind. He also remembered Chagdor seated at the throne sedately when Jigme Pao performed his coronation. “No wonder His Highness has tonsured his head. He’s more a monk than a king.”, Jigme Pao thought.
“Your Holiness,”, Chagdor’s voice broke Jigme Pao’s train of memories, “the 108 officials we inducted to support the Lamas of the Monastery has turned out to be a wonderful decision, in retrospect. It honestly looked to me like an overkill back then. The affairs of the Monastery is so well taken care of by them.”
When Chagdor seated himself at his chair, he was suddenly seized by a fit of painful coughing. Jigme Pao noticed traces of blood in Chagdor’s white silk kerchief. Before Jigme Pao could say anything, Chagdor respectfully nodded, signalling Jigme Pao to retire. Praying fervently for Chagdor’s health under his breath, Jigme Pao rose to leave.
Pedi Wangmo lay silently beside Ngadak Lama. Their faces wore a look of penitence. The room was steeped in postcoital ennui. “Oh, I should not have given in so easily to my physical desires. I’ve sinned gravely by breaking the vow of celibacy that all the worthy Rabjungpa descendants have unfailingly upheld.”, Ngadak Lama lamented, shaking his head remorsefully.
“Now don’t blame me that I seduced you into marrying me,”, charged Pedi Wangmo, frowning. She was aware of the gravity of the sin she had also been equally responsible in bringing about. “Men conveniently blame their own share of weakness upon women.”, added Pedi Wangmo, dressing. “When men cannot control their lust and indulge in escapades frowned upon by society, they squarely accuse women of seduction, exonerating their own debauchery.”, Pedi Wangmo said hotly. “I’m not blaming you. Please let me think about some ways to atone for my sin.”, Ngadak Lama pleaded.
“Once I’m crowned the queen of Sikkim, I’ll do everything in my power to more than make up for this sin. However, I cannot share this secret with you just yet. The fewer the ears that hear a secret, the fewer the tongues that might spill it.”, thought Pedi Wangmo, and smiled mysteriously, baffling Ngadak Lama.
Suddenly, Ngadak Lama’s eyes shone bright. Sitting up on the bed, he blurted, “Remember Jigme Pao built Sangacholing Monastery three years back? Why don’t we also build a monastery in penance for our sin?” Pedi Wangmo sat thinking. Deep furrows appeared on her forehead. Sighing deeply, she said, “I consent. Why don’t we both build a monastery each, around Tashiding? I will have a sin far graver than this to atone for.”
Ngadak Lama looked at Pedi Wangmo quizzically but her stern face revealed that no explanation was forthcoming. Both sat together discussing the plans for their monastery. Pedi Wangmo settled for a monastery near Tashiding, and decided to call it ‘Chosgyel Lakhang’, while Ngadak Lama decided to name his monastery ‘Silnon Monastery’.
Doctor was roused from his sleep by violent knocks at his door. He knew no one but Pedi Wangmo would visit him past midnight. He lit his lamp and rushed to open the door. Pedi Wangmo was standing at the door drenched to the bone by the torrential downpour raging outside. She slowly walked inside, took out a black cloth pouch from the hide bag slung across her shoulder, and threw it at Doctor. She was smiling. Doctor opened the pouch and almost dropped it. Gold coins glittered inside the pouch even in the faint light of the lantern.
“Consider it as advance payment from a huge reward that awaits you at the end of your mission.”, Pedi Wangmo drawled, and added, “Chagdor’s health is on a downward spiral, and the amount of blood that he spits while coughing is only increasing. I, however, have run out of patience, Doctor.”
“I don’t understand, Your Highness. It’s only a matter of time before His Highness will succumb. Please have patience.”, Doctor pleaded.
“If I had any patience left, I would not have bothered to drag myself here in such an inclement weather to offer you a pouch-full of gold coins.”, Pedi Wangmo growled.
“Listen carefully, Doctor. I’ve come here to explain to you my plan.”, hissed Pedi Wangmo. She drew closer to Doctor, and whispered, “Chagdor is going to Ralang hot spring next week. He’ll be taking you along. You’ve to execute this plan when Chagor will be soaking in private.” Pedi Wangmo then fished out another black pouch from her leather bag and tossed it at Doctor, who grabbed the pouch and quickly opened it. He nodded gravely at what he saw in the pouch. Pedi Wangmo understood that Doctor had grasped the plan. “Execute the plan and meet me at Namchi, Doctor!”, said Pedi Wangmo, holding back what she almost blurted, “…if you come out of it alive, that is!”
As Pedi Wangmo stormed out of the room, a gush of cold wind blew into the room. Doctor took out the lancet from the pouch that glimmered in the lantern light. A loud thunder shook the earth, and a blinding lightening threw a silhouetteof Doctor holding the lancet.
To be continued…
Author’s Note: Sikkim’s history is very interesting – with all the intrigues inevitable in monarchy or any form of government for that matter. History told as-a-matter-of-factly appears quite bland unless one is interested in the subject. There are also gaps in history about which we can only hypothesise for want of written records and other evidences.
How about “fictionalising” history, retelling them, filling gaps and adding meat to the bare bones, but without actually distorting it? Well, I just tried ‘fictionalising’ a section of Sikkim’s history about conflict between the third Chogyal Chagdor Namgyal and his half sister, Pedi Wangmo.
This is NOT reinterpretation of Sikkim’s history and must not be treated as such. I’ve tried filling the historical gaps with my own imagination which must not be construed as my attempt to distort history. Anyone who’s read Sikkim’s history will be able to tell where history ends and fiction begins. I’d be happy to answer questions regarding why I imagined the historical figures the way I did.