Kulirma’s eyes glanced between the bars of the window and settled on the mountain peaks having fun rubbing their faces with the sky. The clouds are gliding along after whispering some secret to the mountain ranges wearing pure white snow caps. Kulirma felt an unprecedented lightness in her mind. The ethereal blue colour of the sky began to melt in her mind as a poem. Kulirma picked up her diary and started to write. She looked back once while writing. Alfie is still sitting on the chair near the table. He hasn’t raised his eyes from the book he is reading. He has forgotten to wear the sweater! Though it is very cold, it doesn’t seem to be affecting him! There is a limit to everything. This is too much. Kulirma approached him. Just like she guessed! It is a book that covers all the information collected so far, about the Snowman! She wanted to say everything that welled up from within, but she decided not to. She came back and took the diary again. Damn! I don’t feel like writing anything. The lightness of the mind has been lost.
Was everything she had done, a mistake? Ignoring the opposition of her family, it was with absolute love that she had married this intelligent and handsome young man Alfred, who is also the owner of a flourishing business, though he was from another religion. What is lacking in Alfie? Shouldn’t she be happy to get such a person who believes in gender equality, who never tries even once to suppress the individuality of the woman he married? Especially, wasn’t this unique characteristic of Alfie that fascinated her most?
Though he had no artistic inclinations, it was with a peculiar wonder that Alfie regarded an artist like Kulrima. More than her beauty, there was no doubt that it was her talents that attracted Alfie. Both she and Alfie were proud of getting married. However, is there any jarring note lurking somewhere?
At first, she didn’t think that a strange aspect of Alfie’s nature would cause any serious trouble. Alfie is unlike any ordinary businessman. Alfie has an intense interest in strange paranormal phenomena that aren’t amenable to scientific explanations. It is after living together now for eight months that she has started begun fathom that the influence of this aspect on Alfie is a lot more than she had ever thought. A major portion of his home library is made up of descriptions of unexplainable phenomena. Flying saucers, Bermuda Triangle, Reincarnation – a reality or myth? Is the Soul real? The Snowman – so many topics like that! She, at first, saw all these as somewhat amusing. But when she realised that there was a passionate desire within him to comprehend and verify the reality of such phenomena directly, she felt odd.
After planning a trip to the Himalayas Alfie had said, “ Look Kallu, this journey will help you a lot. The natural beauty of the Himalayas will trigger the beginning of Kulirma’s new poetry collection. I’ve no doubt about it. I can also work on my business matters there.”
Alfie had told her that as part of the expanding business, he was trying to establish a small hotel in the tourist resort there. It was only after reaching here that he revealed the main aim of investigating the Snowman!
“Kallu, didn’t we go to many places like Kodaikanal and Ooty because you liked them? I didn’t have any business interest in those places. Still I went along with you for your sake. I’ve never been a stumbling block to your freedom, likes and dislikes. I only expect you to adjust in return like I do for you. When I am searching for the Snowman, Kulirma can write poetry. Please! Why should we have an unnecessary quarrel over this?”
She surrendered to Alfie’s persuasive skill with words. There is truth in his arguments also, after all. He has already booked a room in a women’s hostel for her to stay safe, while he is busy with researching the Snowman. Alfie is a very loving man. But still, when she hears the name Snowman, she feels sort of disturbed.
Alfred was reading every line of the book with excitement. I must find the secret of this creature known by many names like Yeti and Bigfoot. If at least a photo could be clicked, Alfred will become world famous! If possible, one should try to catch it on video too! Then Alfred and the famous poet and artist Kulirma will tour the whole world proclaiming the victorious stories everywhere! If he tells Kallu about it now, she would call him crazy. Anyway he is lucky. After beginning life as an orphan, hasn’t he achieved so much in such a short span? There isn’t now any lack of someone to love either. But Kallu has no interest in strange phenomena. Anyway, after the wedding, there hasn’t been any serious friction over this issue. This is the first major initiative after getting married. Hope it works out peacefully! Over time, Kallu might also get thrilled by such things perhaps. But now, how could this girl act so blind to the suspense and mysterious wonders of such matters?
Kulirma’s eyes once again darted through the window towards the sky. How fast the night has arrived! Today is full moon night. The moon shining like a silver platter over the mountain peaks! Is it humanly possible to transcribe into poetry, the beauty of the Himalayas bathed in the milky moonlight? The gentle touch of Alfie’s hand on her shoulders awakened Kulirma from the world of imagination temporarily. Both of them smiled. When the smiles and the moonlight mingled, the sweetness of bliss was limitless.
“How beautiful is this place! I wish we could live forever here! Alfie, don’t you feel anything after watching this natural scene? I don’t think there is anyone on this Earth who doesn’t have a bit of imaginative power. Aren’t the moon and the stars creating even a slight stirring in your mind?”
Kulirma’s question brightened Alfie’s face. “Who said I don’t have any imagination? I feel something now. I feel I was a fool so far! I should have noticed such scenes before! We are seeing this light coming from the stars beyond so many light years! When I see this full moon, it reminds me of flying saucers! Who knows? At least one of these shining rays of light could be coming from some flying saucer! May be, beings a hundred times more intelligent than us, are watching us from the sky!”
Hearing Alfred’s reply, Kulirma walked away from the window. “Whatever I say, you’ll always drag it into such weird ideas! How could you waste time and intelligence like this wracking your brains over things whose existence or non-existence one can’t be sure of?! I can’t understand such thinking at all!”
Alfred retorted, “That is what I also have to say! I can’t figure out your type of thinking either! Do you know how much we’d gain if we prove that the Snowman and flying saucers are real? Modern science says we can’t rule out the possibility of life existing in other planets. Some day, humanity could come across extraterrestrial creatures and the Snowman!”
Kulirma laughed aloud, “ Great! Alfie, Your imagination isn’t bad at all! We can board a flying saucer and celebrate another honeymoon in a planet far advanced than ours! If you like, we can also take the Snowman with us as our security guard!” Alfred appreciated the joke without getting angry.
Kulirma and Alfred set out in the morning itself. They reached the location where Alfred was planning to set up a hotel. A stream flowing down from the mountains gurgling with laughter! A picnic on its bank.
If we try to understand each other, would there be any one else who could live such a blissful life like us? Why can’t I own the thrill of Alfie’s passion also? It isn’t right to think that life won’t be more enjoyable if I try to mesh with it. Kulirma thought. Alfie, who has no interest in painting or poetry, is still happy to buy canvas and paints for the sake of Kulirma alone. If Alfie can do that, why can’t I participate in his strange research? At least, I can avoid opposing it. Perhaps I could explore writing speculative fiction! Novels with extraterrestrials and the Snowman as the characters! I could even draw the pictures of all such things! What if such paintings create a new art movement? Kulirma cursed herself for not seeing so far, the great possibilities hidden in Alfie’s love for strange phenomena, which could suit her too!
“Kallu, let me introduce you to someone new.” Alfred’s voice. “There he is. This is Vishal. Haven’t I told you before? The investigative journalist. We had studied together in college. He will be with me for the Snowman investigation.”
Vishal smiled, “ I’ve heard a lot about you! Your poems and paintings are outstanding! My wife Chitra is a fan of Kulirma.”
“You didn’t bring Chitra with you?” Kulirma asked.
“No. Well, I am an investigative journalist. I came here with some other issues. I decided to help Alfie too apart from that. I don’t take Chitra with me during such dangerous journalistic work. We don’t follow the slogan of fun cum investigation like you. If we want fun, we’ll have just fun. Nothing else.”
Kulirma didn’t like Vishal’s reply. Isn’t this fellow mocking us indirectly? Anyway, still she didn’t say anything. Alfred also noticed Vishal’s comment. Isn’t there some truth in what he said? The effort to find the Snowman is very risky! I shouldn’t have brought Kulirma.
“I’ll also go with your for searching the Snowman! I am now beginning to understand the thrill of it, Alfie!” Kulrima elaborated on the vast possibilities she had thought of. Alfred stared at Kulirma with astonishment. What a sudden change! If she had said this sometime ago, perhaps I could have welcomed it gladly. But now there is some anxiety.
Alfred was silent even after they returned to their room. Isn’t this fascination for the mysterious, a flaw of my character? Wouldn’t it be an obstacle to leading a fulfilled life with Kulirma? Why court danger unnecessarily? Alfred recalled the belief of the locals that those who see the Snowman wouldn’t live long. May be it is a superstition. Or it could even have some truth in it. He had read newspaper reports that expeditions searching for Yeti had often run into disasters.
Alfred tried to convince Kulirma as much as he could. There wasn’t any change in Kulirma’s stand. Vishal and a Sherpa will accompany them. After climbing for some time, they will need two tents. The Sherpa and Vishal in one and Kulirma and Alfred in the other. After discussing everything, they began the journey. The fact that Kulirma had attended a mountaineering camp during her college days, provided some relief to Alfred.
They decided to camp at a small village on the first day. The valley was a hotspot of floriculture. The Himalayan valley of multicoloured flowers! The valley of butterflies! Kulirma immersed herself in that flood of colours. Alfred and Kulirma clicked countless photos. Alfred felt that he had never before seen Kulirma brimming with so much bliss.
The climb upwards further will be very difficult. As the elevation increases, the greenery will lessen. Then rocky terrain, snowfall and snarling cold winds will be waiting to welcome them. Vishal tried to explain once again that it would be wiser to let Kulirma stay in the village.
“No! I’ll be with Alfie! We got married to live together forever. I can’t sit here leaving Alfie to deal with dangers.”
Alfred realised that there was no use trying to talk to her about this any more. Though he said that they could go back dropping the very idea of the Snowman, that too wasn’t acceptable to Kulirma.
“We’ve heard the news of two villagers getting glimpses of the Snowman yesterday. It will be a Himalayan blunder to lose this golden opportunity!” Kulirma said.
The areas with more possibility of meeting the Snowman are located higher on the mountain. The next day, it was Kulirma who was climbing with maximum excitement. Alfred experienced some suffocation within him. The head is so heavy. What has happened to Kallu? Has the ghost of Yeti possessed her?
On a small plain amongst the rocks, they pitched the tents after examining and ensuring that the snowy surface was solid enough. During the day, the four of them wandered around the area. There wasn’t any sign of the Snowman.
However, Kulirma was very joyful. The huts that appeared like tiny matchboxes in the village below, the rings of smoke rising from the chimneys and the snow-clad horizon helped her imagination to spread its wings and soar. Seeing the speed with which Kulirma was writing poems one after another, Alfred and Vishal looked at each other in disbelief. Kulirma made so many sketches of the mountain peaks that stand like still pictures, as unparalleled examples of the artistic expertise of the Universal Creator. Another day was over. It seems the Snowman has no intention to appear. The only plus point is that the number of Kulirma’s poems has increased.
The dusk was approaching. The darkness of a cloudy moonless and starless night swallowed the tents. The cold was worsening. The Sherpa and Vishal haven’t returned yet. The cold kept creeping into the body. Alfred embraced Kulirma and kissed her over and over. “Kallu, let’s go back tomorrow morning. We are almost running out of our supplies to live here.”
With half-closed eyes, Kulirma whispered, “ Okay, Alfie. It doesn’t matter even if we don’t see the Snowman now. We haven’t had such exciting days in our life before! We can go back tomorrow itself.” Alfred smiled with relief. “Phew! It is only now that I am feeling some peace. Now I’ll never allow my obsession with the mysterious to cross the limits!”
They were startled to hear a voice shouting, “Alfie! Alfie!” Vishal was standing there panting. “We’ve won! It seems the Snowman is up there slightly above us! Let’s go there. Take the camera, video recorder and the gun too. Hurry!”
Alfred took everything and went out of the tent. “Kallu, you shouldn’t go there now. At night, it is more risky for you. Close the tent well and stay here. I’ll also keep a gun here.”
“No! I’ll also come with you. What if that creature comes here after you go?”
Alfred thought it was true. So all of them went together.
“Please don’t make any noise or speak aloud,” the Sherpa warned. “The creature could run away. And any loud noise could cause an avalanche also.”
They hid themselves amidst the rocks. There was no sound except the whistling of the wind. Their eyes searched in all the four directions. No idea how much time had elapsed.
“Alfie, come here, see this! Kulirma’s voice echoed in the mountains. Alfred, Vishal and the Sherpa looked around startled. Where is Kulirma? Again the same voice from behind the rocks a little above. “ I’m here! Come here! Hurry up!” Why did she climb up without telling them? Alfred rushed upwards. Vishal and the Sherpa followed him. Has Kulirma seen the Snowman?
They reached the location from where they heard the voice. However, there was nobody there! They searched anxiously. No! Kulirma is missing! The snow on the ground appeared disrupted. Did she fall down? Alfred screamed. “Kallu!” Like a mad man, he screamed again and again. The mountain peaks echoed him. Are they mocking me?
“Alfie, stop screaming! If you shout like this there will be an avalanche! Then none of us will escape alive!” Vishal forcibly covered Alfred’s mouth with his hands.
“Please don’t shout. Let’s look around. If we don’t do it silently we’ll lose all hope. To find Kulirma, we must make sure that there is no avalanche!” said Vishal.
Alfred calmed down a little. Hours crawled. They found Kulirma’s camera from under the snow. “It seems Kulirma saw the Snowman!” Vishal said in a shivering voice after examining the camera. “ It is clear that she had tried to snap the photo of something. Did she mistake something she saw for the Snowman?” Vishal wondered.
As they continued to search, their despair also increased. “We can’t do anything in this night. We can go down to the valley in the morning and inform the police. That is the only option we have now,” said the Sherpa. Holding the crying Alfred tight, Vishal and the Sherpa returned to the tent.
A week has passed since the police and the experienced locals started the search operations. Alfred’s eyes have become swollen. He sat like a statue, holding the diary full of Kulirma’s recent poems close to his heart.
Alfred’s mind turned into a volcano. Such a heavy price for having an unnatural character quirk! It is all my fault! He piled all the books on the Snowman, in the room and set them on fire. Smoke filled the room. Is Kulirma’s face appearing in the smoke? The Snowman! No one has ever clicked even a photo of it! At what damned moment did I decide to go after that cursed creature? Did that creature kidnap Kulirma if it really exists!? Alfred kept walking back and forth in the room.
Vishal was puzzled why Alfred was taking him at early morning to the place where they had pitched the tents before for the expedition. He didn’t reply to any of Vishal’s questions. Alfred has been in a vow of silence ever since they set out for the mountains in the morning. There isn’t any moisture in his eyes now! Instead his face has a strange glow. Vishal looked at him again. Weird behaviour indeed!
When they reached the location where they had the tents before, Alfred sat down. “Sit down Vishal,” his words were firm. Alfred started to speak.
“I’ve collected the poems, sketches and paintings Kulirma created after reaching here. I’ve already made arrangements to publish these poems as a collection and also conduct an exhibition of these art works.”
Vishal stared at him. “Alfie, what are you up to?!”
“ I’ll tell you everything, Vishal. Kallu was the only loved one I’ve ever had! I must find her at all costs! I still believe that she is alive! I’ll find her! I have with me now enough food and other supplies I need for sometime. I’ll go alone! When my Kallu is living as a prisoner in the cave of the Abominable Snowman, I can’t rest!”
“What are you blurting out?! You’ve lost your mental balance, Alfie! What you need now is help from some psychiatrist!”
“Don’t try to stop me Vishal! I won’t allow anyone to interfere with my freedom! If I don’t return, all my wealth will be used to establish a charitable Trust. I’ve also arranged the amount for an artistic and literary award in the name of Kulirma! If I ever return, that will be with Kulirma only! Please! You should take the responsibility for launching the poetry collection and painting exhibition! This is my request as a good friend.”
Vishal caught hold of Alfred. “So, it was for this nonsense you brought me alone here! I won’t play along with this madness! Come on Alfie, let’s go back!”
Vishal fell down when Alfred pushed him with full force. Pointing the gun at Vishal, Alfred shouted! “Go back Vishal! I say go back! Or else…!”
Vishal remained there frozen on the ground. Alfred had already turned away and started walking. He climbed up and disappeared among the gigantic rocks. The mountain peaks stood with their heads held high acting like they didn’t see anything. A few dark clouds searched for Alfred amidst the rocks as if to tell him some secret about Kulirma and the Snowman. A wailing wind that came rushing from somewhere kept trying to cover up the footprints of Alfred with snow.
Copyright © 1992 Prabhath P