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Welcome to Ho Chi Minh – Part V

Welcome to Ho Chi Minh – Part V


Continuing her voyage in Ho Chi Minh, VietnamSashi Sherpa shares the tale of histories and how they became Guerrillas in this 5th part of her soon to publish book. We are proud to share this for the first time.

Yay!! So the day came when we were all set to witness some bit of legacy left behind by the historic Vietnam war- the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. On arrival at the entrance, we saw massive old aircrafts and tanks which were actually used during the war. Our guide was dressed in his company’s red tee that had big embossment of their logo on top of his right chest, so it was kind of hard to miss him even in the crowd- as there were many such groups, as ours, represented by their respective guides.

The guide went on explaining about that infamous war- America’s role, France desperately trying to keep their colony intact and most important, about these super fighters called the Vietnamese Guerrilla force also known as the ‘Vietcong’. Don’t take me wrong, I am not idolizing or glorifying them, I was just in awe and also terrified at the same time thinking that so many men and women practically lived there for many years, and also lost lives protecting and defending it.

We cannot even bear to stand in an enclosed lift for longer than required- my skin crawled even thinking, being jammed in a small enclosed area like that for, god knows how many years. You would not like to miss this tour but one cannot help feeling slightly solemn about it.

Our guide was saying, “Since these tunnels were so small- they used to hire people of tiny built who could crawl and walk through it easily.”

“Sashi, you would have been selected. Saraniya, you would not have even met the criteria to apply also,” Ashish cracked his joke, taking a dig at both of us.

Before Saraniya and me could comeback with witty repartee, the guide looked at us disapprovingly for cracking a joke and interrupting his chain of speech. Poor guide!! I swear, I give them so much of credit for their patience and hard work and handling all kinds of people, and some could be obnoxious too. Still smiling and delivering their service, despite knowing that lots of people are not even listening to them, at times.

“Listen to what he is saying,” Saraniya said- words of wisdom generally comes out limited from her as she is the youngest amongst three of us and adorably still in that phase where they find everything funny.

“Yes, let’s not crack jokes until the tour is over,’ I said with slight command.

Just then, our guide showed an entry to one such tunnel and looked at us, “Anyone wants to try going inside?”

We looked at each other.

“Okay, let me try,” I placed myself on the ground and swung my legs to put them inside the bunker hole. It took some time for my feet to find the firm ground and as soon as I was able to stand, I could see that only my forehead was above the ground and as I looked up, I saw my colleagues giving me admiring and encouraging glance.

At that very instant, I started feeling suffocated and I climbed out of it that took a lot less amount of time than going down. I was amazed at the speed with which I climbed out. I was embarrassed in front of all the people and I did not realise but it seemed I was rambling on at the same time – “Oh my god!! I cannot do this. I am such a spineless woman. I am a big black blotch on the Sherpa community.”

Seemed I was going on and on and telling my colleagues, “You know, Sherpas are known for their tough physical endurance. And look at me, I cannot even get myself to go through small tunnels like this.”

“Stop it Sashi. You still tried at least. Look at us…we are just standing here, not able to even gather the guts. Forget about trying,” Saraniya said, trying to stop my sudden outburst of melodrama.

A little deviation from the main topic – but let me tell you why the word ‘Sherpa’ always had so much of pressure on my head. As soon as I stepped into the marriageable age and my friends and peers started settling down- my mom also started getting fidgety and she gave me ‘order’ to find a good ‘Sherpa’ boy for myself. Her exact words, “You have to marry a Sherpa boy only and have atleast 3-4 kids as we are very less in numbers.”

So, I was the chosen one responsible for rendering this service to the whole Sherpa community by increasing their population. Trying to be a dutiful daughter, I went on a rampage trying to find suitable a Sherpa guy for some time, until I realized, with time and maturity, that this is such a stupid idea. However, my mom was right about one thing, there was serious dearth of Sherpa guys or maybe I was looking at the wrong places. Whatever was the real reason, I am glad that I did not find one!

“Look here; there is one more bunker hole here. You guys want to give it a try?” the guide was saying.

Just then one white guy from our group who was quite big and heavy, and towering over six feet went inside that opening so smoothly and disappeared within a minute. Looking at him, we all got inspired. I was once again ready to give it a try.

I pushed myself through the opening of the bunker and as I lowered my whole body, I could see a tiny tunnel ahead me. Now, I had to bend my body completely to adjust to the low height of the ceiling and I saw that foreigner, a little far from me, his butt facing me. I swiftly moved forward (I must say my tiny body actually helped and I was slithering smoothly like a snake) but he still did not move from his stooping position- for a minute, I though he got stuck and I started to sweat profusely, not to mention that the atmosphere there had intense humidity, blended with sweats of people who were in queue to find the way out.

“Hi, are you stuck?”

“No, no…I am waiting for the guys ahead of me to move. I think those chaps over there are not able to decide which way to go.”

“What do you mean that they are not able to decide? How many ways does it have?” I think I was panicking.

He did not pay heed to the emergency sound in my voice and said in a relaxed tone, “There are two ways out- one is much longer than the other.”

I wondered how can this guy be so cool with that heavy body that almost blocked the whole tunnel to the point that I could not see who was he referring to ahead of him. Finally, he started moving forward and after a few minutes, he took left turn. While doing so, without looking at me because it would have been suicidal action for him to try to turn his body to look back at me in that really tiny space, he said with concern in his voice, “You take the other route. That’s shorter.”

“Thank you so much,” I was really grateful. I started moving again and there, again I saw two guys were comfortably sitting waiting for the crowd ahead to move. Seemed the whole coward opted for this shorter way.

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Looking at me, coming with full force, they smiled and one of the guys said, “You have to slow down, there is quite a lot of people in the front.”

“Oh, okie. Thanks!”

Actually, both of them were lean and lanky and cute looking too. After a few minutes, with some bit of struggle I was out in the open.

Both my colleagues, excitedly, taking my video, chorused together, “How was it? Was it tough?”

“No, it was quite okay. Saraniya, you should definitely do this. You will find cute guys trapped inside.”

“Really?” she replied with her eyes gleaming like marble.

“She will get stuck. Or maybe you guys can start family inside the bunker and live there like those guerrillas,” Ashish was again pulling her legs.

“Shut up. Why don’t you go inside instead of blabbering here?”

“Wait, I will go in the next one,” Ashish said and he actually went.

I guess we all overcame our fear eventually and all three of us went together in one of the bunkers. Of course, we laughed like mad people inside the bunker too. As soon as we came out, one by one, the camera’s flash fell on our face and I saw an old local guy taking picture of all the tourists coming out from there.

“Collect your pictures later,” the cameraman smiled. I saw one of his teeth missing and he still looked cute with that warm and friendly face. And I did buy my picture for a dollar from him afterwards- which stands nicely framed on my dressing table today. I look like a ripe apple clearly from heat and humidity but I am smiling from ear to ear.

Also read: Welcome to Ho Chi Minh – Part IV

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