Bukbuk was not sleepy. He lived in a burrow with his parents on a mountain meadow in the Ladakh Himalayas near a place called Dras. It was the first winter of his lfe. He had drunk lot of his Mamma’s milk and eaten crunchy greens, bulbs, roots and shoots and now he was fat, soft, round and furry. But he was not sleepy.
Pa Buk and Ma Buk had told him all about it. That it would snow for many months, and that they had to sleep through all of it. It was a great adventure called “HIBERNATION”.
Pa Buk said, “Bukbuk. its time to hibernate. All Himalayan Marmots hibernate. You have eaten enough and all you need to do is go to sleep. Just take a small nap, and you will fall fully asleep without realising it, and once you wake up, it will be spring.”
Naughty Bukbuk was not happy. As usual, he loved doing “masti” (which means mischief in Hindi language). He was full of energy and wanted to play. He did not want to sleep. Not just yet.
Ma Buk said, “Bukbuk, this is not a normal sleep through the night. When you fall asleep, you will only wake up after a very long time. Pa Buk and I are sleeping on both sides of you. If you do get up and its dark, check if we are sleeping or awake. If we are sleeping, just curl up again next to me and go back to sleep. I will wake you when the warm winds melt the snow in Spring.”
But naughty Bukbuk only thought “Arre waah, if Ma and Pa are asleep, I can do masti and have fun without any-one coming to know!”
But Pa Buk knew Bukbuk very well and he warned him.
“Bukbuk, the winter is a very dangerous time for marmots. The safest thing to do is sleep, becuase it is dark, cold, windy and snowy. And there is still danger. The Snow Fox comes out in winter and catches pikas. If any marmot gets up and goes around in winter, he can die. And we won’t be awake to help you!”
Bukbuk had no choice. Pa Buk closed up the burrow. Ma Buk made a cosy nest of grass and straw, put Bukbuk on it and patted him to sleep while singing a lullaby. Though Bukbuk didn’t want to, slowly his eyes drooped and he slept!
Time passed. Outside cold winds blew. Snow fell and blanketed the mountainside. The rocks, earth, plants all got covered under snow, and every where, if one was awake, one could see a smooth white landscape.
Then something happened! The sun shone for a while and a little snow melted. It made its way through the earth into the marmot burrow. And a single drop fell from the roof of the burrow onto Bukbuk’s head!
Startled, Bukbuk awoke. He rubbed his little paws on his eyes and looked around. It was totally dark. Beside him, he could feel and hear Ma Buk and Pa Buk sleeping deeply. Slowly his eyes adjusted to the dark. The air was cold, but not too cold.
He shook Ma Buk but she didn’t respond. He shook Pa Buk and he did not wake up either. Ma told me, I should go back to sleep, thought Bukbuk!
But wouldn’t it be fun to just have a look-see at the world in winter?
So he made his way from his cosy nest, through the living burrow and passage to the front door. Pa Buk had blocked it with some mud and plant material and it was frozen. Bukbuk gave a soft push. The block moved a little but sprang back. He pushed harder, and it shifted slightly. A little light was now visible. Bukbuk squeezed through and went out onto the front porch of the Buk burrow. This is Bukbuk’s favourite place and he likes to sit out here and look all around him.
Bukbuk had been here before, but it now looked and felt different. First of all it was very cold not warm. There was a thin layer of snow and the porch felt slippery. Sitting on the porch froze Bukbuk’s bottom but he was curious and looked all around.
Bukbuk was used to seeing all green and brown both all around him and on the mountain opposite, but now it was white, brown and black everywhere. All around him, the snow shone where the sun rays reflected off it and it hurt his eyes to look there. So he looked at the stream next to his burrow on the right – it was gone except for some small ice patches.
The wind now began to flow gently, it was very cold and gave Bukbuk the shivers. But he was not done looking around as yet.
High across the valley, the shining blue lake called as Pariyon ka Talaab (which means the Lake of Fairies in Hindi) had not frozen though it was mid-winter, but the waters now looked dark and mysterious.
The wind picked up more and now the chill went into Bukbuk’s bones. His paws, ears, feet, tail and nose began to hurt. But Bukbuk still looked around.
The sun was shining; the sky was blue but about a third of it was covered with a dark cloud which promised even more snow. It was growing darker, soon the clouds would cover the sun. All over the wind now began to howl, and the wind began to freeze Bukbuk and it also pushed him slowly towards the edge.
Bukbuk realised he was in danger. He desperately scrambled back into the burrow and was barely able to make it when the sun was covered by the dark clouds. The wind roared and if Bukbuk had remained there for just one second, he would have been blown off the mountain to his death. He squeezed in through the slightly open door and stood trembling. He was very, very cold.
After he got over his fright, he pushed the door shut. Fortunately the door was intact. Bukbuk crawled back into the burrow and cuddled up to his mother. Feeling a cold body next to her, she reached out, half-asleep, pulled him close to her. She held Bukbuk to her breast and fed him milk. Slowly Bukbuk thawed, and his mother’s warmth made him feel better. The warm milk filled his tummy and he felt drowsy. Soon he fell asleep.
When he awoke, there was light around, the air was fresh. Ma Buk and Pa Buk were not next to him. And he felt hungry. It was not cold anymore. Bukbuk rushed to the entrance of the burrough where his parents sat looking out.
The snow was melting, green grass was showing in some places. The streams were flowing full. The sunshine warmed his back. The lake on the hill opposite was a shining summer blue again.
The world looked friendly and harmless. Soon he would need to eat.
Then he remembered his experience on that dark winter day. He wondered should I tell Ma and Pa Buk about it? He thought, if they ask me, I will tell them, otherwise not. Bukbuk realised that his parents had told him what was right and protected him from danger yet again.
Do you think Bukbuk has learnt his lesson or will he continue to be a naughty marmot?