A short trip to Darjeeling

Photo credit: Indian Economy and Market Magazine

My maiden visit to Darjeeling planned diligently over a few weeks of frenzy, just after the first wave of pandemic eased a bit, started from the Gurudwara bus stop location in Kolkata, where we boarded a Volvo bus and reached Siliguri early next morning.

The car driver who took us to Darjeeling from Siliguri was very amiable. At my prodding he talked about interesting things hardly known to the tourists travelling the place for the first time. As we stopped at the roadside breakfast corner, he gave an account of the Cheetahs coming down from the hills and temporarily taking shelter in tea gardens for giving birth to their babies. He also told us, during the journey, as the hills and the tea estates came into view, about brow-antlered deer bred in Coochbehar, who are then released in forests around Darjeeling.

As we proceeded towards Sonar Bangla Hotel where we had prior booking, I could see the two feet gauge railway tracks running along the busy thoroughfare, flanked by rolling ranges, at places right outside the doorsteps of people’s homes and shops.

“Kanchenjunga has come out of the shroud today after about two weeks”, hotelier told us just as we arrived. At the mall, the following day, we did sun bathing sitting on the fine park benches with backrest placed on both the east and west side giving access to the sun rising or setting. I had a leisurely walk among the rare age-old trees guarding the borders around the mall and enjoyed sipping freshly brewed Darjeeling tea. Later, we were overawed by Pine trees’ supreme reign in Tukdah forest, dark and mysterious. How they all stood erect on the severely slanting slopes. Monkeys at Teesta-Point were so well-behaved. They seemed shy and accepted our little offerings after sustained coaxing.

We spent the last couple of nights at Kalimpong. Our stay there turned magical as we visited a few haunted houses and came away with the feeling that the ghosts do exist mostly at places where the presence of human is minimal!

The vacation got over too quickly. We were soon on our way back to Kolkata. At Bagdogra airport, we were luckily on time despite a bandh in Siliguri. There was a long queue before the check-in counter. We had booked an Air Indigo flight for our return journey. As we stood in the cramped space waiting for our turn, we saw a lady approaching the counter in utter desperation. We learnt her flight to Delhi was due in half an hour’s time. She met an official there who requested all of us to wait for a while and permitted her to get her formalities done on emergency basis, and then helped her find the way to the Boarding Gate.

How uniquely human it was on the part of the Air Indigo official, I thought, to use his discretion and make an exception to the rule when genuinely warranted.

First published in Indian Economy and Market

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