I put on the television to be greeted with nothing but inane chatter about politics and debate about new states. I put on a Bengali news channel to hear the same. They wanted a new state. Gorkhaland. And I was immediately transported back to the pristine silences of the dense forests and the overbearing presence of Tiger Hill. Darjeeling as a major tourist spot has given people so much to enjoy and preserve and has received no less in return. The same streets which were promoting little industries and eateries have now poured out resentment and protest.
After having battled the fog which envelopes drivers along the mountain roads, the first thing one encounters is the tiny train station. The same train station harbors the much romanticized toy train, the tracks of which will move along with you as you enter the town. The toy train is a very common character in movies such as Parineeta, also because it’s a UNESCO world heritage site. The army base which is settled in Darjeeling has guesthouses on top of a hill called Jalapahar, but it also constitutes many little inns and B&Bs.
The most famous tourist spot of this hill station is the Mall Road. We know that every hill station has its own unique Mall Road but if you are as lucky as us, you will be able to catch the uniformed men parading on foot and horses and displaying their prowess along with a marching band on a chilly evening. As women and old ladies line up along the road to sell hand knit woolens, you will be amazed at the variety available. We sat in a café looking over a steep cliff and munched on hot momos and coffee.
Buying trinkets of the famous red sandstone and various kinds of lucky charms which come in from Tibet, one finds a little bit of foreign country right in those Indian mountains. Sipping some gorgeous smelling tea from the neighboring tea gardens made us hoarders carry too many kilos of tea back home. Be it eating thukpa or sitting in the clearing as the fog creeps up on you, Darjeeling has all the works a tourist destination needs. A multitude of temples and monasteries cater to the spiritually inclined as well as complement the calm and peace of this hill station.
Darjeeling’s climate during the summer months is quite pleasant and it is said that the unique tea from this region gains its aromatic flavor from its distinctive climatic conditions. In these troubled times one cannot but wonder what unrest will make of Darjeeling, but one can only hope that once peace abides, Darjeeling will once again welcome its weary travelers with warm soup and some tea.
Image Courtesy: Google