Lying wrapped up in the comfort of woolens, I was complaining about the harshness of the winter in Rann of Kutch…then some thought makes you feel warm…
It is a story high up in the mountains of Sikkim. A hill top floating in the mists and conifers, entrenched in the sound of pipes, drums, bells, chants of monks, humming of the prayer wheels and fluttering of flags. The place is called Pelling.
I know a lot of you must have been there, as I can figure out its popularity from Google search. It is a decent place to live in, if you have nothing else in the whole world to worry about. It has the greenery and natural scenery around; you wake up in the fresh mountain air and bask in the mountain dew.
If you haven’t been there, but can picture the perfect place in your heads, then you should also note that the place also offers you a chilling climate fit for the freezer of your kitchen refrigerator. And it is not dry, it’s soggy throughout the year, you grow to love rain all year round and you hate the sun, as on any given day, its chances are rare and even if it is shining bright, you can hardly feel it.
That is how I describe this place. On the other hand, the Bengali version of it is ki bhalo hill station, whereas others in the group will defend the supremacy of Darjeeling. Of course, that is the nearest (beyond Gorkhaland… err Darjeeling) they manage on the leave travel allowance by West Bengal…ok… it’s Paschim Bongo Government. However, for the local it is heaven on earth closer than Darjeeling. As many of my classmates, who are school dropouts-turned taxi fleet owners-hoteliers says, “you get a better and closer view of Mount Kanchenjunga than you get from Darjeeling, so from next time come here we have good hotels good taxis and no strikes. And for you writers, you only gain here, no Inheritance of Loss.”
Schooling in Pelling had a lot to offer than fears of freedom, being on your own- no parents around to tell you when to eat, what to eat, when to go to study & what to read. It was kind of good and also tiring to walk uphill on way to school in morning (around 200 metres… if we talk in terms of difference in elevation). I know in Bangalore, that feat means a weekend hiking/ trekking/climbing expedition. It offered you weirdest things like whole of a family sporting same colored monkey caps and same colored sweaters. No I am not making monkey jokes.
And, although it was shining bright, that man wearing fake fur jacket, walking down the road. How everyone was staring on him, how his wear annoyed the hell out of even the street dogs. How the dogs not only barked but hounded him down the road.
These dogs barked and chased the weird dressed honeymoon couples as they held each other in not so public poses on the viewpoint for a photograph with Kanchenjunga, shining like silver in morning light in the background.
Those days were mystic considering the number of consecutive days you can do without a proper bath, mine was 76 consecutive days. I tried once again after that during college, but just could not beat that endeavor. Winter hardly lasts 76 days in the plains of the Ganga (…or the Ganges.. as you like it). If you love winter, for us it was winter throughout the year.
It was a place where a bottle of super strong beer came cheaper than a pack of Coke or Pepsi and bill for your salad would be more than what you paid for a bottle of Old Monk. Those wondering, what is a super strong beer, it is the one that gives you kicks, but not for the bucks.
If it is not raining, evenings on weekdays meant limited over, multi inning cricket on that little lawn of open garden restaurant of the Mondal Lodge (big enough for teams of eight on each side). Rain on Sundays meant football in the same lawn, defacing not only the grasses but also the façade of the hotel.
Some evenings meant walking down the Darap road, shouting from the base of the vertical cliff for the echo-effect it produced, quenching your thirst while returning uphill from two of the springs on the way. And if you lucky enough, those sights of little shy Red Pandas… mesmerizing .
Oh… Pelling… I will write for you again…
4950+ words so far in 2012 on Barunjha’s Blog
© Barun Jha || 2012