In the summer of 2010, my wife and I decided to celebrate the fifteen years of our life together by going on a trip. We chose Gangtok and Darjeeling as our destination. “So mutually opposed places,” my wife would say later, “one is like a cheerful sunrise and the other like a gloomy sunset.”
|Maggie with the tigers in Darjeeling museum|
Her metaphor for Darjeeling could not have been more apt. Whoever we met there looked quite sullen though a few of them pretended to smile. The Gorkhaland movement had eaten into their hearts like a corrosive cancer. I imagine the place must be in much worse condition today in spite of the change in government. It will be still worse in a few years from now when the BJP will take charge in Bengal and impose its dictatorship on the agitating Gorkhas.
We reached Darjeeling in a gloomy evening after an unforgettable journey from Gangtok and checked into a hotel which was eager to sell us the next morning’s sunrise. The people of Darjeeling were eager to sell whatever they could to the tourists since their economy had been thrown into a shambles by the decades-long agitation. We bought the sunrise immediately because we were only used to sunsets in tourist places earlier. A sunrise in the mountains would be a change. Moreover, we didn’t miss to wish any of the charms of Darjeeling.
We were woken up at 3.30 in the next morning. It had started drizzling much before that. I was torn between the desire to lie down and listen to the music of the drizzle enjoying the cosiness beneath the blanket and the urge to make it to the Tiger Hill where a sunrise awaited us in the gentle shower. “How can there be a sunrise in this weather?” I asked the reception using the intercom.
“Your car will be ready at 4” was the answer. We had paid the advance for the car and would lose that amount if we didn’t use the service. That’s what the answer meant. Most answers in Darjeeling were similarly terse and pregnant with meanings.
We decided to have a look at the drizzle-washed Tiger Hill. As I gratefully accepted a huge umbrella offered by the hotel’s reception I thought Maggie (my wife) and I would be the only fools going to watch sunrise in such a sombre weather. We were consoled soon. There were at least thirty cars waiting outside for tourists from different hotels. All the cars moved in a line through the narrow streets towards the Tiger Hill soon.
The hills stood drenched in the gentle showers that came through a misty sky. There was no sunrise. Not even a ray of sunlight.
Darjeeling didn’t give us joyful memories. Its sunrise in the shower was quite symbolic of what the state had to offer in spite of the natural beauty that longed to emerge above the discontent within its people’s hearts.
Maggie and I would love to visit Gangtok again but not Darjeeling. We don’t admire sunrises in showers. And there is no hope of the Gorkhas getting any better deal in the near future. India is moving towards harsher times.
My 2010 posts on these visits: