Continuation of the previous post: Darjeeling and Kalimpong - Day 3
The condensed water droplets veiling our windowpane added an element of mystery to the morning view of mountains. I lazed on the sofa and patiently watched it sliding down drop by drop, as if clearing the mountain-view for this curious traveller. Breakfast came and we got ready. I called the taxi driver I had talked last night but he informed me of his car problem, assuring me at the same time to send us another reliable option. We left Darjeeling Circuit House, one hour late than our plan. It was Maha-ashtami (2 days before Dussehra)… the celebration on the streets was on, causing our 50 kilometres journey to Kalimpong halt here and there on every turn. The customs of Darjeeling is varied due to the coexistence of diverse ethnic groups. They were celebrating by making processions on the streets with new clothes, trumpets/drums and decorations… I wish I could remember the local name for the same. All I could get through my car window was hundred happy faces and Nepali folklores. I wondered whether those relatively simpler festivals on hills are much more enjoyable than the Durgapuja we celebrate on plains, spending half a crore rupees on each gorgeous setup!
There were plenty orange trees on our way, mostly invisible to our inexperienced eyes due to absence of orange coloured fruits hanging from their branches. After crossing Teesta market we got stuck with a full one hour jam over the Teesta Bridge! It would have been a fairly enjoyable time-pass to watch the green-wild Teesta River if the overhead sun didn’t show his brutality, and offcourse if the wind over the bridge was gentler. By one o’clock we reached Kalimpong, the fascinating hill station at an altitude of about 1250 metres, located in the foothills of the Mahabharat Range above the scenic Teesta Valley. We had booking in the Kalimpong Guest House which is in the outskirt of the town, in the close proximity to the Indian Army’s 27 Mountain Division area. Initially I was unhappy to find the accommodation far away from the centre of Kalimpong but as our cab climbed the pristine Durpin Hill road to reach the Circuit House crossing the picturesque Army Golf Course at our left I knew it was the best place we could get for our relaxing Dussehra trip! The Circuit house lay just behind the golf club, adjacent to the residence of top-ranked military officials. Apart from the flower-rich garden around the rooms we could see the golf course right from our green courtyard… simply perfect soothing ambience!
I found it unworthy to spend the afternoon in napping, so stepped out with my backpack and took the up-going road. I stepped into the military area crossroad from where photography was strictly a ‘No No’. There were clear boards to indicate where all four roads were heading… I chose the one towards the monastery on the Durpin Hill. The air in the area will keep on reminding you every minute that you’re walking inside a military zone, so better remain disciplined. On passing a squash court I spotted a small shopping complex named Camellia Complex. It had roughly a dozen of shops, including cobbler, tailor and barber services made available mainly for army professionals. There was a modest food court on the first floor where I took a plate of Momo. There was a movie theatre, Bewoor Hall that made me curious… I came to know that the ongoing movie was a Bollywood current release “Student of the year” and the evening show was about to be screened in an hour. The title trapped me and I decided to visit the monastery in the remaining time slot. I upgraded my walking speed and started hiking the Durpin Hill like a soldier in mission. Some tourist taxis passed by me reminding me of my poor walking effort. But I made it soon to the top, before the gate of the Zong Dhog Palri Fo Brang Monastery, an old Buddhist structure sanctified by Dalai Lama which got damaged in the earthquake of 2004, as evident from the ongoing reconstruction works. A number of rare scriptures which were brought into India after the invasion of Tibet have been preserved in the monastery, including 108 volumes of the Kangyur. The monastery has a number of tiers and once you climb the top ones you can have the pleasure of breathtaking views of the Himalayan ranges and the Kalimpong town. There is an army helipad just behind this monastery. In the monastery you’ll find the typical Gompa which encloses the main prayer hall where you would love to be a part of the daily prayer ceremony. There I met a young Korean monk who was actually residing in some other monastery of Kalimpong. He invited me to his monastery. I thanked him and left the Durpin Hilltop. I didn’t have much time before the movie would start… it wasn not a matter of missing the first 15 minutes but it was the urge of securing a movie ticket for which I almost ran down the hill taking all possible shortcuts which in normal sense I would never risk… It gives immense pleasure to discover how the sleeping children in us wake up at times to make us do crazy stuffs!
The ticket was only 20 bucks and that gave me a seat among hundred military staffs/officers! The ticket seller asked for my ID before giving me a ticket and it was quite justified. The screen in Bewoor Hall was quite wide but the contrast was low and sound system was very mediocre… I didn’t have any issue with them as I was experiencing the ‘feel good’ heat of tolerating one of the silliest movies I’ve ever seen amidst so many happy men in their uniforms. If I had the habit of writing movie eviews, I would have surely written a strong negative review for “Student of the year” (Superb headless movie!). After the show was over I gave a call to Circuit House to ask if they could make some evening snacks but they assured me only of dinner. I finished another round of Momo and coffee in the food court and walked my way back from the Camellia complex. Watched TV for a while and then kept myself busy in capturing garden flowers with flash till the dinner was served. The dining place was large but common to all the guests residing there. When we were called another family was already having there dinner, so we waited for a while and finished the tasty meal in a jiffy. There was some sparking issue with the room heater… we didn’t need that either. Sleep was almost patting my pillow. Next day I explored Kalimpong mostly on feet which I’ll narrate in my next post.
To be continued...