Sights, frights and memories
After four days it was time to leave Darjeeling. The town has been a friend to us; in the heat, noise and clamour for money that is the rest of India, Darjeeling has afforded us some respite. We have also made friends here.
The staff at the old colonial hotel where we are staying have been very
nice. In fact we have really enjoyed the hotel experience. It is surprising how quickly I got used to the idea of encouarging people do anything for me - just by giving them a tip. It is defintely a lifestyle I would like to continue.
One of the joys of the hotel - aside from its eager-to-please staff who
would give a reveriential slight bow of the head as you walked passed,
and call you Sir - was the roaring fire that we had in our room. This was especially pleasing for Dan who, coming from a wealthy family in London had never had a real fire in his home. For me, coming from a very working class family in North-East England, it was a wonderful childhood memory of burning wood smells and the mezmorising dancing of the flames. I can remember not having central heating in my home as a child. The mornings were always bitterly cold, until my dad got the fire going. I used to watch as he would build up the fire from a small spark. Fire-making is a dying art, but one which I am proud to be able to do.
We also made friends with a Tibetan family who run a cafe where Dan ate
at least once during evey day (Dan has a capacity to eat that I, who has about one-a-bit meals a day, finds astounding.) The youngest sons would do all the cooking, and you could here them happily sing as they created the food. One of the boys had the widest, friendly smile that just filled his face. I took a photo of the whole family after our last meal there.
The other friend we made was a guide who kept calling me 'Sir' even though I would ask him to call me Gari. "Sorry, Gari. Sir" He would
reply. His name was Kanadhi, and he told us of the re-opening of a nightclub. Five in the afternoon, was the opening time. Such a time for a nightclub opening would have seemed insane anywhere else, but here, where everyone is in bed by midnight, late afternoon was ideal and appropriate.The event was in keeping with the low-key feel of Darjeeling. The atmosphere was more like that of a wedding reception than a nightclub re-launch. Although the main cliental were male around mid-20s, there were a number of others, including a young boy aged around four, and dressed in a spiderman costume. Dan and I spent most of our time chatting to Kanadhi, the guide. By 9pm, the 'wedding reception' atmosphere very much felt that the bride and groom had long since gone. Our guide friend explained that it might go on to
eleven or even midnight in an excited tone that suggested hope more than assurance and certainty, but we didnt stay to find out.
We also visted a tibetan refugee centre slightly outside the town. The
tbetans at the centre have fled from the alledged oppression of the Chinese in the area. They survive by making and selling woollen items such as jumpers and scarfs, etc.
We were greeted with a bright, warm 'Hallo' from an old woman in her 70s. She happily showed us the spinning of the wool. I took the opportunity to film her doing so. She looked so contented with her life, surrounded by friends and buzying her time making clothing. She was delighted to see herself when I played back the filming. "Me." She would say, and make little 'Ooo-ing' noises when she saw close-ups of her fingers at the fairy-tale spinning wheel. It was as if she has just noticed what she had been doing all these years.
Half way back up the mountain from the centre we came across a much needed little sweet stall that sold all sorts of sugary delights that I have never heard of - including Banana flavoured Wrigley's chewing gum. The stuff is delicious.
Yes, we have really enjoyed our time here in this quaint mountian home.
But just as the low clouds creep in giving an ominous feel, so we have noticed an increase in the number of western tourists, which brings equal forebodings of change, and a tempory end to the atmosphere of this town on the edge of beyond. Darjeeling is certainly a town I will fondly remember, and dream of coming back to in my future and my imaginings.
The mountains around Darjeeling:
From Darjeeling, laden with packets of tea as presents, we got on a long train journey through wandering countryside filled with the deepest blue skies and grass almost greener than nature itself. I really enjoy the train journies here in India. Unlike in Europe where you are sealed into the metal carriage, in India you can sit in the open door-ways as the train rattles through the beautiful natural sceanry, passing half-naked men fishing or washing themselves in rivers, and women wearing sarees carrying pots on their heads. You can close your eyes, and feel the hot sun and cooling breeze tingle on your skin, making you feel alive and at one with all living things. You imagine the perfect majesty and artful colour of nature only to open your eyes and see it all laid out before you.
But India isn't about giving easy emotions. Whatever it gives, it does
so in sharp punches to all the senses. Just as I enjoyed the beauty of
India, I glanced down and saw the decapitated body of a young man lying
on the railtrack, not a few metres from where I slowly rode passed. Further down the track, I saw the head. But that India! And that's another story....
Well, thats it from me. Dan is coming back from his holiday, happy and
refreshed. Its a shameful plug, I know, but if you want to buy a copy of my book "Loser's Pontoon" just click on my website www.garisullivan.co.uk and leave an order.
I have really enjoyed including Dan's travel-readers in my emails. I wish you all a happy time, and would encourage you to travel. There is such a wonderful, friendly world out there, which we can all be part of and contribute to. Go on, buy that plane ticket. You know you want to!
Posted by Daniel
on September 21, 2004 11:14 PM