THE LAND OF KANCHENJUNGA


The visuals shown on TV after the recent devastating earthquake in Sikkim took me back to 1964 when I visited it and the pleasant memories I had of the place.
We were then in New Delhi. My sister’s husband was working in Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and had been posted to Gangtok, Sikkim at that time. My sister was also staying with him with their son as it was a family station. ‘Gang Talk’ is the anglicized pronunciation. The locals_ Lepchas, Nepalis and Bhutias pronounce it as GGUNN- ThThok.
Till then I had not seen the Himalayas and so had nourished a deep desire to visit the same. So, I took this opportunity to visit my sister for the Dussera holidays. Since Ramu had expressed his inability to accompany me, I decided to go alone with my three kids- one not yet six, the other not yet four and the last one not yet one year.
I was to go by Grand Trunk Express up to Siliguri where my brother –in law was to meet us and take us to Gangtok by a minibus. Since I was travelling without the husband and that too to a non-native place, I was not entitled for first class fare. So, I began my journey with the three kids in a two tiered second class compartment accompanied by lot of bedrolls and blankets to face the October winter in the Himalayas.
During the journey, I had put my sleeping baby on the upper berth and the other two were asleep on the lower berths and I was sitting on a bedroll between the two lower berths talking to a fellow passenger. Suddenly she asked me, “Who is this sitting behind you?” I turned back and saw that it was my baby sitting cross – legged stoically like a rishi! I don’t know how he happened to come down from the upper berth and ensconce himself so comfortably down on the luggage! Probably he knew that he was heading to the land of lamas.
At Siliguri, I got down from the train like Santhana Lakshmi, a baby in my arms and two more holding my hands. My brother- in -law took charge of the luggage and we all got into the minibus.
The journey from Siliguri to Gangtok was a scenic one where the trees on the slopes were so tall that I could not see their top or the bottom. But, due to the landslides (a common occurrence in that part of the country), a journey which should have taken much lesser time took whole day and it was dark when we reached the outpost in Gangtok (In any case, it gets dark very early in the hills). From there, we went by a jeep and reached home. Home? We still had to negotiate a steep flight of steps carved into the hill slope to reach home.
Once we reached home, we had very hot water baths, ate very hot food and retired under the heavy comforters in a room where a metallic wood burner (like a boiler) on stand provided us the warmth in the night. While we all slept for 12 hours, my not-yet-four son slept non stop for 36 hours!
Next morning, as I came out, I saw the divine spectacle of the glorious Kanchenjunga peak bathed in the golden morning light in the distance. One gets to see this sight only for a couple of hours of the day, after which it gets hidden in the cloudy cover.
Infested with leeches Sikkim is a quaint land. The water supply to the house was in relay by a series of split bamboos tied to each other. The town was permeated with a smell which I was told came from the natives chewing on the dry raw yak meat just as our people chew paan.
We saw all the touristy places including Tashi-ling, the seat of government, the palace of the king Thondup Namgyal who had an American wife Hope Cook, the Buddhist monastery sonorous with the chanting of Lamas, the Himalayan handicrafts Centre, the orchid garden and of course the market place.
My brother- in- law took us by jeep to Darjeeling and Kalimpong. I got to see the gorgeous Teesta river which I had missed on our Siliguri-Gangtok journey due to its being dark.The pleasure of drinking pure,cool water directly from a mountain spring is just incomparable.
As for my sister’s social circle, I did not get to meet many of them. When my beautiful sister told them that her younger sister was visiting them, the expectations of the bachelor officers of BRO went soaring up, I believe. But when she told them that I was visiting with my three kids, none of them showed much interest in meeting me!!!
After a glorious 12-day Himalayan holiday, we.went back to Delhi.

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5 thoughts on “THE LAND OF KANCHENJUNGA

  1. sneha says:

    May the people of the glorious place be blessed by God…May they have strength, peace and courage. What more can one say on reading this picturesqueness in prose?

  2. Nuggehalli Pankaja says:

    Yes,as Sneha says higly picturesque ! I felt I was in that land with you! You could have very easily done doctorate in travelogue . By the way, what is the name of your beautiful sister?
    Have i seen her,I wonder? So, all you sisters are a bevy of beauties! God’s gift!
    As usual a pinch of humour in the article!

    • Thank you Pankaja. I don’t think of these blogs of mine as travelogue as they do not give the typical travel information. The sister I referred to is well known to you and have always been seen in your neighbor’s house being their relative’s wife.

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