Of Warm Hearts and Fas­ci­nat­ing Sto­ries - Ex­plor­ing Sikkim

Storizen Magazine - - What's Inside - - by Pavithra Anand

When you are ac­cus­tomed to a busy city life­style, where con­ver­sa­tions with strangers are sel­dom and con­ver­sa­tions with friends are usu­ally planned, sto­ries from strangers when on a hol­i­day in the moun­tains come as a wel­come sur­prise. One of the best and

Our very cau­tious mind had just one ap­pre­hen­sion if we should trust this driver, and his driv­ing skills, to wade us through the ter­rain for the

next one week.

hum­bling, ex­pe­ri­ence with travel is that you share sto­ries with peo­ple you most def­i­nitely will never meet again. These con­ver­sa­tions that break ge­o­graph­i­cal boundaries and go past so­cial strata are nei­ther pa­tron­iz­ing nor judg­men­tal. The driver – Jayanta and an In­nova waited for us at Bag­do­gra air­port, as a re­sult of three girls metic­u­lously plan­ning the week­long hol­i­day. Our very cau­tious mind had just one ap­pre­hen­sion if we should trust this driver and his driv­ing skills to wade us through the ter­rain for the next one week. Five hours and a lit­tle bit of lo­cal sight­see­ing later, we ar­rived in Kalimpong, elated to have reached our first des­ti­na­tion. It prob­a­bly is the moun­tain air that helps clear the mind and not sec­ond guess a stranger’s nice­ness but all our ear­lier qualms were put to rest. Jayanta, a driver by pro­fes­sion, trained snake catcher as a pas­sion and a Bud­dhist at heart, re­galed us city girls with his sto­ries of wit­ness­ing the shoot­ing of a BBC doc­u­men­tary on tuskers and an­other doc­u­men­tary on the Ganges. Each fam­ily mem­ber at the Homes­tay, Dara­gaon Re­treat, in Darap Vil­lage did their part in mak­ing us feel at home.

A fam­ily of three, the gentle­man, Siva, drove us around in his Maruti car, show­ing un­ex­plored lo­cal sights. The daugh­ter would bring us our tea in lit­tle porce­lain cups with a lid in the early morn­ing cold; tea that we would sip sit­ting in the bal­cony tak­ing in the ma­jes­tic Hi­malayas in the dis­tance. The lady of the house en­sured, we ate and ate some more lo­cal food for our three meals and steam­ing hot bowls of maggie in frosty evenings. Our meals were usu­ally ac­com­pa­nied by tales of their folk­lore, pol­i­tics, ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and econ­omy. Mar­riage is an in­te­gral part of ev­ery cus­tom with unique prac­tices fol­lowed. Their com­mu­nity in Sikkim has an in­ter­est­ing man­ner of choos­ing a bride and groom. Con­ven­tion­ally, at a wed­ding cer­e­mony in the vil­lage, a cir­cle is formed with el­i­gi­ble boys and girls stand­ing al­ter­na­tively. Amid mu­sic and dance and un­der the watch­ful eye of the el­ders, if cupid strikes, the boy asks the girl if she is in­ter­ested. If the feel­ing is mu­tual, fam­i­lies are ap­proached. That was how Siva found his bride. She couldn’t help smil­ing ear to ear when her hus­band nar­rated their story. When it was time to head back, all three stood to wave be­hind our de­part­ing car like one would when a fam­ily mem­ber is leav­ing. The In­dian army stands guard at the In­dia – China border in Sikkim at Nathu La. NathuLa, a sen­si­tive tourist spot, needs to be evac­u­ated ei­ther be­fore 2:00 pm or be­fore the fog af­fects vis­i­bil­ity. The Tri-colour flut­tered against the Hi­malayas and it was dif­fi­cult to say if we had goose­bumps be­cause of the howl­ing wind or the som­bre

at­mos­phere of the me­mo­rial for In­dian sol­diers who fought the In­dia – China war. The fog as­cended quickly and the army per­son­nel had to ask us to leave im­me­di­ately. The Uni­form comes with a sense of author­ity and ag­gres­sion un­der which is a po­lite and pa­tient hu­man, ask­ing civil­ians to va­cate the border ar­eas in­stantly else they would have to ac­com­mo­date tourists in their bunkers. Heaters in rooms and cars fall short of the warmth peo­ple in the moun­tains carry in their hearts. Pavithra is a Cor­po­rate Le­gal Coun­sel by pro­fes­sion who takes ev­ery pos­si­ble op­por­tu­nity to travel, with friends, fam­ily or alone. She holds a Mas­ter’s de­gree from the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics and Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence and wants to be a teacher some­day. An am­a­teur blog­ger, she has taken to writ­ing about her travel ex­pe­ri­ences. An avid reader, Ben­galuru based, foodie, and a yoga en­thu­si­ast, she tries to jug­gle her day be­tween le­gal jar­gon, read­ing fic­tion and a few asanas on the mat.

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