East Sikkim, through my eyes..

I visited Sikkim in May for a break from the summer at South India. Me and my parents booked a flight from Bangalore to Bagdogra in North Bengal and opted to go by road to Gangtok from there. The flight journey was 3 hour 50 minute. We took the highway to Gangtok and drove along the Mahananda river by the side. The view of the inter state started there on and the temperature dropping down. We drove via the Mahananda wildlife sanctuary which is in the army area and is home for the Bengal tiger , rhinos and elephants. We saw the theesta river which flows via Kalimpong and is famous for water activities like white water rafting.

       

We reached Gangtok after a drive of almost 4 hours. Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim and is situated at an elevation of about 5500ft above sea level. Hence it has a cool climate throughout the year. The spoken languages in Gangtok are hindi, english, bengali and goorkha basha. Gangtok city overlooks the Ranikhala river which meanders in the valley below the city. Mount Kanchenjunga and its ranges can be seen from the east of Gangtok city. We stayed at the Central Shangri La hotel for 3 days to finish our visit in and around the city. Our experience at the hotel was nice however, the locals suggest staying at the Greendale hotel for pure vegetarian tourists as the place seems to be great and has an awesome Kanchenjunga view!

On the first day we visited the Banjhakri waterfall. On our way there, we saw a rattle snake and the locals told us the black cobra was a common visitor to Gangtok! 😀 The Banjhakri waterfall was a wonderful start to our trip. It was a beautiful sight and the park around the waterfall is scenic. There were buddhist flags with prayers tied on trees and pillars all round the city. I also chanted “Om Mani Padme Hum” and spinned many prayer wheels wherever I saw them.

   

We next visited the Bagdum waterfall and wore the traditional attire of Sikkim. In Sikkim, men wear Bakhu and women wear Honju. It was a colourful piece of clothing and i just loved wearing the honju! We next stopped by the Rumtek monastery which was a spiritual and soothing place. The prayer wheels and the temple was just so beautiful. There are many monasteries in Sikkim and each one of them is peaceful.

The next place we stopped by was the Ganesh Tok. It is at an altitude of almost 6500ft and the temperature dropped down even more. Strict use of wollens is a necessity in the city. The Ganesh temple was beautiful and we prayed to Lord Ganesha for everyone’s well being. We next visited the Himalayan zoological park which was right opposite to Ganesh Tok. Black himalayan bear, leopard and blue sheep were among the many animals that were there. Blue sheep was not really blue 😀 The security there told us that there’s a particular time of the year when parts of the wool look deep blue in colour. Biologically , contradictary to their name, the blue sheep are neither blue nor sheep 😀

We also visited the Do Drul Chorten, Deorali which is one of the stupas in Gangtok. It was built by Rinpoche. After that we drove to the Hanuman Tok which was at an altitude of  7200ft . The temperature dropped down little by little and we were almost freezing. The temple was serene and we observed that all the places were maintained by the army. On our way back we visited the flower show complex and the Gangtok ropeway. The view of the city was just so beautiful, justifying it being called the land of peace and tranquility.

The water consumption is free of cost in the city and the electricity upto 50 units is free. But if the consumption of electricity is beyond 50 units, the people have to pay the cost for 50 units as well as the consumption beyond that. The fine people have to pay if they spit or litter is Rs.5000/- 😀 Hence the city, as we observed, is really clean.

We next visited the Tsomgo lake, also called the Changu lake. This place is pure delight! It is an emotion and the inability to comprehend the beauty of the place due to loss of words itself defines the experience there! It is pure bliss and I just wanted to stay there , making snow angels and building snow men. The Tsomgo lake is at an altitude of almost 12200ft and the temperature was the least. We were advised not to jump around or run in excitement as we might get a headache due to the sudden drop in temperature and our bodies have to get acclamatised to it. I couldn’t contain my excitement and joy, obviously, and made my parents click a million pictures and record a zillion boomerang videos! We took loads of selfies and just got lost playing in the snow , reliving childhood. Pure joy indeed! My parents had hot parathas and I had hot omelettes to enjoy the cool climate.

We next visited the Baba Harbhajan Singh temple. It’s seen as a temple because the people there worship Baba Harbhajan Singh, the Indian army captain, giving him the importance of a deity. The view at this place is scenic and the importance of this place is immense. There’s an interesting story behind this temple.

We then visited the Nathula pass which is at an altitude of about 14000ft . This place has strict rules and we get permits only if we’re lucky of if we have friends or family in the army . We can also visit the place if we have recommendations from Government officials. The entry fee is Rs5000/- and only 50-60 vehicles are allowed for visiting per day. The application procedures start around 7am in the morning and the applications are handed out only for the visitors for the day. Pre bookings aren’t allowed or encouraged. Also, one of the locals told us that the place was previously maintained by the army and has been maintained by the police since the last 6-7 months.

Momos and thukpa are the native food of the people in Sikkim . They even make stuffed parathas and are damn good. Thukpa is like noodles with soup and is spicy , making it the best food to savour for the chill weather. We visited MG Road which had many vegetarian restaurants and shopped for fridge magnets and other souvenirs, to take back a piece of this place to ours and make our memories last forever.

 

Love…

This complicated 4 letter word! I do not understand the kind of avatars it takes. People say it’s a beautiful feeling, that you should be really lucky to be loved by someone and all that usual philosophies. I keep imagining a lot of things that I wished happend in my life and kind of knit dreams around my mind which sets up high expectations and huge boundaries.

“We had a huge fight. I decided i’ll not talk to him until he talks to me first.Agitated, frustrated and irritated, I approximated his love for me as a mere zero. I was so mad at him but i could feel myself getting intoxicated in the smell of chocolate! It was him with a DBC in his hand and a smirk on his face! I spoke to him first, again!!”

Lol! 😀 I mean, a huge fight won over by a tasty death by chocolate dessert. Amazing right?

We value relationships more than the fights. We value the bond that we think exists between us and our significant others over the silly , short lived ruptures that crop up between us. But, are we overlooking the possibility that we’re being taken for granted and our main reason for the fight got sidetracked? Are we being fooled by our weaknesses?

chapter 1

“I’m done! Prepared to head to Bengaluru!”. Aishwarya was very excited.

At 21, she had been recruited by one of the top MNCs in Mumbai through campus placement. She worked as a developer and slogged for 10 odd hours every day to complete her tasks. It took an year for her to realise that she didn’t belong in the IT industry. She had ideas that were out of the box which couldn’t be coded and debugged to get an output! She wanted to do something creative, but her job was repetitive and monotonous. One of the advantages of working in an MNC is that you get paid according to your contribution at work. Since she was working in her hometown, she had enough savings to survive on her own for an year. So, she decided to take a calculated risk. Yes, she wanted to quit and explore herself by disappearing into a new world.

She had booked a ticket to fly to Bengaluru and hadn’t cared much about her accommodation arrangements there. ”I’m going on an adventure! You don’t plan your adventures. They happen on their own if you keep your eyes open.” She told her best friend Ranju. Ranju has known Aishwarya for over a decade now and just rolled her eyes at her friend’s words. What else could she do ; when she knows that her Sagittarian friend, born in the Titan week would only do things that she would want to do.

Aishu’s mother packed a few laddus and her favourite pickle and handed it over to her. “Aishu, please take care of yourself and be safe. Call me every day to let me know you are alive so that you don’t get screwed by me or your papa.” All the three of them laughed and hugged.” I’ll definitely keep you informed Amma”. They hugged again. Aishu’s mother, Paru, was an independent woman and hence convinced Aishu’s father to support her with the “GREAT ESCAPADE” ; as Aishu calls it.

Aishu was all set. She had packed her essentials, her laptop, her favourite stuffed toy – Octo, her books, her stationery, her first aid kit, her pink blow dryer, her ‘lucky’ shoes, her good luck charm bracelet, her phone, her earphones, her books, her Ganesha idol, her bed spreads, her pillow cases, her electric jug, her raincoat, her stole, her hat, her this, her that, her what not!! All of this took her 4 hours, 2 suitcases and a bag. Aishu did not want her family to see her off at the airport and gave the opportunity to Ranju. Well, it turned out that Ranju was more dramatic at the airport than Aishu’s estimate of her parents’ emotional drama. Ranju hugged her tight and was almost in tears. Aishu was sad to, but she did not want to change her decision what-so-ever! So she cracked a PJ – ‘Aww Ranju! You know we have always been together. Now it’s time for me to have a long distance relationship with you. I hope things work out well between us.” She could hear her friend giggle. Both of them started laughing out loud. That was the thing about Aishu which everybody liked. She could turn any sad situation into a merry one. She could knit her words to form an arrow and release it with a bow of humour; leaving her target overwhelmed with happiness. She is a woman of substance. She had this amazing gift of 7 senses, namely – eye sense, nasal sense, oral sense, tactile sense, ear sense, common sense and comic sense!! Yes, most of us even have road sense. But, Aishu could not manage that part.

If there was a page dedicated to Aishu on FaceBook, it could be called “Aishwaryaness in Action”. On twitter, she could have had 100 million followers. But she was inactive on social networking sites. She believed in the notion that her thoughts may get adulterated if she signed herself up for any website. She wouldn’t even shop online as she would instead lose calories while shopping at the mall or on streets. She loved to spend most of her time watching TV or reading books. She loved baking. She could cook decently and if left alone with grocery and food staples, she could manage to survive on her own. She was obsessed with herself. Sometimes that would motivate the people around her to love themselves. She was an epitome of love, laughter and care.

For Aishu, working for an MNC was a dream come true. A nerd that she was during college, everybody had assumed that she would definitely be placed in a high paying and esteemed organization. Her family was also sure about it. She was confident and worked towards it. She reaped the benefits of her hard work. But she never knew she would quit that job after the first year itself. Even her manager was shocked with her decision. Nevertheless, she had made up her mind. She knew what she was doing.

An announcement was made at the airport. It was time for Ranju to bid Aishu a goodbye. ”Aishu, dare you make a new best friend over there! I’ll kill you! Call me everyday and let me know what’s new. I love you so much! Will miss you! Take care Aishu  “She hugged her best friend who may not return to her world again anytime soon. Aishu hugged back and made a puppy face. “I mich you too Ranju. Love you. Take care and keep a watch on my family for me.” And poof! She went through the boarding room, then to the luggage checking conveyer belt and then, out of Ranju’s sight. Tears trickled down Ranju’s cheeks. She wiped them away and smiled.