Monday, March 25, 2013


The engine attached itself to the coaches by bumping into them. Large, white clouds of smoke puffed out from the top with every toot and whistle of the toy train. It looked old and rickety, like an actual toy. The number 782 was embossed on the side of the engine in large, bronze lettering. I sat down on the bench, waiting for the thing to assemble as it continued to fidget like an impatient child.

Finally, we boarded the two coach  train. As it chugged through town there was a permanent cloud of white smoke arising from below. I felt I was in a Bollywood dream sequence. Above the train, however, was a trail of black smoke that was being left behind from the burning coal.

The ride go Ghum was short. I got off there and took a shared jeep to Kurseong where I met Aqui at her home. Her mother was at home, along with her overenthusiastic dog and sedentary cat. I was promptly fed three thick pieces of toast along with omelette, dum aaloo, and fried chana. We then went out for a walk, during which Aqui pointed out the places she had grown up with - the dance school where she learned Bharatnatyam, St. Teresa's church, Tamang Buddhist Monastery...Kurseong was sunnier and warmer than the town of Darjeeling. After an hour of walking we headed back to her home, where an enormous lunch was waiting for us. Chicken, fish soup, fermented paneer bhurji, soyabean sabji, radish pickle, and a heapful of rice. I got greedy and took seconds, something I regretted when I finished my meal and realized I couldn't move. We then sat on the porch, basking in the sun's warmth. A full stomach and the sun's soothing rays can be quite sleep inducing, and I took a short nap, accompanied by the hyper dog and stoic cat on the bed next to me.

I woke up 2 hours later, and got ready to go to a torchlight procession. Both of Aqui's parents were active members of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha political movement for the statehood of Gorkhaland. They were participating in this march and we accompanied them. Everyone was holding glass bottles burning with kerosene, chanting slogans of independence and unity. The procession ended with a gathering and a loud, rousing speech.

Before going to bed, Aqui's parents and I drank the local wheat beer which tasted similar to chaas - tangy and cool. Tomorrow morning we would go to Gangtok.

1 comment:

  1. wow, such interesting things you get to do!!