Friday, April 2, 2010
I can't remember what happened last. The last post named "Adventures". Yeah. Sayak was in my room, after having a whiskey-propelled night with my Dad. We talked. We decided we had to go somewhere. My student, who keeps me "busy", as I have already mentioned, went on a vacation. Sayak had just come to Kolkata that evening. It seemed perfect, though his exams were looming out in view. We googled Sikkim. We didn't sleep. In the morning, we informed my Dad. He couldn't inform his Dad, till he was in a position to prove that what he did was worth it. Somehow, we managed some money. Our budget was eight grand. He went back to his mess, to do some packing. I packed warm clothes (I had some, fortunately, most are in Durgapur). Sayak packed other necessities. We met at Howrah. We couldn't find a train, that would have space enough for us to sleep. We took a launch back to Esplanade, and booked our tickets on the overnight bus to Siliguri. To kill the time, we had food at KFC, and then McDonalds (yeah, the Park steert one, just beside the building with the recent firebreak). We walked a lot, hoping to tire ourselves enough, so that we could sleep on the bus. A phonecall on Sayak's cell threatened to destroy our excitement. But nevertheless, we were off. I couldn't sleep. I was envying Sayak, because every time I looked beside me, he was fast asleep. when Sayak woke up in the morning, he said the same thing to me. But I had something in my defense. Except for dinner, Sayak was asleep at both the stops later. He missed going to the loo at dawn; he missed the morning tea. We reached Siliguri at 11am, instead of 6am. The agents scurrying around caught us, and we yielded to one of them, because he promised a bathroom! Around 1pm, we started off for Gangtok. The journey was uncomfortable. Ten people cramped up inside a Tata Sumo. But the world outside the car compensated! We stopped at Melli, and had a packet of "Popcorn", which is as popular there, as Kurkure here, we learnt later. When we reached Gangtok, it was raining hard. Visibility was poor because of the mist. We tok a cab for 50bucks and went to our hotel (which we had pre-booked at Siliguri). We had already started spending more than intended. After a photo-session, and a long freshening up session, we left for the "market-place". Sayak observed that couples in Gangtok were lucky. Their market-place was the most romantic place in the city. It's called the Mahatma Gandhi Marg. The whole stretch of the L-shaped street was paved with cobbled stones, and bordered (and divided) by some sort of a hanging garden. We shopped for curios, souvenirs, and postcards (which we planned to send from Sikkim itself). We had dinner at a half-empty restaurant. The chowmein was good. The local beer HIT was great. The pork was awe-fucking-some! I wanted to pack some of it, and send to people in Kolkata! Later, at night, back at the hotel, we watched the movie Seven Pounds, on HBO. Me, for the second time, Sayak, for the first time. I fell asleep while he kept talking, I learnt that later. The next day, we woke up early. And, strangely, I had a bath (something I hadn't done for the past week, in the tropical climate of Kolkata!) After breaking our morning fast with junk food, we set off for the Yumthang stand, as they call it: the place from where the "jeeps" leave for the Yumthang Valley. We met and talked to the other 8 people, who'd share the same jeep as ours. They were married men, three of them, two of them had a son, and one of them were on their honeymoon tour. Sadly, it's the wife of the newly wed guy, whom me and Sayak found attractive. We set off. Within a few hours, we reached the Seven Sisters Waterfalls. The two of us completely forgot that we'd paid for a "package tour, food included". Instead enjoying the waterfall, we rushed to the food stall, and ordered all that we could find there: momo-s, noodles, etc. The driver couldn't find us when it was time to leave! Few hours later, I'd updated my Facebook status: "Too many beautiful sights for the day". It was late afternoon. We had rice and chicken at a modest motel. We were tired, not from travelling, but from being breathless at the view around us, on our way! For me, beauty is like music: it's depressing. It makes me want things that I don't have. Not yet, at least. I'm human, I realised that. We reached the Lachung valley late at night. We were given a cheap hotel to stay at, but we befriended the guy there (who claimed to be younger than us), unlike our other travel companions. We shared beer and cigarettes with him. Spending a night under a corrugated sheet-ed roof, was a first time in itself. A huge black shadow looming outside the window, added to it. As usual, I fell asleep before Sayak, I woke up before him. When we woke up in the morning, we were stunned. It was around 5am, the sunlight was dim, the mountains that had seemed scary demons at night, revealed their chests: brown rocks, dark green trees, snow-white waterfalls, snow-capped peaks. The clouds played trick with our vision, so that we could never be ready enough to take the perfect picture with our poor cellphone cameras. We ended up clicking pictures of ourselves: two people with swollen eyes (due to sleep) and shivering expressions (due to lack of clothing). By 7am, the other people had woken up. The honeymoon wife came out in a satin night-gown, and I found it hard to look at her, for the rest of the day. The driver arrived (whom we had befriended as well, unlike the other 8 people). Sayak said that the reason why the people there are favoring us, must be our age! I agreed. We set off for snow: Katao. It took us 1 and a half hour from Lachung. As the car neared Katao, the ground started showing signs of what snow is like. I dunno why I wasn't as excited when I saw it, as I thought I would be. It stared with patches, resembling sprinkled salt on the ground. It increased to "lumps of salt", then to "limestones", then to broad patches of ground, where vegetation fought with its head to peep out of a thin snow blanket. Further up, we could see what we were approaching. Amidst all the snow, there was a waterfall, which awed me, with the though, why didn't the water freeze?! It would be greater to see a frozen waterfall, something like giant icicles hanging from the rocks overhead! Within minutes, we were on a road which was entirely white, except for the tyre marks of the tourist cars. On either side, there were snow fields. There was an army base at Katao, and their camps added to the beauty around, instead of "polluting" it, as I'd always feared. The temperature was unimaginably low. We played with snow, we posed for pictures, we froze our ass, we feared we'd have a frost bite. It was fun: slow, silent, and sad fun. Both of us imagined how it would be, if...if only... Even the driver, the hotel guy, and the married men asked us repeatedly: why hadn't we bought our girl-friends, to which Sayak always replied with a cleverly pasted smile on his lips: We wouldn't have the money to travel, if we had girl-friends. :D We came back to Lachung, had our lunch (rice again, like dinner the previous night!). Then we left for Yumthang Valley in the afternoon. I'm sure my words would never be enough to describe what we had, what we perceived. The high pressure of the altitude was affecting our bladders, and by the time we reached Yumthang, we badly needed a loo. Strangely, a tourist spot though it is, it didn't have one. People smirked at us, and asked us to go behind the trees. We didn't though. We "explored" the area, and found the bathrooms of a deserted (yet, beautiful) house. Thanks to the call of nature, we were delayed enough, to see the clouds move away, and reveal the snow-capped mountains right around us. It was colder than Katao, because it was a valley (Sayak reminded me of my school geography lessons). The stream that flowed across the valley attracted us too, but nothing compared to the view that was uncovered to us for a few moments (which the rest of the tourists missed). That brought us to another discussion about whether beauty is comparable or not. Which led to another discussion about the validity of reality. The words "There is no absolute truth.", and "Everything is maya." will always remind Sayak and me of Sikkim. After Yumthang there wasn't much left, time, or money. We returned to the hotel at Lachung, took some pictures, had our lunch, and set off for Gangtok. We reached Gangtok late at night. The journey witnessed some unpleasant moments for me, because my grandmother called, and did some awesome K-serial-tear-jerking emotional blackmailing with me. Sayak saw me close to tears for the first time, only to see me laughing at it later. Back at Gangtok, at the M.G. Marg, we found all shops closed. The only restaurant that was open, was an expensive one. It was named "GangTalk", attracting us instantly, by aesthetic needs, or culinary needs, we'll never know. The place was a feast for our eyes, with it's paintings, photographs and movie posters. The owner was friendly. We had an expensive dinner, and went back to our hotel, to claim our original room back. We didn't get it. Instead, we were given a honeymoon suite, with the word that we'd vacate it by 12 noon the next day. The honeymoon suite, as the name suggests, was great. But they had only one huge blanket for the two of us, which we tugged at, all night. Needless to mention, Sayak always suffered. The first night, it was my cellphone's "PsychoBuzz" SMs tone, that didn't let him sleep (while he watched me sleeping deaf to all noise). The second night, at Lachung, I got a bed, and he got a bench to sleep. The cold, and the wood, was painful, I heard (and believed.) The third night, at the honeymoon suite, I won the blanket fight (even if I was fast asleep). The next day, we woke up early, and spent more than hour deciding what to write on the post-cards. We jointly sent two to Sritama and Deshraj (in New Delhi and Gurgaon, respectively). He sent one to Abhishek, at Kanpur. I sent one to Romo, at Durgapur. Then, we went out, and shopped a little more. We found the post office, and posted the post-cards. We had awesome chocolate pastries at an expensive chocolaterie.We found a Mexican place for lunch, which was again, expensive. I had the worst cocktail of my life, named Sexy Triplet, which was a mixture of strawberry-flavored cream, milk, and tequila. Already late, we rushed to the Siliguri bus stand. We reached hardly two minutes after the scheduled time of departure for the last bus to Siliguri. Yet we missed it, and started talking discipline and it's variations in West Bengal. Finally, we took a "jeep" again, sharing it with 8 other people, cramped, and, separated, this time! Reaching Siliguri, we made fools of ourselves, once again, by yielding to the "bus-brokers". We had fights with one of them. Sorry, I, not we. Sayak and me strolled around for a couple of hours, and finally, boarded the bus at 8:30pm. This bus was better than the one we'd come in, so we slept, comparatively well. We reached Kolkata almost 7 hours later than the scheduled time. Heat-struck, and bankrupt, he went back to his "Paying Guest" residence, and me to my own. What followed on the days after is writing this blog, a line a day! And many more.