Monday, July 6, 2015

On the way to kolakham

Night journey from Kolkata to New Jalpaigudi was very comfortable and pleasant. It seldom happens on the train journey that you struck a cord with co-passengers and a bond beyond the journey is formed. But it happened on this journey. Dutta family was going to Darjeeling for four days and we were heading to a tour to hills of West Bengal....Kolakham, Lava, Rishop. Kalimpong and back to Kolkata. We took our separate routes with a promise to meet on NJP station  after four days. We were to travel back to Kolkata by the same train on the same date.

We had already done all the bookings online through a travel operator and our cab was waiting outside the station. We started from NJP at about 10 A.M., stopped at Gazaldoba to have a cup of tea. Presently there are only two, three tea shops in shanties on road side besides the river and barrage but a board displayed on the site proclaimed that government has plans to develop a mega park on the site.
After a perfect black tea under a shady tree we walked towards barrage. Gazaldoba in West Bengal is known for it's barrage on Teesta river, River Teesta is the lifeline of Sikkim, covering almost entire length of the state. It then flows through West Bengal before joining Brahmaputra as a tributary in Bangladesh.The river flowed from horizon to horizon, one end to other end. Standing on the bridge, scanning the river on both the sides, suddenly a line flashed through my mind, I had read somewhere...
"mountains & rivers know the secret- pay no attention to boundaries"

Peeping through a train window or passing through the curvy, winding, hilly roads whenever I glance upon a tiny temple on the tip of a high hill or on a hanging cliff, in an isolated landscape, countless thoughts surge inside me. Who would have built it ? why on such a secluded place far away from human habitat? How he reached that place? and so on. I am fascinated  towards these flames of faith. These pull me towards them. But most of the time shrines are so far away that reaching them is not possible. A little way down the road we were traveling, on a big boulder, encircled  by high, majestic  green hills, with red flags fluttering in cool breeze was this shrine of Lord Hanuman. We got down to pay our homage. A stream flowed nearby. It's murmuring soothed the heart. It was a perfect start of our journey to hills.

They are Sorina and her husband. Sorina was hardly fourteen years or so and was carrying. Her husband requested  our driver for a lift. We were traveling by a SUV and enough space was there. We agreed readily to accommodate them. Sorina could understand Hindi so we chatted comfortably. As our vehicle crossed hills after hills, moved up and down, traversed the curves and bends, I wondered how far was Sorina's destination. In case they would not have found any suitable vehicle to take them, could Sorina walk all those kilometers in such condition. There was no public transport plying on that route. When we dropped them at their destination her husband told his father that if not for us  it would have taken them another two hours to reach home and then I understood that they were to walk all those miles on foot, May be it's a way of life for them but how tough it is!


 Adjacent to the house in front of  which .Sorina and her  husband alighted was a gate. over that this idol was built. The deer and chakra, we find in every monastery but the idol was neither Buddha nor any of his disciple. May be some one representing some other cult or a figure of dwarpal kind. Trishul in the hands of idol too was different from buddhist sculptures. It awakened our curiosity but could not stay there long enough to ask about all the questions rising in the mind. From here we had another companion.  Near the house on the road a lady with load of certain luggage was waiting for a carrier to take her home. Since morning no vehicle had passed. As she heard Sorina's husband narrating his experience with us, she too requested the driver to ask us to let her ride with us.She told us that if she could not have found any vehicle she was to return from where she started and come again next day to wait. She was neither irritated nor sounded frustrated. They accept such things quietly.

Deep down in the valley surrounded by high, emerald mountains sun smiles and the tranquil luminosity spreading over the far way homes fills the heart with peace. Looking at those few houses in wilderness I tend to think how the inhabitants of these houses set apart feel when dark nights descend in valley. Shadows of tall trees, high mountains loom large in pitch darkness. Don't they feel lonely? And then sun slides out from the shadowy clouds and smiles reassuringly to convey.... Night might be dark and long but I  shall come back  again and again to spread light and life.
 The transparent clouds glide and fill the valley with their dreamy existence. A bird calls somewhere and romance unfolds it's wings .

After that dreamy, melodious, romantic feel this cute innocent reality was no less endearing. There was this house on the side of the road.Three mothers with their kids were sitting on the green stretch in front of their home. We got down , spent some time with cuddly, cutie kids, shared toffies with them. looking at Sunder's camera with that long, big lens, the younger one ran to his mother. He was quite frightened but became comfortable after other kids came closer. Thank you kids for those precious moments of pure, unadulterated  joy.

After few miles we stopped at this small place for a cup of tea. the place was decorated all in bright purple and white-- the curtains, the flowers, the table covers. it was neat and clean and quite aesthetically decorated.
across that shop , on the other side of road was this small village. The lady walking on the road inside village is wearing traditional Nepali attire.
A picture perfect view of homes embosomed in clouds rising from valley while beyond the valley mountains laden with rows and rows of pines stood guard. So cozy and comforting they felt that I imagined myself sitting on a stool beside warm hearth, smelling the boiling soup and listening to some ages old folk lore from granny of the home, her toothless smile enlivening the greyness around.

Look at this cutie pie. He was playing around while his mother worked hard on road side. He was too astonished to find total strangers smiling at him. however later on with his mother's encouragement /cajoling and lots of smiling, talking from us he moved two steps towards us and extended his little plump hand .

Magnificent. formidable green barrier running miles and miles rising to kiss sky, innumerable waves of green hills one after another, clouds bathed in ethereal light rising from the glorious they looked.

The entire journey was a brilliant magical show orchestrated by clouds. At one stretch sparkling blue sky with white fluffy clouds appeared to be dancing on happy tune. Another turn and the sky laden with dark clouds looked down frowning in a threatening mood. but the greyish white sky with few streaks and patches of pale blue and bluish grey here and there looked meditative stirring up that reflective mood inside.

Pics by Sunder Iyer

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