The queen and the princess

#1 Oct 29th, 2017, 19:58
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#1
Everybody has some obsessions in life. For a Bengali, two are very common - food and travel. I am not also an exception. The later one, traveling, gives me not only pleasure but also lesson to lead a live. And this website along with some voluntary contributors inspires me to write a travelogue. So, here is another one. Sharing my experiences with all of you, which I had in Darjeeling, called as the queen of hills, with wife and daughter who is a princess to every father.
#2 Oct 29th, 2017, 21:45
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#2
The DiPuDa legacy and an overambitious plan

Digha, Puri and Darjeeling which are also known as DiPuDa are the favourite travelling destinations of most of the Bengalis. The reason is not only for being nice places but certainly for being to be planned and arranged within a short notice and can be covered within a short span. But the reality is bit different sometimes, if planned to go by train, hardly to get tickets in season – specifically during summer and puja vacation. The tickets of Puri Express and Darjeeling Mail are sold on the day opening. As I decided to visit Darjeeling just before Diwali (Kali Puja), had to buy tickets on the first day first hour of the opening. By that time some incidents happened in Darjeeling. Situation was bit unrest but I considered to be as usual. Strike in hills(Darjeeling) has become quite usual to me. So, I bought thickets of Darjeeling Mail for three of us as per my plan, when it opened – up and down both. After a couple of days, saw an advertisement in some website, for rooms in Bellevue hotel in a quite very descent rate. I bought for three days. After that the situation became bad, worse and then the worst. I had believe that as tourism is the major source of income in Darjeeling, considering the summer vacation the strike will be called off. But unfortunately it did not. It continued through the summer, giving me a bit of concern. Friends and family members were suggesting me to cancel the trip. But I did not, hoping for the resolution in Puja. But even couple of days before the Puja, the strike was not called off. Just a day before Puja, I enquired some other places as an alternative with some dampen spirit. Then it happened – the strike was called off. Ohh, what a relief. It was not for changing my plan but because of I desperately wanted to take my daughter to Darjeeling. My daughter, my princes will play on the Mall of Darjeeling, the queen of hills – it is a dream to me. This will be her first long journey, first long vacation with her parents, she will be in hills for the first time. Ohh god, you are there – atleast for her.
#3 Oct 29th, 2017, 23:08
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#3
Day 1

The adrenaline keeps me awake

As my flight to Kolkata from Pune was very early in the morning on 14th Oct, so I took the cab to come to the airport, past midnight the day before. When I entered into the airport, it seemed to me like Howrah Station. Not a place to sit, people are resting on the staircases! Is the whole city is travelling? Just before the journey a cancelled the return ticket from Darjeeling by train and bought three air tickets. Don’t know what will happen later. It is the Friday the 13th and midnight!

But nothing happened and I reached DumDum on time safely. My younger brother gave me a surprise, came to receive me with his would be. I had also a surprise to give my wife. After reaching home, went out for some last minute shopping for the travel. My wife depends on me packing and I relish it everytime whenever she praises about my skill. Packing is actually a skill. It becomes a niche skill when you are Bengali and travelling with a kid. So, I had to pack had to pack very cleverly because can’t disclose plan to surprise her. In the evening, packed my age old favourite for train journey – Alur Dom and Parota (Potato Curry and Fried roti). The train was at 10:05 p.m. from platform number 9 of Sealdah station.

Around 8:30 p.m. we set out for the journey and reached Sealdah on time. While we were waiting for the train, butterflies were flying in my stomach, don’t know how this trip will go. Around 9:45 p.m. the train entered into the platform. We walked towards the compartment and find our berths. Meanwhile I did not let the chance go to tease my wife by saying that she is moving faster than Dhouli Express which she generally boards to go to her hometown, Balasore.

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Waiting for the train

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At last it arrived

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We are three now - after eight years in Darjeeling Mail AC three tire

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We were two then - before eight years in Darjeeling Mail AC three tire

The co-passengers were very good and cooperative. On request by my wife one of them exchanged his berth. But I was bit nervous to let her sleep in middle berth. After all I am a father of a single child and certainly a true Bengali. But thanks to my daughter’s excitement. She opted for the side upper and called me to join. We managed to fit ourselves as juxtaposed. The excitement of this journey kept me energetic, may be due to the adrenaline effect and slept quite well during the journey.
Last edited by Satyabrata Sur; Oct 31st, 2017 at 12:15..
#4 Oct 30th, 2017, 00:45
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#4
Day 2

IST – Indian Stupid Time

Few years ago in my office, while waiting for the other trainees in a training, seeing the instructor watching the clock, I made a remark – Please be patient sir, It is Indian Stretchable Time. He replied, Indian Stupid Time. On 15th October morning, after 6 a.m. I woke up and found that our train is late by almost an hour. The Darjeeling Mail is late by an hour and without any major reason! Rather that the Bullet Train, the railway ministry should concentrate on safety and punctuality. If they are provided, half of the problem of all the passengers would be solved. But we live in the largest democratic country where punctuality is just a word in case of most of the services.

So, we arrived at NJP at 9 instead of 8 in the morning. My wife and daughter made some last minute preparation for the road journey. After walking down the long footbridge, on the exit I found the escalator. I took my daughter and the luggage, walked towards it fast, leaving my wife at a distance. She is afraid of escalator but I and my daughter enjoy it. After getting down of it, she reported that a fellow behind him fell upon her and I should have accompanied her. I just smiled. Sometimes I love to make her scarred and enjoy. In these years she has understood me. So, without much complain on my mischief, she followed us towards the cab stand.

I never took a cab from the prepaid booth in NJP. Neither this time either. Some drivers approached to me and after walking few steps I started to bargain. I made a deal with one of them @1600/- when they were saying the prepaid fixed rate is @1750/- which I did not check from the booth. Just two years back, it was @1200/- to Lepchajagat from NJP. But I was glad to see the red maruti small car and headed for the upward journey. It was 9:15 a.m.

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The replica of a Steam Engine at NJP
Last edited by Satyabrata Sur; Oct 31st, 2017 at 12:16..
#5 Oct 30th, 2017, 02:05
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#5
Entertaining write up, hoping for a continuation.
#6 Oct 30th, 2017, 09:57
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#6
Well written dada. Waiting for more.
#7 Oct 30th, 2017, 12:44
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#7
Through the gardens and clouds, accompanied by the track

As the journey begin, we took our warm clothes off. It is quite sunny and hot out there and it is a non-ac car. After one or two kilometers, the car entered into a petrol pump. The driver asked me for one thousand rupees for the fuel. I experienced this before. They do not take the full money in advance but ask to pay for the fuel. I handed over a pink note he returned four blue. On resuming the journey, within few minutes we crossed the Choumatha. I asked the driver which road he is going to take - Rohini or the main road. As expected, the reply was Rohini.

My wife was sitting beside the driver’s seat and putted on the sunglass. My daughter quickly decided to be on my lap to compensate her night sleep. It was like – “Begam Saheba aur unkey naukar (The queen and her servants)”. I knew, she was bit nervous to experience the mountain sickness. But I have uttered any word regarding that.

The traffic was becoming less and the speedometer indicator was slowly reaching three digits. Then the tracks joined us. Ahh, the Darjeeling flavour. Very soon I was very happy to spot a toy train. Oh, it resumed! I had thought about booking a ride through irctc, but constrained. “Now, I will get down at Darjeeling station and buy the tickets”, it came into my mind. Called my daughter and to see the toy train. I was more happy to show her, than she was to see.

The tracks joined us
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The toy train service resumed from Siliguri to Sukna

After few kilometres, the car took a left turn and entered into the Sukna Military Area. I like any military area because they are always clean, at least to my experience. I also think, every citizen should go through a military training course once in schooldays. At least to learn discipline and self-dependancy. The area is spread over three to four kilometres and leads to the tea garden.

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Sukna Military Area

At very young age, when giving accompany to my grandfather while shopping for the grocery, I was amazed to find an oil painting on the wall of the tea shop of our locality. My grandfather explained about the painting. It used to amaze everytime me, when I was young. Now, it is reality. We are passing through a tea garden. A breeze of wind was waving my hairs and a breeze of happiness was waving my mind, to see the greeneries. Small wait high tea plant bushes are being shaded by the threes. The sunshine was peeing through the trees, putting a blanket over the tea plants, warming the tea leaves pluckers who were having big buckets on their back.

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Through the tea gardens
#8 Oct 30th, 2017, 14:36
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#8
Passing through the ghost villages

The effect of strike disrupted the daily and was devastating for the local economy. Even after a week it was called off, on the hills, I found local people on the road rarely. Only few passenger cars were passing but with local people mainly. No tourist. Had no idea about the activities by the authorities, after the death of Amitava Malik, the SIP. I was wondering whether strike has again been called. It seemed to be that people have recently left the home and the villages have become ghost village.

As we had the breakfast around half past 8, decided to have a break for some light food after 11 and conveyed it to the driver. We crossed Kurseong after 10 a.m. I was glad to see the opened shops – the strike has not been reimposed. For the first time, I saw the toy train engines on the hills in this trip. They were stationed. Wife remarked that the service might have not resumed. But I came across a newspaper report during the train journey just a day before, which mentions that the toy train service has been resume. It created a confusion, whether it is running or not.

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After crossing Kurseong my daughter started feeling uncomfortable and the driver quickly responded according to the situation. She was coughing vigorously and started vomiting. I was feeling bit guilty by that time - whether I troubled her by bringing her in this trip. How she should react to the road trip was a concern to me. But soon realized that it was due to the effect of expectorants which had to be given for get rid of the cold she had caught. Washing her mouth and face gave some relief to her. We resumed our journey.

When the journey was just for a couple of hours, our driver stopped the car in front of small shop cum restaurant. We rejuvenated ourselves by having chicken momo, egg Omelette and tea. The hot tea even fail to fight against the cold and we had to put on some sweaters before resuming the journey around 11:45. By that time the sky was covered with clouds and few were passing through our way. My daughter was sleeping in my arms, me and my wife was just remembering the last trip to Darjeeling.

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Chichen momo @50/-

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Preparing for the last leg of the journey
#9 Oct 30th, 2017, 14:59
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#9
The road ends here for me

It was quarter passed noon when I passed Darjeeling station. Found all the engines and compartments are resting there. No sign of any kind of any prior or future movement. No passengers, no steam, no whistle. I dropped the idea to get down and buy tickets. Within two minutes, our car winded up through the road and reached Chourasta, the nearest point to Mall. We got down from the car and bid a goodbye to the driver.

I was really glad see opened shops and the people around. This trip won’t dishearten me – I consoled my lightly dampen enthusiasm. I slowly started walking up the road, towards the hotel. My wife was struggling keep the breath and pace. I had booked Bellevue hotel. It was one of the two most nearest hotel to the Mall. Keventers and Glenary’s were beckoning me. I dodged and reached the hotel in ten five minutes.
#10 Oct 30th, 2017, 16:07
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#10
Bellevue is Belfast

In my last trip I stayed in Bellevue hotel. Actually there are three hotels - Bellevue Hotels, Bellevue Heritage and Main Bellevue Hotel. I might not have mentioned the exact names, but they were something like that. They are in a row. I had opted for the middle one.

Upon arriving at reception, showed the booking confirmation on my mobile. This device has become very useful nowadays during travel. The manager asked the hotel boy to escort us to the rooms. But I was not happy at all. There were almost no visitor and plenty of vacant rooms. I went back to manager and demanded for the first floor mall facing corner room. He mentioned that as I have booked a budget room through the agency, I may have to pay some more. I agreed and went to check out the room. On finding the desired room not occupied, rushed to the manager through the wooden corridor and staircases. He gave me a relief by saying – It is also a budget room and not booked. You can get it without any extra money. Ahh, god is there. My wife was happy to find herself to find herself in room from where the mall is visible. I was more than happy to show my daughter the horses are resting on the mall. Everything is going as per my plan as of now. Bellevue hotel seemed to me Belfast, the city of Northern Ireland.

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#11 Oct 30th, 2017, 16:11
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#11
Uh oh!

Attachments missing!
Sar Pass Trek , Rohtang, Munnar, Badrinath Kedarnath, Vaishnodevi, Goa, VOF, Kedarkantha, Kuari Pass, Brahmatal Trek
#12 Oct 30th, 2017, 16:14
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#12
I am struggling to insert the images in Portrait format
#13 Oct 31st, 2017, 12:11
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#13
Finding a solution to fill up the tanks

It took us just half-an-hour to take the shower and change clothes. Could not wait much to be out. I came out of the hotel with my wife and daughter to have lunch. I used have meals in a Bengali restaurant just after the stable at Mall. This time found it is closed. Doors are open but no service. To my surprise found some funeral ritual is going on. Came to know that husband of the owner couple has passed away. I went to the next one. It is on the first floor. A lady has been running it for the last one year. There are not many tourists, mainly a group of local students came to hang out there. Though the ambience was not of a typical restaurant but considering their hospitality and the fact that my daughter need to have a proper lunch, I ordered two veg thalis @80/-. They were kind enough to customize the dishes for my daughter who cannot have hot curry. The students were singing and dancing on the floor and we just adjusted ourselves.

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The entrance of the restaurant

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The customers waiting for the ffood

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The humble staffs


On the lap of the queen

After getting the energy back, we came to Mall, my obsession in north Bengal. This is like Puri beach. At Puri beach, even you do not do anything, just sit back leisurely and watch the waves, a couple of hours will pass by without realisation. Similarly, sitting on the wooden bench of the mall, watching the pigeons, horses with kids on their backs, kids playing around, vendors with balloons and bubble makers, under clear blue sky - it takes almost an hour for me to realise that time is passing by.

My plan for the afternoon was to spend the time on mall and visit the Mahakal Mandir. So, after spending an hour on mall, we walked up to the mandir. My is always amazed to see these pilgrimages – so neat and clean. She was gasping for breath while I was teasing her for being behind me and my daughter. We had not brought water. It is a mistake in hills, I recon. But drinking water was available there. We came down with Prasad.

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Mahakal Mandir

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One with head and no branches, another has branches but no head


The hanging mandir, Ring Road

After spending half-an-hour at Mahakal Mandir. We decided to have a stroll on the ring road. On the way, I heard a vendor by the road making a comment on the movement by the local political party and strike, in a very distressful voice. They are the worst hit. Felt pity for them.

Just after few yards beneath, the mighty Kanchanjangha unfolded its beauty on sunset. “Look, what a beauty”, I almost shouted. My wife did not let the chance to go to tease me back, “And you wanted leave me at hotel”. “I just wanted you to have rest after the journey”, I tried to defend myself and her reply with a typical tone of a Bengali envious housewife, “rest or something else!”. The staged up fight could not last for long. We came to a resting spot, sat on the bench and started watching the beautiful amazing scene with a cup of hot tea – the last light of the day on the peaks of Kanchanjangha. On our way back, found the vendors are wrapping up for the day and some of them were asking for some items even though it was dark. They are desperate to earn some money. We dodged them and cam to our hotel and ordered for a cup of milk for my daughter

The rest of the evening was uneventful. We visited the same restaurant after 8 p.m. for dinner. But this time, my wife noticed some people were drinking and smoking. We wrapped up quickly and came back to hotel.

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Last edited by Satyabrata Sur; Nov 5th, 2017 at 15:33..
#14 Oct 31st, 2017, 22:31
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#14
Day 3

Morning shows the day – to be proven later

In my last two visits in Darjeeling, I did not get a chance to occupy a seat Keventer's. This time I was ready before 9. When my daughter was done with breakfast, we quickly hit Keventer's. Voila, we got seats. To be more specific, only one table was occupied. Now I became bit confused. This is something like boarding a local passenger train during peak hours and getting a chance to sit. Has it opened for service? The waiter confirmed. It is nothing but due to the effect of strike. Very less people is visiting Darjeeling and lesser is eating at Keventer's. On the way to it, I had bought a newspaper. I ordered for some food and coffee. Soon it arrived. The scene was perfect – newspaper, breakfast and tea with family. I started thinking, whether will I be able to execute all the plans at ease like this. Let’s see – told to myself and told my wife that Zoo will be our next hop.

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#15 Nov 4th, 2017, 11:46
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#15
Cleanliness is next to godliness

After coming out of Keventer’s, I was approached by a cab driver for sightseeing. I was eager to cover the zoo and ride on the ropeway as well. But the driver disappointed me by telling me that the ropeway is still under maintenance which had become inevitable as it was not been operating due to the strike. I lamented on the condition of the local common people, how badly they have being suffering during these ninety days. We made a deal with the driver to visit the visit @500/- for up & down.

Many years ago, while travelling by Metro in Kolkata, I noticed a line in one display board in the compartment – “Cleanliness is next to godliness”. It took days to understand and months to realise the meaning. If anyone goes to the zoo in Darjeeling and compares with the zoo of Kolkata, it would not take more than a moment. Thank god, it is not much old and people are enthusiastic as well as disciplined to maintain the cleanliness. I was keen to see sparkling in the eyes of my daughter, ono seeing the birds and animals. She was happy but not amazed much. She is only five and does not realize the beauty and rareness of these animals. It was my fault, I expected much.

It was late morning and most of the animals were active except the national one. He was just lay back mood and was lying on the floor of his room. This is the second time I visited this zoo and this time i visited the museum. It is worth a
visit. After spending almost a couple of hours in the zoo, we called the driver to go back to hotel and made a deal for visiting Batasia Loop @500/-.

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