June 8, 2017 – Winding up our site-seeing, we reached our cosy hotel-with-a-view in Gangtok from Lachung in Sikkim. Our intent was to shop, laze around, relax in the night, devour a leisurely breakfast buffet the next morning, drive down back to Bagdogra, and fly back home in the evening. In Gangtok, we heard murmurs of violence in Darjeeling, West Bengal. An agitation was brewing against the alleged imposition of Bengali language on the locals.
We were advised to leave early the next day to catch our flight from Bagdogra. Later that evening, at MG Road, jam packed with tourists, the atmosphere was tense. People enquired about the proclaimed bandh on June 9, and asked if they should drive back to Bagdogra in the night, instead of the morning. Tourists queued up at ATMs. It was difficult to get into the narrow offices of any of the cab-services providers.
Far from civilization, in extreme weather conditions, no connectivity, living each day in disciplined rhythm, probably the soldiers also wait for the colourful, boisterous tourists to arrive at their sentinel!
Literally, the last frontier for civilian vehicles, the Zero Point, Yumthang in North Sikkim, just 15 km from the China border, is your chance to see and touch remnants of the winter snow, in the month of June. The area is barren but the treacherous journey is picturesque, the eternal romance of the mountains and clouds changing colors and tactics on alpine slopes. Sometimes you can see the blush of pink mountain flowers, many times the rugged energy of a river breaking down the mountain, rock by rock, stone by stone!
Tourists follow the serpentine rugged roads to reach the cold altitude of 15000 feet. They stand in awe at what is the edge of a certain part of the country and they cross a rickety plank bridge to touch the crumbling snow. In winter months, travelers engage in snow ball fights in rented gear!
Photo highlight – Freezing temperature and the husband carrying snow across the plank bridge, in his hands so that the children could hold it!
Tiny tots like him walk to school on weekdays with siblings, trotting dangerously along the edge. It is scary but they look unperturbed, their cheeks red under the clear mountain sun.
The month of June brings back memories of summer vacations and travels to lands far and fair. In June 2017, our family of 3 went to Sikkim with family friends and relatives. I took notes on my phone, posting them along with pictures on my Facebook page. I bring them out here to share impressions that stay forever.
Lachen Monastery, Sikkim
We were soaking in the blue skies, admiring the mountains, and the peace, letting our prayers flutter in the wind, along with the prayer flags.
The Window Seat is a collection of articles by journalist Supriya Sharma as she undertakes a 2,500-kilometer train journey across India. The compilation is available on the scroll.in site and is aptly complemented by photos from this vast stretch of land as it readies itself to vote in the 2015 Indian elections. In this blog piece, I look at a few key elements that emerge after reading the compilation. It is a satisfying and insightful read but most importantly it is a compelling work.