All the cliche sayings were turning out to be true.
Majestic, eternal, mighty, the most magnificent.
We had to cross the width of Nepal to get to Uttrakhand from Sikkim. In transition, we entered and crossed a part of West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and finally we would enter Uttrakhand. We were very eager to cross West Bengal as fast as possible. It is one of the dirtiest state we’ve ever visited, there was trash, dirt and dust everywhere. The landscapes are beautiful if you can look past all the garbage that exists in plain sight.
Once, when I wanted to get rid of all the empty water bottles that we had collected over the previous day. I gathered it all up and asked a watchman who was sitting nearby, for a dustbin. He looked around and shrugged; “Throw it anywhere.” He said. The traffic gave Naveen a severe case of road rage, most of the roads were undone and muddy, which gave our car quite a workout. People were just generally spitting and peeing all over the place. How can anything improve when there is no love shown towards it? Naveen and I felt unhappiness looming over everyone. They were unhappy with their food, their land, with each other and everyone around.
Once we escaped from West Bengal, we entered the infamous Bihar. I didn’t want to think much of it. But my poor mother’s BP touched the roof when I told her we were going to cross through. And why wouldn’t it? All the stories of Laalu’s notorious jungle raj that exists could scare anyone. But once we entered the state and crossed by the small villages, we felt it was peaceful. Of course, we were the object of everyone’s stares and judgement. But, we had to look past that. Bihar was a lot cleaner than West Bengal but the infrastructure was one of the worst. We had to go around at least three bridges that were broken in half and cross one of the most rickety bridges to get into Patna, the capital. We were stuck in a traffic jam on that bridge for about two hours before entering Patna city and the bridge was narrow enough to only have two lanes, one incoming and the other, outgoing. The bridge felt weak under the weight of all the vehicles. Each time the bus in front of us moved, the street lamp shook and the bridge literally groaned. Everyone stuck on the bridge could only pray that it wouldn’t collapse.
Uttar Pradesh was hot. The sun was beating down on us without mercy. Piercing through the glass and burning our skin to our bone. We missed the cold Sikkim weather. We stopped for the day at a small town, Gorakhpur, a couple hours before the capital city of Lucknow. Naveen, being the true blue south Indian boy, got excited looking at a couple of dosa points in the town. (But, he was disappointed. I wasn’t surprised.) Gorakhpur, a small town with all the makings of a big city, a mall in the city center, couple friendly hotels, designer brand stores, good restaurants. But it is remarkably crowded with vehicles, people, cows and dogs. We were out of the town before we could get stuck in worse traffic.
We reached Lucknow on the eve of Holi. Rightfully named the city of Nawabs, the city is wonderful with wide, clean roads and beautiful buildings. But to our unfortunate luck, the entire city was shut for the festival of colours. Though we saw a very few people of the city covered in colours, there was very little traffic, which made Naveen very, very happy. We crossed the beautiful city in less than an hour. What upset me was that I didn’t get to taste the amazing Lucknowi food, which I was so looking forward to.
Driving through the heat again, we were now eight hours away from reaching Bhimtal in Uttrakhand. We were so eager to see the mountains, get away from the heat and feel the cold mountain air on our skin.
And just like that, our Sikkim journey came to an end.
When we had to say our goodbyes to the Sherpas, I thought it was would be a polite goodbye. Similar to like how our goodbyes was with the Limboo family. We were all packed when Jamuna asked us to wait for five minutes. We didn’t mind, the sun was out, the garden was in full bloom, we used the time to do some sunbathing. God knows we needed it.
Jamuna came bumbling from around the corner holding two silk scarves, khatas, usually given during special occasions or during the arrival or departure of guests. She put it around our necks, wished us a safe and happy journey, she told us to take care of each other and keep loving each other even when the times got tough and asked us to keep in touch with Pema and her.
I am generally not one for hugging and sentimentality but at that moment, I was so full emotion, I immediately wrapped my arms around her and pulled her into a tight hug. She patted my back and with a wide smile, she said, “Take care, see you soon, nameste.”
And so, we were in our car and on our way out of Sikkim.
Thank you Sikkim, thank you for everything. Thank you for your people, your food, your water, your land, your mountains, your air, your sunshine, your peace. As soon we were out of Sikkim, we wanted to turn back. But, there were places to see, more adventures to go on, more stories to live. We couldn’t get so attached to a place.
But one thing we were sure of, though we had to leave Sikkim, we didn’t have to leave the mountains behind. So, we made our way to Uttrakhand – the land of the Gods.
Sikkim – in pictures.
Due to unforeseen events, we had to stay in West Bengal for three days more than what we had planned for. For most part, it was good. We managed to find comfortable stay, warm food and places to explore.
One of the places we stayed at was a small forest lodge in Dooars, near the Gorumara forest. The forest was surrounded by small towns and unlike the residents of bigger towns and cities, people of this place were curious but not nosy, they were fascinated by us but their stares didn’t make us feel like aliens. They were polite and indifferent.
Witnessing the sunrise, listening to elephants trumpeting from the forest and riding the toto – something like an autorickshaw – through the small towns are some of the memories that will always stay with us from this place.
Everything about this stay in West Bengal was unexpected and isn’t that what traveling is about?
When on the road, unexpected situations and infinite possibilities throw themselves in your way and how you choose to work with it is how you make or break your travels.
I guess. that’s the takeaway we learnt from this episode.
To keep breathing,
to keep blinking,
to keep beating.
From rushing to running to jumping to walking to riding to flying to swimming to floating to drowning.
To keep laughing,
to keep loving,
to keep living.
From eating, to drinking, to singing, to dancing, to painting, to crying, to chasing, to missing the midnight curfew.
To keep dreaming,
to keep sleeping,
to keep wondering
From fucking to making love to losing it to search for it to find it to lose it again, to fall, to rise, to do everything to keep that high.
To and from. From and to.
It is to move