I do not know from when I had fallen in love with Darjeeling.
I cannot place a precise time frame from when I had yearned for that place. It was also not the first hill station to be visited by me. In fact, I had already traveled through Jammu and Kashmir and had seen Mussorie. They were splendid hill stations but my mind somehow wandered towards Darjeeling. Blame it on the Feluda stories, which started from Darjeeling or on the wonderful songs of Anjan Dutta weaving dreamy tales about it – both are my favourites—Darjeeling always stood out. Always!!!!!
I visited Darjeeling for the first time in 1992, when I had just completed college and Darjeeling had just recovered from a rather bloody phase of unrest. The feeling of waiting to see my beloved was so overwhelming that I scarcely noticed any thing on the three and half hour journey from Siliguri.
Then after Ghoom, when the car turned one more S-curve on the road, there loomed she – the queen of the hills.
Four days of intoxication followed – intoxication of colours, smell, peace and -----, I don’t know what else. I came back happy to have whetted my thirst for the place. There was satiety in having known my beloved so closely and there was hunger for more – much more. And not even the fact that I could not get a single glimpse of Kanchenzonga during that period of stay could take away my happiness!!
I have visited Darjeeling about 8 to 10 times after that and my thirst refuses to get quenched. These days I know the curves of the Hill Cart road so well that I can even drive in the night. I have a crush on the hot chocolate and sausage breakfast of Keventers. I love the liquor chocolates of Glennarys. I have another affair with the Joeys Pub. I love to wake up early and take a walk around the Observatory hill as the Majestic Kanchenzonga looms in the front and takes a bath in the light of the rising sun. I love taking lonely walks around the tea gardens. I love watching the Blue Toy Train making its meandering progress. I love sitting upon the observatory hill, watching the sun set in the distance. But best of all, I love to sit lazily on one of the green benches in the Mall, doing absolutely nothing as hordes of people move around.
I know that crass consumerism is eating away at my beloved. I know the various struggles of recognition by various sects have eroded the Buddha like calm of the place. I know that the visiting throngs have denuded away the water reserve of the place. I know that the knowing population speaks highly of other places like Kurseong, Pelling, Ravangla and Sikkim.
But can you do away with your beloved and look for new love just because your love of your life has fallen ill? Does a love affair look into physical deformity?