The light at times is so bright i am unable to see, temporarily blind, until the next corner leads back to dull grey nothing. Penetrated by short sharp bursts.
Window pains clean before being crystallised by sunrise; before the black comes and the earth turns seven A. M. black.
The late September brings leather mittens and shell toes, a year since the mountains rocked high in Sikkim, splitting around us. My body hurts just thinking about it.
Pound shops and immature breath replace landslides and the almighty Himalaya. A different kind of dread.
You can’t relax with it, i can’t relax without it.
Where do we fit without fear? Inhale – Exhale – Exhale Inhale.
Nothing everything. Internal external. Dread panic nothing.
Mogal Shari station was hell; only because of the amount of time we spent there due to miss information from our previous hoast. Sitting moving sitting moving. Watching rats trot around our feet and a woman of maybe twenty-six trying to look after her four children, who obviously need the platform as their home. Sharing a pice of bread and a plastic sheet as a bed. Truly truly heartbreaking. A man of around thirty-six with a figure to die for and an out of control Indian salsa aesthetic about him, wandering around and eating out of bins, quietly doing his thing, not asking for anything, just being the only way he could.
In many ways i empathise with the indian prime minister but jesus fucking christ, something needs to change to help these people. India is so light but so dark. The more i learn the harder it gets, however i feel i will visit forever.
The train finally arrived several hours late and waiting for us in the carriage was a lovely indian lady. I will call her Auntyji as her name escapes me. Originally from a Hindu family in the Andaman Islands. She was so keen to find out if i was Christian and discuss her transition from what she called a mystic religion to Jesus Christ her lord – a god who came down to earth to save sinners. Auntyji studied as a doctor, with the intention of opening a nursing home and making her fortune, however Jesus lead her to Leprosy. She said Jesus took her to people who needed her. People who are just left to suffer. We discuss corruption within indian society before sleeping and saying goodnight. Her religion lead her to this life and changed it for the better. A life of compassion and kindness.
So Siliguri was our mid-destination point after twelve hours on the train and a good nights sleep. Easy. A four-hour jeep ride into the lower Himalaya and we arrive in Darjeeling. Finding a room wich feels like a 1970’s london bed sit, not updated since the 30’s, bar a lick of paint and, actually that’s it! The view from the window is mountains, clouds, an ageing colonial get away with Nepal forty miles away. Rosin Murphy is playing through our kindly donated speaker system and i am high high high. Bliss. Peace, space and retro calm.
Wondering and wondering, sleep and wandering the streets of and old, clean town that does not feel like India. One moment hot sun, the next lashing cool rain, enveloped by cloud. I keep thinking i should be doing something more spiritual than eating veg burgers and roller skating around dilapidated colonial gymkhana buildings, but when i am ready India’s spirit will catch me. Is roller skating a meditation?
So we have acquired a fifteen day permit to visit Sikkim, high in the Himalaya. We leave Sunday morning as there is something so lovely about starting a new week in a new city. So much better than the boring walk to work.
This morning we took a cab up into the tea estates. Two surprising things happened….
1. Upon looking over the clear sky, over the clouds the snow-capped peak of the worlds third highest mountain was just sitting there. Milles away but right in front of our faces. So beautiful almost unreal.
2. The second was a rather drunk local who was perched amongst the tea bushes with a bag of fancy dress. Sixty five english pence and we were there. Clad in traditional tea picking outfits we required no encouragement to place ourselves amongst the tea and work the camera. The most ridiculous thing to happen so far. Glorious silly fun.
Darjeeling is a great place to chill out and i fully recommend it, especially if your British! Its clean, old, new, modern. Poor and extremely rich. Tomorrow we leave and i always remember in passing its beautiful quite charm.
Post Earthquake……( See previous blog )
The flight to Calcutta is booked. I know i am not ready to leave India but post earthquake it feels like the right thing to do. I hate to desert her when the days are hard, but i will be back. Another quake could effectively strike anywhere in Asia and leaving India with the idea of being safe is stupid. At some point what i have experienced over the last few days will hit me, or i will just carry on as normal, breathing and being grateful of that breath just a little bit more than i have done previously. So glad we made it. Next stop ( post Kolkata ) – Bangkok!
I have not brushed my teeth for three days, but why would i when i am in the middle of an earthquake? The journey from Darjeeling took an un-expected turn. Not so un-expected if you have read previous posts. The jeep started shaking but on reflection it was not the jeep but the earth, the cliffs, the Himalaya. Everyone was on the streets. Indian women in their night wear, masses of rock falling from above onto the roads, onto cars, onto people from the soaring mountains above our heads. Jeeps stopping and piling up.Nothing going anywhere fast apart from the bottle of rum down our throats. Darkness, headlights, people everywhere. Landslides, panic, fear; all perched on a thin piece of mountain road between falling boulders and a massive drop into the river to our right. The air was full of collective fear and uncertainty. Wether tourist or indian we were in the same position. We painted our nails and sang as a distraction from dread.
Standing on the road we could do nothing but stand.We were taken in by a family to what i think was the good room; full of plastic floral arrangements and soft toys. 6.9 on Richter Scale. We were given a mattress, tea and ginger snaps. I stuck to rum. All i thought was if we were going to die at least we would die together. I tried to call my parents and my best friends but the network was down.As the rooster called and the light came in i looked around, saw us all lying there and was so grateful that my eyes were open. It’s all still so raw and i cry as i type.
We took the risky drive to Gangtok. Rather civilised for an Indian city, but it was hard to see the beauty amongst the panic. We just sat tight ( with more rum ) whilst the rest of the city were on the street. A taxi back down the same road, heading towards Darjeeling could not have been more different from heading north two days earlier. The way up was beautiful. Mountains and sweeping valleys. Perfectly placed clouds. The return was landslides, the army, the road deconstructing around us. For me this was more scary than the previous night when the quake stuck and we rode the tremors. Cars falling from the road into the river below, sections of road being cleared before we pass and the threat of a landslide at any minute. My heart was in my mouth continuously for six hours. We made it to flat ground and i prayed to god with thanks. My heart breaks for the people who did not make it.