Thursday, November 10, 2016

Stimulating Sikkim ( part 1)

Razen Manandhar




It is as if my old love is attached with Sikkim. I fell in love with that distant hilly town long before I knew how to distinguish between love and hate, some 18 years ago. I naturally become nostalgic. Even a flickering fancy of touching the pleasant earth of Sikkim once again gave me tickling pleasure. An excursion to Sikkim with some Esperantists (speakers of Esperanto) from different countries, mainly from France and Germany, was organized in November 16th to 26th, 2013.

Series of procrastinations took us to the date of historic election of Constituent Assembly. What to choose? Either utilizing right to vote and participating in this important event or roaming around refreshing Sikkim, talking with international friends in Esperanto - choosing one is not easy thing.

Everyday I read the newspapers, listened to the radio or watched the TV. I found the same - same parties, same manifestos and old dry speeches. They were not giving what the people sought, and the people were not ready to accept what they had in their hands. Those who should have come up and should have brought what the people needed failed to make a height. After all, only the thing will take place what the foreign forces want – this is my country. Our duty is only to flatter an old pair of sun and moon in the air. I made my determination -- that would not cast my vote this time also. At the time of previous election, I was assigned to report from Khoplng, the village of Dr. Baburam Bhattarai. Now, I'm free to boycott. Either somebody is coming or not, I decided to go to Sikkim, so that I would escape possibility of smearing my own face with insult. I said - I'm going to my Sikkim.

We had nine guests, from France and Germany, all speakers of Esperanto, the international language. As per our notifications, all guests arrived on November 13th. Amid protests, strikes and bomb blasts, they went to Baudhha, Taudaha and Chobhar, enjoyed the traditional dance of Katti Pyakhan and on the second they, they went to Hanumandhoka palace, Changunarayan temple and Bhaktapur. Being with them, talking with them, and telling them about history and culture of Kathmandu - this is Esperanto.

Telling that I was going to Sikkim in Facebook brought to me some pretty jobs - I was supposed to take some gifts to my friends of friends in Sikkim. Mostly books, from Shakya Suren, Raja Shakya, Shashikala Manandhar and Bhishma Upreti were to be taken there. In fact, I will be carrying a bunch of love for Newars of Sikkim. Short conversation with Surendra Pradhan, Meena Pradhan and Rajiv Shankar was going on, thanks to Facebook.

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I was standing in the domestic lounge of Tribhuwan Airport on November 16th. It was a cool morning. Time has changed but it was an unchanged heritage of Nepal. I guess Nepal government should draw fee from tourists even for observing this dilapidated lounge. I saw more things for cargo than passengers. As there was no herald of development and people have made a habit of depending on foreign goods, those who carry Nepali citizenship have no other option than waiting for airplanes even for their daily needed good. From noodles to beer, onion and toilet paper -- all have to fly in Nepal. And we now and again sing the same old song that there will be development in all corners, from Mechi to Mahakali.

Forty-five minutes of flight took us to Bhadrapur, Jhapa. It was as hot as fire is flowing in the wind. The vehicle we have ordered took us to Kakarbhtta border. Nepali border was all right. But it took around two hours get arrival stamp on nine tourists who have already obtained visa in their respective countries. That was the reason we asked repeatedly all guests to obtain Indian visa before they leave their country. Rule is rule.

We had a late lunch at a beautiful motel in Motel in Silguri and our Toyota 4hd vehicles were plying along the Tista river. Tista was flowing outside and Bagmati was flowing inside me. How can I just forget my beautiful city? The road along the hill was being widened. Never-ending pairs of hairpin bends - there was roaring river down and when you look up, you see cliff rising to the height of the sky. Mind was excited to see Sikkim, but tour vehicles were heading in a tortoises' speed. At least I thought like that. It was just like Angulimala was running after the Buddha.

What is this Sikkim? Guru Padma Sambhava had said all about it. The royal dynasty of Chogyals established it established in 1642. At times, it was a target of Nepal and at times it became the bull's eye of the British empire too. They say that the country was not developed when it was ruled by the Chogyals. And the British government took charge of protecting it. Development made speedy height after it turned into a state of India in 1975, people of Sikkim often tell us this perspective of history. Yes, after that, it witnessed a rapid development. It requires people's will, commitment of the leaders and location strategic importance for development of a state.

It as almost dark when we reached Rangpo Checking Point. Even though Sikkim is India, all foreign visitors need "inner-line permit" to enter Sikkim. Nepali citizens also need. I've been here two times but I never sought, neither they checked me up. I was in local buses and nobody cared if I was a Sikkimese or not. But now, it is not possible, I was in an "imported" vehicle with foreigners. The officers in the point made permission for me too. It took more than one hour there for us to be permitted to enter Sikkim. 

I friend of mine was supposed to wait for me at bus park. Now, it was clear that it would not be possible to see him today. So, took cellphone of the driver to tell him that I would meet him next morning.

It was 8.30 pm when our vehicles stopped in front of the hotel. The alley was quiet, dark and also cold. Fatigue, sleepiness and darkness killed my curiosity to greet Gangtok. I dragged my baggage and myself to the room. I didn't even look how it looked. I could not see the building and don't even know the name. Yes, I saw name - Hotel De La Mare - somewhere.

The room was gloomy. The light was insufficient to read a book. We three Nepalis accommodated ourselves in one room. An unbearable cold shower made me fresh.

We distributed caps to all foreign guests. It was quite comfortable to fight breeze. Impatiently we waited for the dinner. When it came, it came in good shape and also was delicious enough to kill my hunger.

We had jolly dinner in a long dining table downstairs. I had no idea of the engineering of the house. Houses in hillside always have complicated structures. Just like my mind at that time, quite complicated.


[to be continued...]

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