Darjeeling - Part 2

Next day we were supposed to go on sightseeing around the town, but we cancelled it and chose to roam around by foot.
The sky was clear and sunny and there was chill in the air. Our first plan was to pay a visit to Keventer's, the famous restaurant of Darjeeling. It was just across the street from out hotel and we decided to have breakfast there.



The place opened at 8 and when we entered it was almost empty. There was a counter on the ground floor and the restaurant was on the first floor. We headed to the stairs. There were two types of sitting arrangement. You could either sit inside or outside in the terrace. People mostly preferred the terrace due to the breathtaking view and free sunbath. We went out to the terrace and occupied a large table. The tables and chairs appeared to be very ancient as they were made of iron and were quite heavy. Due to clear weather, we could spot Mt. Kanchenjungha quite easily. She was sparkling under the bright sunlight. Very soon our order arrived at our table. I ordered meatloaf, egg, toast and black coffee. The coffee was superb, but the meat loaf failed to meet my expectation. It was too oily and tasted more like fried chicken.




After breakfast we started walking towards the mall. The town wasn't fully awake yet. Half the shops were still closed. Although the streets were full of people - locals, tourists, school goers. As always, I was watching local people, especially women with utmost curiosity and admiration. Majority of people were Nepalese here. The Nepalese were mostly Hindus unlike the Lepchas and Sikkimese who were Buddhists. But one thing was quite common among all here as well. They were all beautiful and impeccably dressed.


This little guy played with me trying to scratch my boots and jumping into my lap on our way to the mall
When we reached mall it was already crowded with tourists and local people. Mall is a large pedestrian only promenade in the middle of the town. There was a open air theatre in the midst and a large golden statue of famous Nepalese poet Bhanubhakta.



Darjeeling was under the rule of the Chogyal of Sikkim until early 19th century. The plains around the area were taken by the Nepalese Gorkha people. After years of battle with the Gorkhas, the Chogyal finally ceded Darjeeling as well as the Terai region to them. But the pleasure of victory soon proved to be short lived for the Gorkhas as the British came in the picture in no time. The Anglo-Gorkha war took place in 1814 and the Gorkhas were defeated by the British in the end. In 1815, a treaty named Sugauli Treaty was signed between the British and the Gorkhas according to which the Gorkhas gave up the region to the Chogyal that had been previously annexed by them. The British reinstated the Chogyal of Sikkim and ensured the sovereignty of Sikkim. Then around twenty years later the British East India Company negotiated a lease with the Chogyal to establish a sanatorium for the British army in Darjeeling. Everything was going on fine until 1849 when British East India Company Director Arthur Campbell and botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker were caught and imprisoned by the Chogyal. This ended in a dispute and later a battle between the Chogyal and the BEIC which resulted in the final annexation of the entire area east of the Tishta river by the British. By 1866, the area that consisted of today's Darjeeling became annexed by the BEIC. It was Arthur Campbell who was the man behind the entire process of turning into a backward hilly region into a hill station. The general climate of India was intolerable for the British race; the life expectancy of those people used to fall drastically once they touched the soil of India. Scorching heat coupled with several incurable diseases led them to die even before they hit thirty. These hill stations were their only way to stay alive.
I am not one of the 'British favouring' people (People who praise the British era in India at every opportunity they get. Mostly old people.), but sometimes I look around and find myself praising the British in spite of myself. Yes it is true whatever good they had done to our country was for their own purpose and they definitely took more than they gave us, but still I think their invasion in our country brought about many positive changes in the long run. I cannot even imagine myself living in Calcutta under strict Nawabi rule. Perhaps we would have ended up like one of those middle eastern countries where there is no freedom for women in the society. I am thankful to the ancestors of Harry Potter for this at least. Coincidentally I am an alumni of the Asia's first women's college, which was founded by a British. So I was standing in front of the massive Darjeeling post office building and once again discovered myself appreciating the race and their taste. The post office building and the municipality office building in the middle of the town dated back to the colonial era. The massive Victorian structures bore the sign of the forefathers of the hill station who had once come to live here to find some solace in the cool, comforting lap of the Kanchenjungha.

Darjeeling Municipal Office
We decided to have lunch at Glenary's, another famous place to eat in Darjeeling. The restaurant was located on the first floor, a large hall with wooden floor. A massive fireplace was located at the end of the hall with a wooden mantelpiece above it. The fireplace was lit and the hall felt comfortably warm in the chilly afternoon.





                                                                                                                    To be continued.

p.s. Sorry for having vanished for such a long time. I was suffering from writer's block (read procrastination).

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