Sikkim Revisited/1

When I announced the news to my mother the first reaction of her was, “Sikkim? Again?” I tried to explain that Sikkim is a big state and we were going to explore a different region this time. I lied to my mother. I indeed went back to the same places I had been before. How could I not? What I did not tell her that, one never gets tired of going back where they truly belong. For me, Sikkim is home, for some inexplicable reason that is beyond the comprehension of anyone with little or no imagination.

It was drizzling when we finally reached Gangtok on 24th evening. This time I thought of staying at a place a little away from M G Marg – the promenade that is the heart of the town. No sooner we settled in our room it started pouring heavily. As if the rain was welcoming us with all its vigor. My spirit was dampened a little but the stubborn optimist in me was telling me that as long as there was a tomorrow, there was always the hope for things to improve.

I woke up early next morning. Early enough for someone whose normal timing is 9 o’ clock in the morning. If one reason was the unfamiliar bed then the other would be the unfortunate location of our room. The room was facing the main street and the sound of traffic was not something that would help one to have a peaceful, uninterrupted sleep.

The first thing I did after waking up was clamber off the bed and peep out of the window. No, the rain had not stopped. But surprisingly my spirit took an upward hit. Well, we are here to spend a good vacation aren’t we? So we are going to do it anyway. So we started our day with Baker’s Café. This is a place that I had been to on my first trip to Sikkim and since then I never stopped thinking about it. The bell at the door, the wooden interior, the smell of freshly baked muffins hit your nose the very moment you step in – everything was sculpted in my memory like it had happened yesterday. Baker’s Café was blissfully empty when we got in. We went and occupied my favourite table right away – the corner one facing the mountains.

I had a fair idea about the sightseeing spots of Gangtok so I suggested leaving out a few and exploring only the actually important ones. It was Sunday so the museums were closed. Rumtek Monastery was the only available option. The rain was showing no sign of stopping anytime soon either. The distant mountains were covered in veil of clouds.

Rumtek Monastery is situated a bit far off the main town and car is the only option. Luckily, there was hardly any tourist to be seen other than us and plenty of cabs were available. Our cab driver Arun was a young guy with a big round face and boyish smile. I was feeling excited inwardly; after all it was Rumtek that had piqued my interest in Tibetan Buddhism. It was still raining and sometimes the road was becoming so foggy that nothing was visible ahead.

The scene that greeted us upon our arrival was not what we had expected to see. The rain had just stopped. The drenched courtyard was gleaming under the sky that had just started clearing up. And the temple was swarming with a large group of village people most likely from our beloved neighbour state. Their untrained, uncivilised kids were running about inside the temple like a bunch of little vermin. The adults were conversing at the top of their voice. And funnily enough, the monks couldn’t care less about the mess. I was trying hard not to have violent thoughts about those kids (ok I was feeling like smacking their heads on the floor so hard that their skulls broke into pieces.) and concentrate on happy, peaceful thoughts. The monastery was under renovation (which we would be observing everywhere in next 8 days) and the idols and scrolls were all removed from the chapel. Just the Young Karmapa was staring at us out of the photograph adorning the throne in the middle. Two young monks were busy making Torma. I went up to them and asked why they were not forbidding those bloody kids from entering the chapel. They just smiled in reply. Finally when those little pest started playing with the gongs one of the monks came and shooed them away.

We were still full from our heavy breakfast so we decided to roam about a little and have a late lunch. Rain had started again so there was no question of sitting at the M G Marg. On our way back to the hotel we tried to take a shortcut and ended up in one of the markets of Gangtok. It was a scene to behold inside. A market so large and even during mid-afternoon it was busy and bustling with crowd. Whatever disappointment I was feeling from our Rumtek trip waned a little after having lunch at the Taste of Tibet. It was going to be an eventful trip.

(To be continued)