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Bhanga Boys

INDIA | Wednesday, 16 December 2015 | Views [532]

I have now moved rooms to one more befitting my bachelor status. Facing Darjeeling, now shrouded in mist, it is smaller and lacks en suite toilet and shower. What it lacks it gains by virtue of the view (admittedly not a great advantage today), wardrobe and a table and chair that I can cobble into a desk arrangement and pretend, once again, that I am Sangharakshita, writing in the Himalayan foothills. Outside I can hear the constant hooting of cars, long and short, the occasional lawn mower hum of motor cycles, the throaty coeing of pigeons who make their nests here on the fifth floor of the building, an occasional whistle and, on the hour, the hollow chimes of the Darjeeling clock tower. The room, like most of Darjeeling, is cold and I'm sitting here wearing my gillet and fingerless gloves (60 rupees - made in China... I know, I know).

The day before yesterday I had gone down to the station to book my ticket on the world heritage Himalayan Toy Train to take me to Ghoom, there to explore the three Tibetan monasteries. I had not taken my glasses with me, and though kindly lent a pen (green), I decided to abort mission and go to Ghoom on the following day. As I was leaving the station I was hailed by a cut throat looking stranger, whose beckoning I initially ignored only to take more notice when he called me by name. It was Redwan, who, with his friend Sami, I had bumped into at the railway booking office on Fairly Square in Calcutta and who had helped me with my ticket application. This time not only was he with Sammy but another friend, Foisal, was also present. Having greated each other like lost friends, Redwan invited me to spend the evening with them, which invitation I gratefully accepted.

Thus, at around 6pm I met Redwan in the Chowrasta, the main square in Darjeeling, from where he invited me into the Golden Tips Tea boutiqe. There I met the fourth musketeer, Samiel (pronounced Sam Yul with the emphasis, I liked to stress, on the YUL). The four were all on a short holiday from Bangladesh and I was treated for one evening to Bangladeshi hospitality. This started with them buying me jasmine tea, highly recommended by them, whilst they looked on - they had already had their tea - asking me questions and interrupting me frequently to urge me to drink the tea whilst still hot. There followed numerous selfies, involving different combinations of the four of them, and then also involving the waitress who had served us.

From the Tea shop we took a tour of Darjeeling, starting with the market as I had mentioned wanting some gloves and where they, most concernedly, whould urge one and then another pair on me. Then to a street vendor where I ate some food, I know not what except it was liquid and spicy, to a Tibetan restaurant where we had momos (like dumplings), they chicken I vegetable, to a number of different bars where Foisal, the treasurer or 'Finance Minister' of the party, set about procuring the best value bottle of whisky and beer he could get, to another restaurant where I had a vegetable thali and they mutton and chickent biryianis, sharing two portions between the four of them before, Foisal approving, ordering two more plates and from there to their room, shared between them all in the Belle Vue Hotel, where we shared a snack of Planters whisky (and water in their case), wotsit like chips and seven-up and sprite also procured by Foisal from a particular sreet vendor with whom he had no doubt struck a deal earlier. All this puncuated by shared cigarettes for friendship, I often got my own of course, except after dinner where each got their own.

At then end of the eveniing Redwan, Sami and SamYUL insisted on walking me back to my hotel, cold as it was and with SamYUL sensitive to it like a 'feeling thermometer',, where, having already bid Foisal farewell in the same fashion, we shook hands and hugged like old friends. All evening I had not paid for a single thing and I can only thank Redwan, Sammy, Foisal and SamYUL for their warmth, friendliness, generosity and friendship which I thoroughly enjoyed and can only admire and have gratitude for.

They have now gone on to Calcutta to do some shopping and thence home. Good journey my friends and good luck the Calcutta shop keepers!




Tags: cigarettes, drink, food, friendship

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