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Back in Time

INDIA | Thursday, 22 March 2007 | Views [1086] | Comments [1]

Manjushree Building.

Manjushree Building.

I have arrived in Darjeeling! Much to my delight it is raining hard and freezing cold. This place is much higher up than I thought. It seems like the entire town is built up like a spiral, so you can either walk up a very steep road or stairs up/down the side of a cliff or the other option, down. From most anywhere the views are stunning and as far as the eye can see are hills which are thickly covered with forest, houses or terraced tea gardens. I started school already and there are 6 people in my beginners class. 4 of us Americans, 1 Russian and 1 Taiwanese woman. Everyone is in their 20’s. In the Advanced course there are 3 people. 2 Americans and 1 nun from Singapore. Again we are wrapped in blankets! I have two classes a day. 10am-12pm and 1pm-3pm. I will begin with a tutor as well from 9-10. 5 hours of Tibetan a day (Plus an extra 1 1/2 hour class on Wed nights focusing only on spoken)! Hopefully my brain will be able to handle the overload. It is cold and wet and damp and I have to climb everywhere..Sound familiar? Today I moved into a Tibetan house not far from the school. I have my own room and bathroom, There are huge water problems here so it wasn’t a surprise to hear that I would have no running water. The landlord will bring me a bucket of hot water in the morning for a wash up. Are you ready to come visit? A friend loaned me enough to cover my plane ticket plus expenses for 2 months, after that I will HAVE to come back…Unless of course I end up getting a tax refund! No, I will stay here for 2 months and be back in SF early June. I am very close to Sikkim, so will try to do some touristing over the next few weekends. Another class will start on Saturday Evenings in April, so I will do what I can do before then, It will take a few days, but I think I will settle in nicely, even without running water and a western toilet (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that part). I miss Nepal already and even thought this is India, it isn’t as bad as, say, other parts of India…but it is STILL not Nepal. As I was leaving I was worried about coming back to India since I’ve had such bad experiences. I have not liked India AT ALL. Maybe it’s the men that STARE. And it’s not the same kind of stare you get from someone who is just curious, The stare I am referring to is somehow creepy and intrusive. So here I am in the Taxi, on my way to the airport, deciding to have an open mind and open to receiving a new set of opinions about India, the country I have barely scratched the surface of. I left my hotel in Boudha first to visit the area of Thamel, to have a look at the extra room at Petals salon, where the proposed training studio/beauty school will be. The location is perfect, right around the corner from Java House (well known coffee hang out) and up on the 3rd floor. Tsering (the owner and my potential business partner) and I, designed, dreamed, divided the to-do list and then exchanged emails in hopes that we will see each other very soon. I was off to the airport sending good-bye text messages when the driver spotted my phone. Well for about the entire 30 minute journey to the airport he said ”please trade phone, you take mine, I take yours, same same, please madam”..It was sad and maddening. At the airport, no trolleys allowed, men grabbing my bags, you need porter, your bags weigh 30K only 20K allowed, fee well over $10, me arguing.. Don’t forget Madam, Pay departure tax! It is moments such as those that remembering my studies and the pith instructions of “It is all but a dream” come in handy. Finally high above the clouds, I was hypnotized by miles and miles of massive snow capped Himalayas! On the plane I sat next to a Sikkimese business man (wealthy?) who made my protection his priority and he got me AND my bags all the way to the Jeep stand in Siliguri, West Bengal. It even made the immigration check points bearable as he stood by my side. Now, here is a perfect example of my experiences with Nepal vs/ India. As I was leaving Nepal the men at Immigration asked me why I was leaving, when I would be back, if I liked Nepal etc.. When I got across the border and walked in the door of the India Immigration checkpoint, the man behind the desk refused to look me in the eye, said nothing and just tossed the arrival card across the desk. I stood there repeating my mantra “ I hate India”. At the Jeep stand, it was hot, the air was thin and I wanted to just get going..Jeeps don’t leave unless there are a minimum of 7 people. I wanted to sit in the front, they kept insisting that there would be 3 people up there..I don’t know how it would be possible. The front seat barely big enough for 2 mini Indian men plus the driver...It was one of those moments again, so after waiting 40 minutes, I decided to buy the other two seats. We were off. We barely made it out of town when we picked up an older woman who clearly did not want to be smushed in the back..I offered her the front seat with me. The two of us smashed together. Now, when the driver asks her to pay, the story really gets going! I intervened just once and told them both that I had bought 3 seats, I am giving one of them to her. She doesn’t need to pay. She was fierce and the argument went on and on and on endlessly. The only English repeated over and over was “why should I?” Why is it that I have these experiences that strengthen my already bad opinions of India and the men that are constantly trying to cheat you? (found out later that one must only pay for two seats in the front). The final opportunity to cheat me that night was done by the little porter man I hired to carry my stuff up the very steep hill after 3 1/2 hours stuffed in a jeep. I was by this time not in the mood to do anything but pay gracefully. What is it about India that people fall in love with?? I cannot see it. This place is filthy, open sewers (that gush when it rains), dust that gets onto and into everything including your lungs, fumes of all kinds (cars,jeeps,busses, motorcycles,open sewers,beggars,gypsies,moldy rooms, any alley or pile of trash and the non western toilets), full of noise pollution (honking cars,jeeps,busses motorcycles..stray dogs barking all through the night), the weather is bad (too hot or too cold), the water undrinkable, the travel extremely difficult (crowds,pushy people trying to sell you anything but what you need, beggars asking for money,no toilets, those fumes and that dust and that all pervasive noise), And lastly there are plenty of people here that don’t use toilets at all and aren’t shy (Au naturel), so there is another wonderful sight to behold while traveling here. This country is at bottom of my list, and if you really love it here please do tell… Hopefully high up in these cold, damp and magical hills I can study in peace and the bad men won’t find me… (to be continued)

Tags: Adventures



I am really saddened to read the story you authored above. There are times when you things just dont seem to go right. India is a very populated country with a diverse demographic profile. There are many layers as you look at various classes of people and their lifestyles. I am absolutely sure that you will have a different view the next time you visit and even as you plan for one just a word of advice - POINT TO POINT PLANNING and the right kind of people you come across.

With best wishes


  Pranjal Neog Aug 8, 2007 9:30 PM

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