Monday, December 26, 2011

Whirling with the Warlis


Two lone bulbs on a wire, a man with a tarpa (the traditional adivasi wind instrument), adequate quantities of Palm Toddy are enough to set a Warli party rocking in Dahanu.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gorkhaland or Sumoland?

On my way out and down from Sikkim, via Darjeeling,  stuck in this jam, I wondered aloud, until the demand for Gorkhaland is met, why not name the hill-city Sumoland, at least three Gorkha taxi driver agreed heartily.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The land of the Lepchas


After a hard day's hike up and down Lingthem to document the damage done by the Himalayan earthquake, I had almost packed up for the day when I was presented this picture postcard scene of Dzongu, the land of the Lepchas.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sipping Tongba in Dzongu


Tongba better known as Chaang, the preferred drink of the Yetis according to the legends of the mountain people, is a bamboo cup full of fermented finger millet served in a large wooden glass, to which you add warm water and sip it slowly with a bamboo straw called Pipsings.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Gangtok city - a planner's nightmare

Characterless, crowded, even claustrophobic, is how a Sikkimese friend describes it, I see just another shining example of the poor urban planning, terrible construction standards and no sense or aesthetics of architecture or of culture of safety that is the blight of rest of Indian urban centers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chhath Puja in Gangtok

First day in Gangtok, I discovered that half the town was shutting down after lunch to allow the migrant workers from the plains of Bihar and Nepal terai region to perform the sun-worship rituals of Chhath Puja. I joined the festivities to watch the wonderful women of Bihar,  far away from their homes and villages, in sub zero temperature, celebrated the festival with great style.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Going to Sikkim

Waking up at HIdden Forest Retreat in Gangtok
Sikkim opened it's borders to tourists only recently and has quickly become favoured destination of domestic package tourists and the Europeans who want a safe, Buddhist, Himalayan experience.  Sandwiched  between Bhutan and Nepal , Sikkim offers more than both the neighbouring Himalayan kingdoms with the recently added dose of Indian enterprise.  Buddhist pilgrims, hard core trekking enthusiasts and backpackers all come here for a glimpse of the mighty Kangchendzonga mountain. If you wish too join the hordes but promise to keep your foot print light here are some useful pointers to plan your visit.

1- All foreigners require a permit, easily available at any  Indian  mission abroad and/or on arrival at Bagdogra airport, Siliguri town, at the  border crossing at Rongpa and in Gangtok. Indians are exempt for most parts, but if going closer to any national borders,  Get it for sure, it's mandatory and polite as heck!

2- Siliguri, New Jalpaiguri, Bagdogra are your road, rail and air transit points respectively. All three of them are connected to each other by buses, rickshaws, share jeeps and taxis. From all three places i.e Bagdogra airport , NJP rail station and Siliguri bus stand you will find ample transport to Gangtok and  depending on number of passengers and status of permits to any place in Sikkim.

3- For ideal weather conditions, the periods of  March to May and October to mid-December are usually recommended. These ideals are now shattered due to climate change, so come prepared always for a shower ,a hail storm or a sudden dip in temperature. Remember Spring here is a veritable feast of Rhododendrons and Autumn is best time to trek and the whole year is sprinkled with festivals.

4 - Last time  I stayed at Hidden Forest Retreat in Gangtok and now can't imagine staying anywhere else. 30 minutes brisk walking distance away from the city centre, the recently pimped up M.G. road and hub of hotels. It's a garden of delightful orchids, rhododendrons and vegetable patches with comfortable rooms, great kitchen and gracious management. You can book online at www.hiddenforestretreat.com.

5 - Sikkim, A traveller's Guide by  Sujoy Das and Arundhati Ray is a delightful guidebook with super pictures, great information and very useful insights into the Sikkimese culture. You can order it online at..trust me it's everything a good travel guide should be.

Have a nice trio and remember to be nice!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Plane view of the mountains


I was woken up in time to hear the Captain's announcement to catch this magnificent view of the Himalayas from the window of my New Delhi - Bagdogra airplane. After 4 months of research and preparation, this first picture taken from the foggy window of a brand new Airbus, zapped into black and white on my IPad, is the first entry of my personal diary of Wild Wild East project.Welcome to the ride !