Thursday, June 10, 2010

Darjeeling, India from 9-29 April, 2010

Darjeeling is one of several hill stations in the West Bengal state of Eastern India, bordering Nepal. Any Indian who can afford to escape the parasitic heat of the plains, Delhi, Mumbaiharu* during the spring before the monsoon does so by coming up here. You can’t even get a seat on a reserve AC train nowadays, and the jeeps up from Siliguri are packed full; young guys even hang off the ladder in the back. I spent three weeks in Darjeeling during April, and I would like to tell you about my experience there, because maybe you want to travel to India, and also some interesting things happened.
* haru is a very useful Nepali suffix meaning “and others;” so “Fulbrightharu” means my friend Emma and her fellow Fulbrighters. “Mumbaiharu” means hot places like Mumbai.
1. Weather

While Siliguriharu are 38º-45ºC, Darjeeling hovers around 20º, a bit warmer in the sun. It rains fantastic many nights, there’s lightning and thunder and terrific winds and it’s just like being in a movie, with sheets of peanut m&m droplets pouring down. It’s like the shower. My house, like all of Darjeeling, was built into the side of a steep hill looking across a valley. On the other side are other villages and in the center a dry riverbed. You can see a dry waterfall, which rushes full during and after the monsoon. Fog comes in the wrinkles of the hill like the wisps of a long beard, unfurled Q-tip, some kind of cloud comma. Low clouds look like a hand clawing over the peaks to take out all the dry. One time there was a big anvil across the valley, over the village opposite my room. I could see black sky with stars on three sides and Zeusian bolts of lightning hitting the ground below. The hills were close enough to see the individual bolts, like a doodle. But on all other sides, black and starry. Rare.
2. Water Carrying Vehicle Accident
One day, maybe Monday the 19th, I was walking up my road to Chowrasta, the center of town. Maybe I was going to internet or to buy biscuits. Every road is like a bobby pin and very steep. In Darjeeling people are fit from so much walking uphill and down. And when I reached the guest house with the pretty fence, there was a massive crashed water carrying vehicle. It had skidded down the very vertical dirt slope from Chowrasta, probably 40’ above. Where the truck had skidded was clearly visible; fresh and damp dirt smelled summertime and planting, even down to the road, where the pavement was broken away and the pretty fence crushed into the guest house. Glass and rocks and dirt strewed the road. The whole truck was upside down, and inside the cab was shattered glass and the bent steering wheel and decals of Hindu gods and pompoms and maybe that dark stain was blood but maybe not. The very verticle slope continued down the other side of the road and it was beyond remarkable that the truck didn’t just keep on skidding down.