One more monastery before we left. We bade farewell to Mintokling and left for Enchey monastery, located within the town. It followed the same pattern as the other two we’d visited, the only exception being a lot of sleeping beings we found – a foreigner, a few dogs. The monk in charge was pretty rude when we almost stepped into an area inside the sanctum, we weren’t supposed to. We didn’t bother to point out that they should ideally cordon off that area, since there was no way to put a sign. Buddha really wouldn’t have minded.
As we reached the limits of Gangtok, I wished I could take a snap of the CCD outlet with arguably the best view among its kind. We left for the 4 hour drive to Bagdogra, and there was a sense of finality as we passed familiar places and checked them off, like a countdown. – Ranipool, Singtham, Rangpo, and then into West Bengal – Malli, Teesta, Rambi, Sivok, and finally Siliguri. We stopped at the newly opened mall for lunch, actually still under construction, but with a restaurant, a multiplex and a few shops operational. We thought we’d try the food court, but the elevator wasn’t working and climbing up 4 floors (still under varying degrees of construction) didn’t really appeal. The loos worked, but were also victims of rigorous testing by the construction workers. Prakash, our driver from the first 2 days, claimed that the legendary Pawan Chamling owned the mall.
The sudden shift from all the cold mountains to the stifling plains was very depressing, especially as we passed shanties and huge mounds of garbage as we continued from Siliguri to Bagdogra, in typical city traffic, where we shift to cm/hr measurements.
We’d been sent a message the previous day, asking us to report 2 hours in advance owing to congestion. They were right, the baggage check queue almost went out of the airport. Bagdogra airport was a revelation as far as standards went. International check in times, aside, this was one of those heritage airports, from the time IA/AI planes ruled the Indian skies. Utterly ill equipped, the staff seemed to be always paying homage to that era. Their security checks were indeed pertinent – one visit to this place and you’ll be very tempted to you-know-what-mentioning-which-could-get-me-into-trouble. The railway station ambiance was topped with a bunch of women, exceeding their baggage quota by 216 kgs (!!) and then shifting bags to cabin baggage/ putting them back like veg shopping. We sat waiting, and I got bored enough to check my mail. The place was so crowded that I stored this in my drafts “‘Opening a secure connection. Content cannot be seen by anyone else’ does not include the guy looking over your shoulder.”
We finally took off, about 20 minutes late. Our plans to make a quick dash to the Howrah Bridge from Kolkata airport were dashed, as the taxi operators weren’t sure of getting us back in time. So we sat in the CCD outside, and drank in the airport sights at dusk, quite an ironical finale to a vacation, as though helping us make the transition to routine.
Sikkim proved a decent trip – for me, vacations are in the mind, and a different setting can only help. Despite a few niggles, there’s no reason to follow the advice of one of the drivers ahead of us, on the way from Gurudongmar.
The single biggest thing for me was regaining the motivation to continue that book, for whatever it’s worth. But for now, we seem to have developed a 3M fatigue – momos, mountains, monasteries, so maybe its time for a break from that. Like I told Mo, we were carrying the Leh baggage, and it will always be a difficult gold standard to measure up to. But having said that, there was a coincidence that seemed to me like the Joker character introduction in Batman Begins. The first chapter of the book I was reading was set in Tibet, at the exact same place mentioned in the first bottle of water I got during the journey.
PS. For those interested, we customised a tour with Yak & Yeti