Kalimpong Karma

Kalimpong SceneTapestry of Vibrant Kalimpong Dancers
Photo: Azim Mayadas (click it to enlarge)

Long before my proposal on bended knee, I had visions of an Himalayan honeymoon: from my standpoint as a Calcutta denizen in West Bengal, India, friends and relatives there had touted the merits of the Queen of the Hills, Darjeeling, as the most ‘suitable’. That, at first blush, sounded the most inviting, especially as my late mother had attended St. Helen’s Convent , Kurseong , in the Darjeeling Hills  and still remembered decades later the area’s pristine air and solitude and scenic surroundings, to boot, as some of its most inviting assets.

Nevertheless, I thought I should examine places further afield, or more accurately further up the Himalayan chain, say, Bhutan. Then, out of the blue, Kalimpong came to mind – why I’m not quite sure, but was it karma? After checking out with the local travel bureau I decided that by using a combination of air, rail and bus connections the journey there would be well worth our while.

So it was that 56 years ago approaching St. Valentine’s Day in February 1960 – and armed with travel paraphernalia – my newly wedded wife and I set out into the great unknown, in more ways than one.

guest houseThe weather was crisp and cold atop Deolo Hill where the warm and comfortable Guest House lay. Situated at a height of 5,500 feet, Deolo is the highest point of Kalimpong. The view from the Hill is truly fantastic. On one side, one can see the entire town, with the magnificent  snow-capped Mt. Kanchenjunga, the surrounding villages and Relli valley, and on the other, the rushing Teesta River.
Without doubt, the Hill is one of the most
popular destinations of Kalimpong insofar
as the breathtaking vistas it offers the visitor.

We were the only House occupants for the first few days, and we soon got to know our
way around the town below. On clear days, Kanchenjunga  was visible to the naked eye in all its majesty.

On one of our early visits downtown, we were greatly amused to find a bookstore on the main drag displaying a large-lettered notice that boldly declared “LOLITA JUST ARRIVED” – nary truer words had been so aptly uttered … er, I mean printed… and we celebrated by repairing to a tea shop down the road for a hot cuppa Darjeeling tea while daring to take a peek at Nabakov’s controversial novel.

Kalimpong’s nurseries attract people from far and wide for their absolutely stunning collection of cacti. Below is a striking example of the species:

kalimpong cactusIt’s also India’s major production center of gladioli and orchids, which are exported to many parts of the world.
kalimpong orchids

Before hiking back up to our Deolo aerie, we couldn’t resist the temptation of going to a flower shop and grabbing a bouquet of gorgeous orchids for adorning our bedroom for the remainder of our stay.

It wasn’t long after that work beckoned us: I had to get back to my manager’s office in the managing agency house of Bird and Co., and Lolita to her teaching job at the Calcutta School of Music. So after Valentine’s Day in mid-February we headed back to the plains.

Afterwords
1) In November 1960 we welcomed our first-born into this world – a bonny girl with ruddy cheeks and jet-black hair! Some people put it down to karma. I, for one, had more personal reasons for that miracle of life.
2) In November 1985 we installed the tapestry (top) in our Englewood guest bedroom, and it has since become a conversation piece at the dining table as to its provenance.

References
My Diary of 1959-69; Wikipedia

Copyright © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

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