A few months back I attended a writing workshop organised by my friend Reeti to improve my writing skills & to get inspired. Honestly, I didn’t expect it would turn out to be so much fun! Ever since then, Reeti keeps giving me small engaging topics to write on (my favourite one was to describe my life in 6 words) and my latest one is “EAT PRAY LOVE”. Simultaneously I was planning a small getaway from the mundane city life to the hills of Sikkim (northeast India). Suddenly got an idea to club these two and share my journey with you all.
We travelled to East Sikkim in mid of May. Though it was melting hot in Kolkata, it was freezing cold in few areas of Sikkim. We travelled the max height of 13500ft, where we were literally travelling through the clouds. I feel cold at the slightest temperature drop, hence I packed my bag with the warmest clothes I had. And just to be extra precautionary, I borrowed a woollen poncho from my friend Shreya. The day she gave it to me, I fell in love with the Poncho, with its texture, colour and the unisex look – I just knew I had got my story! I packed it with lots of love and couldn’t wait to show it to my friends and fellow travellers. They got excited hearing about my travel series and everyone willingly agreed to wear it. I wanted to show how a basic simple piece of garment can make a look for you! Investing in such things lasts forever and is so much fun and versatile.
We were a group of 6 with 3 people travelling from Bombay, met two of us in Kolkata and travelled to NJP (New-Jalpaiguri) to meet our 6th member from Siliguri. We travelled along the vast Teesta river with its beautiful green water reflecting its surrounding nature to reach Rolep through the town of Rongpo.
We stopped few kilometers before Rongpo for Lunch. The Dhaba (Roadside joint) is run by 3 families from a tree. They live there, in small cottages and the entire family helps around running the business. USP of the place was the amazing view of the hills. Half our appetite was full just by gazing at nature’s beauty- it was such a pleasant day! All the places that we have covered (rolep, zuluk & Agamlok), were all tucked away in the most remote corners of East Sikkim. The best part was, we didn’t have any human contact in & around 5 kilometers radius. We mostly gulped on to the clean air and stuffed with nature’s beauty- truly a boon for city dwellers! In the night we were served with some freshly made, local home cooked food at our home-stays.
Rolep relatively had a pleasurable weather with the temperature not going below 18 degrees. It is a beautiful hamlet beside the Rolep river surrounded by green hilly terrain in all sides. And we were staying right in the middle of nature. Our homestay was just beside the river (that cute pink house in the picture above) and a little walk away from the vehicle parking.
Next day on our way to Zuluk, we started feeling the cold. And my Poncho came out. The poncho became our next best travelling game with everyone participating and sharing the warmth.
Sumedha Roy Choudhury, a fabulous teacher by profession and my closest friend. I have never seen her so keen on getting clicked and trying different poses. Zuluk was very cold with the temperature dropping to 8 degrees, and the woolen poncho made it very comfortable. It was like getting a warm hug by yourself. Clubbed it with her off-white beanie. She was wearing a thick full sleeved t-shirt inside to give an extra layer of warmth. Loved the fringes on the hem of the poncho as well!
Sohel Khandekar, works as an international travel consultant who has tricks up his sleeves all the time! Unlike me, he doesn’t feel cold at the slightest drop in the temperature. While we all were wrapped up with our warmest clothes, he was dressed to go for a walk in the beach (Photo above). Look at the picture, as if two pictures were morphed from two different destinations. Thus while in Zuluk, all of us were layering it up, he was wearing the poncho bare bodied – yes! In fact, you can actually wear a poncho like that as well, just by wearing a vest inside to increase the wearability. Unlike majority’s belief, ponchos can also be worn by males. It gives you so much flexibility and character. Weirdly enough he started feeling little chilly in the morning and quickly grabbed the poncho while the rest still wrapped up in the blanket sipping on to his tea.
As humans, we have a powerful ability to control our environment; we have also evolved a psychological need to exercise this control. Throughout our travel in Sikkim, we spotted White flags on the side of the road. On asking what they represented, our local resident driver said, they are planted after someone’s death to pray. Prayer can become a means of connecting us with the divine ground that is the essence of existence – human mind has the incredible power to heal the body on its own. We as city travellers were very happy with our beautiful surroundings and didn’t feel like leaving the town. But, life in Sikkim is very hard, with no electricity most of the time, no network coverage, no feasible public transport, where children and adult have to walk miles to reach their destinations or wait for hours to catch a lift from a passing car. Their economy survives mostly on tourism and because of its geo-location, they are always in the fear of border threats or natural calamity. Yet, everyone is so humble and helpful. Praying or believing is a psychological crutch that gives us the illusion of control over forces in the world that we do not and never will have control over.
So don’t stop believing! And stay with me as I continue my story in Part 2. Till then, EAT PRAY & LOVE
Stylist | Blogger | Photographer: Ingela Biswas