Its a nice place, Gangtok. Smooth, well-paved roads. Clean, occasionally rain-washed buildings and streets. And there is just so much of green, its exhausting to just try and catch it all in one glance. The people smile and seem always helpful. Everyone, including locals, seems to be on holiday.
The problem is that its just really tough to get here. A part of the way is nice. Long stretches of smooth road. Like this one. Its a horribly irritating drive uphill though, round and round the curves of the mountain. It jolted my stomach, and caused much turmoil in the intestines. We even had to stop midway, so the family could retch together. Our first joint activity on this holiday. I wasnt part of it. In spirit perhaps, but not in action. I steeled myself, and turned up the volume on the iPod. (Its so loyal. It always helps.) While we were having our retching break, some locals watched us from above in some cottage and passed smirks. I shook my fist at them, and they flexed some huge biceps in return. I raised an eyebrow, gave them the look. The steely coldness of my eyes, the narrowing of my pupils as I locked them in my vision, and the mighty stature of my colossal figure worked. I scared 'em off. They mumbled to each other in localese, and backed off hurriedly, nearly tripping on the stones and all. I let them go. This time.
We moved on.
Oh, on another unrelated side-matter, a wee bit of this post might be just the minutest bit of ever so microscopically extrapolated fiction. Its required as part of the narrative. And you probably wont notice, its so close to reality. Anyway. Back to it.
After a couple of more time offs, during the journey, we began to feel more comfortable with it. We ogled at the great big mountains across us. The neighboring mountains, so to say. In between ran a most beautiful river. The Teesta I believe. Its long, wide and luxuriously snaky, if you understand that. An interesting thing to note is how you are continually travelling along the Teesta, while going to Gangtok, no matter how high you go, or how much you turn.
Bang in the middle of that picture is a sort of white-sandy beach. I wanted to go down there somehow. Could see locals wandering about. It looked beautiful. And they had rafting too. Thats the little speck of a boat next to the beach.
Now, if you're not looking at the river, and you're not looking ahead of you, you can choose to either look towards the mountain or crane your neck to look behind. But that would be just stupid. So after five minutes I gave that up and looked towards the face of this mountain we were creeping up. The green shrubs and little trees and all are there. And in between, you have these crazily funny slogans or warnings or quotations of a ridiculous kind, intended to ensure safe driving. One says - If you drive like hell, you will get there. Another - Drive slow. Okay, so thats not very great. But here's the classic one liner designed to get every driver's attention - Be gentle on my curves.
So, time passed and we reached Gangtok. It was night-time, around 8 o'clock. The place was hustly and bustly. Quite active and everything. Soon enough, we even reached our hotel. I dont know if this is a quality of all sloping-side hotels, but its the first time I've had to climb down three flights of stairs to reach the first floor rooms allotted to us. (Quite an interesting concept. We even drove past this house, which had subsequent floors built below, with the car parked above on their terrace, so to say.)
A further floor below ours, was the dining place. It called itself a restaurant-cum-lounge-cum-bar that practically every other hut in Gangtok seems to proclaim. So we went there for dinner. And it seemed a good place with satisfying ambience and what not. And so we took our tables and we sat. One of the waiters seemed to think that was cause for celebration, and suddenly the music system came on at mid-full blast. Here's the itchy bit.
Can you, in your delusional glory, conjure up a dinner scene for yourselves, after a long and arduous journey across state, and over the course of an entire day's travel? Let me give you a picture. You travel by air, and you travel by road, just so you can get away from your metropolis life. You arrive at a mountainous destination, with a distinct culture of its own. You see around you people of a different race, speaking a different language, living such a completely different form of life-style, and you begin to feel you're on a real holiday. You feel like you've broken off your city shackles, and left it all behind. And this happens.
He switched on the music, pumped up the volume, and we were at once drowned in Himesh Reshammiya. I didnt know what to say. I expected something instrumental. I wanted something local and interesting. And they threw this, this revolting hideous and grotesque abuse of music that I'd been suffering for so long, right at me. I dont want this to be a bash-up of Mr. Reshammiya. I'm not saying we should kill him. But we need some sure-fire, concrete way to get him to stop. I'm not saying we should harm him or kidnap his loved ones. Thats wrong. But someone needs to kidnap his near and dear ones and hold them at ransom, unless he promises to jump off a very steep cliff and end it all. His last nasal shriek to death shall be permitted, in view of his altruistic contribution to all humanity.
But none of this stuff really happens. We can only dream, and hope that the songs will end. So we did. Dinner ended, and we scrambled upstairs to our room, shut the door, and locked it too. Then, as a safety measure, we switched on the tv to watch something else. Something, anything, preferably loud and happy.
The first day ended.
Coming Up Next: We roam about and see things.