Saturday, December 10, 2011

Trip to the Small Town of Siliguri

The taxi for the airport is scheduled at 8:30. We plan to wake up around 7:30 to take a hot shower. Anyway, I was awakened by the noise in the street. In Delhi, it's amazing as sweepers sweep the streets, make piles but we never see anyone picking them up. Maybe there are garbage collectors who do it later?

While waiting for the taxi, we see the newspaper delivery men who roll the newspaper in a ball, surround it with an elastic band and send it to the recipient's balcony from the street. But sometimes it's harder than it seems at first glance.

The journey to the airport lasts almost an hour. At the airport, there are plenty of checks before arriving at the boarding gate. The plane is delayed by thirty minutes, so we wait. The flight goes well except the screaming of the little girl in front of us, a hyper spoiled little girl who will even refuse to put her seatbelt on arrival. It annoys the flight attendants who still keep their smile.

We see the Himalayan chain and managed to take a picture sneaking up to the business class. After arriving at the Bagdogra airport, we are literally beset by a pack of taxi drivers who all want to take us to Siliguri. Again, we are entitled to a crazy driver who takes the side of the road for a lane and he exceeds everyone. About an hour later, he drops us in front of the hotel.

The welcome is very nice. There is tea bags, coffee and a bottle of water are at our disposal. Three reasons have brought me here. The first is that Siliguri is the ideal base to the Indian northeast. Everything that interests me is more or less at hand with the ancient kingdom of Sikkim, the city of Darjeeling, as also Nepal.

There is even some state of the Seven Sisters, a constellation of states of the northeast of the subcontinent, such as Assam or Meghalaya. I do not know very well what I will do or where I will go. The second reason is a very narrow steam train that runs through the hills. From the plains it goes up to the city of Darjeeling and they call it the Toy Train.

The third thing that has brought me here is a bike riding experience. From the Siliguri station, everywhere there is transport to the city. All the vehicles becomes a firm aspirant to take us to the city. Saying that in Siliguri there is not much to see should be punishable by law. The guides qualify it in this way because it is not a city full of tourist landmarks, museums, monuments, open-air buses, or expensive restaurants.

Nor does it have an absurd ghetto of backpackers like Thamel in Kathmandu or Khao San Road in Bangkok, where you can take refuge from the reality of the country, going through a kind of magical door that takes you to a comfortable bubble with some touches of exoticism.

To say that in Siliguri there is nothing to see, is like denying life. It is as if we said that in India there is nothing to see. The truth is that in Siliguri there is no time to see everything. It is the pure life of a Bengali city of incessant activity, a diatribe very typical of urban India and a mixture of beauty-seediness-survival. Here every morning untouched children in uniform say goodbye to their mothers who bend down to sweep the entrances of their houses.

In my opinion, people in Siliguri are friendly for various reasons, cultural, educational and those that come to mind. I am afraid that one of the main reasons is the lack of tourists. If I managed to make an anti-travel guide that encompassed all the nothing to see in the world, the fortunate one who followed it would undoubtedly find the quintessence of the territories.

Tourists and travelers are like a plague of locusts. We arrive at a place and we go to the next one, hungry. And it should be made clear, not by going too smart, but simply to maintain an ethic and a certain seriousness when traveling.

Siliguri allows me to escape from this wheel of tourists. I reach a certain urban nirvana where I can open my eyes well with the assurance that what I have before me would be there even if I were not here, and it is not created for me. Towards the city center we cross a large bridge, above the Mahananda River, lined with homes looking like slums. The atmosphere is lively and rather happy. It's colorful, children play and laugh in the streets.

From this bridge we witness many scenes of life. It was the most interesting and informative place of Siliguri! In Kolkata, everything, absolutely everything could be done on the sidewalks but here it is in the water. Would it be a good solution to travel to the nothing to see and pass by the must? I would also have to do it quickly, before the others find out. Once on the main road I see a bus assault. Buses never stop at all if they can avoid it. If the passenger is an older person then they would stop.

The assistant, a guy hanging from the open door with his hand full of bills screams like a desperate one who communicates it to the driver by a code of blows in the bus body. One blow is a signal to stop, and two blows is a signal to continue.

After getting into a rickshaw that will take me to the main train station in the New Jalpaiguri Station area, I learn that the Toy Train to Darjeeling does not work since the last monsoon spoiled part of its layout. I will have to get into the mountains in another way.

I had read some excellent reviews about a motorcycle rental company based in Siliguri. At 45 minutes I have between my legs a beautiful Royal Enfield 500. Now it is me who travels my first meters down a dusty street wondering if I will survive India. And at the time I have it parked in front of my hotel.

The feeling is similar to that of the night of kings when I was a child. At 6 o'clock in the morning I will leave the one with the brown eyes asleep and I will take a turn for a Siliguri that has just awakened. I cannot believe it, as sometimes, what happens is even better than what was dreamed. India rolls around me while I happily wind the accelerator.

2 comments:

kalaiselvisblog said...

Siliguri... i have heard a lot abot dis word 4m my father...

nice snaps... loved it...

Geeta said...

Nice Fall colors on the trees in the second snap.

The dense trees are just gorgeous.

author
Kalyan Panja
Kalyan Panja is a photographer and a travel writer sharing stories and experiences through photographs and words