We stood there gaping at the bird’s-eye view of the rivers Teesta and Mahananda , patches of inhabited land that was Siliguri and its neighbouring towns, and a clear strip of land that we were told was Bagdogra airport. The wind continued to blow us over but we were too adamant to take pictures which could come close to replicating what we were observing with our naked eye.
Tejas and I had just about managed to get ourselves into the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway for Kurseong that morning. After what had been an extremely slow and scenic ride, with the sight outside our window never falling short of pine and juniper trees, we’d reached the small hill town of Kurseong. There on, we’d taken a shared taxi to reach Chimney, a village that lay a rugged drive away. Other than the half-baked information about the village deriving its name from a 23-foot tall abandoned Chimney that dated back to the British era, there was little else we knew about the place. We weren’t expecting much, until our cab screeched to a halt outside a beautiful house with yellow washed walls and a blue roof, and the driver called out for Amal, our host.
Hugging ourselves against the strong wind and the biting cold, we made our way into the cosy house that had the prettiest attic room I’ve ever seen. Old classics and a few travel magazines lay scattered about the living room and guest room, both made partially of wood, and there was a certain old-world charm to the place. We spent the next few hours taking short walks around the village, gazing at the bird’s-eye view and watching the sky burst into shades of pink and orange during sunset. A short walk downhill from the home stay, kids ran about in the make-shift football field that stretched in front of the juniper forest, while uphill, the chimney lay hidden by tall wild grass in a small patch of land.
Later that night, we accompanied Amal’s daughter, Victoria, as she made drawings of little princesses on her notebook, a talent she’s picked from her painter dad whose framed religious and landscape paintings adorned the walls. Minutes later, over a delicious dinner of chicken curry and rice, Mr. Amal Rai also modestly showed us a copy of a travel magazine dating back to 2010 where the writer wrote fondly about the very same home stay and their excellent hospitality.
I particularly remember the lines about their terrace. It made us tip toe up the stairs ourselves. It was cold and windy and a few stray clouds obstructed our view. But it was clear enough for us to spend a while watching the night sky flicker with a million bright stars and in the distance, the urban lights flickered in unison. I have been recalling that moment every now and then. In my head, I retire to the night in that beautiful village, and for the moment, it’s all okay.
Find more about Mr. Amal’s listing:
About the Traveller: Born and raised in Assam, Sarita Santoshini has been travelling around India and penning down her experiences over the past year. You can read more of her travelogues in her blog- http://crumbsfromyourtale.wordpress.com .