Mountain Walking

The Mountain Walker Diaries: The Road to Siliguri

Siliguri-Matigara Hat, West Bengal, India, June 2018, 1320 hours

Landing in Bagdogra was a delight. Absolutely delight. The 50 minute flight was smooth, the captain on our Indigo flight gave the captain’s address in a unique way – witty, with a lot of useful information and with disarming use of Hindi and English.

Bagdogra, as an example of semi-urban tourist towns in West Bengal was a culture shock – mostly because of the heat and humidity I suppose. The inside of the airport (as in the airstrip, hangars) is very quaint with a charming character but step outside and one is engulfed in an ocean of humanity and frenetic activity. But get beyond the initial turmoil, and the drive from Bagdogra to Siliguri is poignantly reminiscent of all the little towns and rural townships and villages spread across India, cultures and peoples that are forever standing at the crossroads of a rich ancient heritage that is long beyond a memory and the promise of a glorious future that never comes.

Getting out of Bagdogra, I was reminded of the drive out of Mohali airport and through Zirakpur- remnants of old rural society engaged in a fierce battle for territory with the giant pillars of new-age development – the under-construction flyovers and roads.

Beyond the ‘development corridor’, the little two-lane main road to Siliguri is very pretty, lined with trees and fields, though most of the fields have long given way to tea estates. But it is charming and beautiful.

After a point we came to a fork and the left road takes you to Darjeeling, while we took the road on the right, towards Gangtok.

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