Aahana and her family travel to the north east of India and discover heaven on Earth. Join the family on their journey through the unexplored country.
Aahana was very angry. So angry, that she kept quiet throughout the car ride from home to the airport. Her summer holidays had started and her parents were taking her, along with her brother, Om, for a week’s stay in Sikkim, the gorgeously beautiful state in the north-east of India. They were to catch a flight to the newly-built Pakyong airport, near Gangtok. The airport had been inaugurated just a week back by the Prime Minister of the country.
Even as her parents and brother were already in the holiday mood, Aahana was sad and angry because she didn’t want to go to Sikkim at all. When her father first told her about their holiday destination a week ago, she did not know what he was talking about. She had only read about Sikkim as part of her geography lessons. Her teacher had told her that it was one of the mountain states in the remote north-eastern corner of the country. But apart from that, she knew little of the place where she would be spending the next 7 days.
She wanted her father to take her to some other holiday destination like Goa or Kerala, which is where most of her classmates were planning to go. She was sad that when she would go back to school after holidays, she would have nothing to share with her friends, except for sleepy towns and mountain goats! Little did she know that her holidays were going to be the best she had ever had.
When the flight landed at the Pakyong airport, it was 3 pm and as Aahana stepped outside the plane she felt cold. Her parents walked towards the airport building to collect their luggage. Inside the airport, Aahana’s mother took out jackets for everyone out of her handbag and everyone put those on as Aahana’s father collected their luggage from the baggage carousel.
Outside the airport, there was a long line of taxis but the hotel where they were going to stay had arranged for a pick-up. So, the family got into it and they sped away towards Gangtok, 12kms away. As they were approaching Gangtok, Aahana looked out of the window. It was beautiful! Yes! That was the first word that came to her mind, as she saw a city spread out over the mountainside, like someone had arranged little box-houses in a game. Colourful roofs rose in front of her eyes, even as the more scenic mountains in the backdrop came closer in view. As they entered Gangtok, which popularly means “hill cut”, she saw the enticing Gangtok ropeway, which runs between Deorali and Tashiling, and offers magnificent views of the entire town as well as of the hills nearby. Their driver was telling them that on a clear, sunny day, one could see amazing views of the Kanchenjunga, the third-highest mountain in the world, from inside the cable car.
Aahana, who wasn’t really interested in the chat till now, started listening more intently now. She had read about Kanchenjunga recently, when a team of young mountaineers had scaled the peak in their first attempt. Their school principal had talked about the team in their morning assembly too. She asked her mother about the cable car and her mother told her that they would be going for a ride in it later in the day.
Their hotel, Summit Denzong Hotel & Spa, was located right in a busy marketplace. Her father checked them in and they were taken to their room. The view from their room was nothing short of breathtaking. Beautiful mountain peaks, valleys and a gushing river in the distance – all this was visible from the large French windows of their room. So, even as her parents got busy with unpacking and booking a taxi to the cable car ride, Aahana stood mesmerized by the window and kept watching a magnanimous display of nature in full force.
It was her mother, who shook her out of her reverie, telling her to freshen up and change her clothes. Their taxi was here to take them for the cable car ride. Quickly, all four of them freshened up and left their hotel for Deorali, from where they were going to take the cable car up to Tashiling. Once inside the cable car, which had no seats, each one of them stood facing outside through the large windows, with just a pane of glass between them and the air outside. The beautiful landscape of Gangtok and its surroundings passed below them at a slow pace, allowing them all to take in the gorgeous vistas on offer. After the cable car ride, they went to the iconic landmark of the town, M.G. Marg. The road is often referred to as the lifeline of the town as it houses all the major commercial establishments, restaurants, small-time eateries and much more. All this makes M.G. Marg a vibrant location to be in and, that was why, Aahana could not help herself but gape all around. Even as her parents looked around for a good place to eat an early dinner, Aahana and Om kept looking through display windows at the various products on display.
Meanwhile, Aahana’s mom and dad zeroed in on a neat and clean eatery and went inside with the kids to place their order. They ordered two traditional dishes – Sel Roti and Aloo Dum. Once the food came on the table, the parents watched with interest at their kids’ reaction. Aahana and Om looked at each other and then at the food, probably wondering what these unfamiliar food items tasted like. Nevertheless, mom served the food to the children and gingerly waited for them to start eating it. Om took the lead and picked up a Sel Roti and bit into it. His face immediately brightened up at the sweet taste of the roti, which is made of rice flour and is deep fried. Watching him, Aahana also went ahead and started eating her food. Relaxed at their kids’ positive response, both mom and dad also started digging in.
After an early dinner, the foursome walked for a while around the M.G. Marg, taking in the sights. As Om’s eyes started drooping because of the long and tiring day, mom announced it was time to go back to the hotel and get some rest. Dad agreed and asked the driver to drive them back to the hotel. Once at the hotel, the kids brushed their teeth, changed into their pajamas and immediately fell asleep. After all, they had flown 1500kms to an unknown destination and already been surprised at the natural beauty and traditional food of the place. It was time to let it all sink in while allowing their body to rest.
Next morning, when Aahana woke up, she was surprised at the absence of sound of any kind. No car-horns, no shouting vendors, no TV, nothing. Absolute silence! And a while later, she started hearing a different sound altogether – that of birds chirping. She looked across the bed and saw Om still sleeping soundly. She got out of bed slowly, quickly put on her warm slippers and a sweater that her mother had put out last night. Then, she quietly walked out of the room in search of her parents. She found them sitting outside in the balcony of their room, with their cups of tea in hand. She saw her mother had also put out the woolen caps on the bedside table, which she put on and then opened the door to the balcony and stepped outside.
Her dad looked back at her lovingly and beckoned her to come closer while not speaking a word. She went and sat in her dad’s lap. Just as she started looking around, she was flabbergasted at the site visible to her eyes. Everything was covered in a mist but still visible. It seemed like overnight, a thin film of mist had been laid upon the mountains, valleys, river down below, the houses spread over the mountainside, the trees, everything! She asked her dad, “Papa, why don’t we have mist like this at home too!” Her parents smiled at her and her father replied, “Beta, this is a mountain valley, several thousand feet above sea level, no visible signs of pollution and the temperature is also very low. All this comes together to create this beautiful misty morning!”
She nodded at her dad’s reply but inside her mind, she was still not convinced of the answer. She wanted to know more about the reason why her city couldn’t be this beautiful but she decided to wait before asking again. In the meantime, her brother Om had also woken up and her mom was herding the family back into the warm interiors before she ordered breakfast for everyone. Aahana decided to wait before asking dad again.
- Carousel – a circular conveyor
- Magnanimous – showing or suggesting nobility
- Reverie – day dream