Posts Tagged ‘India’

Creative Writing Critique (Satis Shroff): WINGS OF TIME

Review: Sharma, Suyog Wings of Time, Publisher Basundhara Sharma, St. Mary’s Hill (India) First Edition 2007, 56 pages, $ 10 (ISBN: None)


Wings of Time is a work of power in the sense that the young poet was aware in his musings that life had cheated on him and the tumors were growing in silence within him and there was no escape. In this critical stage of no return his musings wander to his pure love, hope, frustration, then acceptance of his fate, his love for eternity, the beauty of Nature and  is the son of a Brahmin, a high-born who wears the sacred thread.


In his difficult mental state, torn between living, loving, letting-loose, resigning and being one with the cosmos, his musings wander to freedom, suffering, darkness and light.


The poems are works of originality and depict the voice of a young soul seeking the meaning of his existence in a language that is matter-of-fact.


There is no subtleness in his language. His articulation is clear and you notice at times that he is influenced by his generation’s rap or twitter style, though in the preface you read ‘we have in Suyog Sharma one such genius of a poet who has left his mortal coil at the blooming age of 25 years.’ Even poet-philosophers like Wordsworth 80, P B Shelley 30, Lord Byron 36 and John Keats 26, have died. The human body may wither and die but the poetic words live on, making the poets immortal.


The work cannot be identified with a specific ethnicity or a country. It has universal appeal and is a work of individuality.


The poetry under review is neither epic nor lyrical. The parents, who are the publishers, mention that the poems were written when the poet was between 18 to 25 years old. Another stack of 10 poems haven’t been published as yet. The 27 poems in this review are the musings of a young man in transition from juvenile curiosity to manhood.


The poetical devices used are non-rhyming four-line verses that range from 4 to 13 stanzas. His imagery is wonderful when he describes life and death, loneliness and love.


The central concern of the poems are his innermost feelings that have moved him, such as self-pity, nostalgia, love and the awakenings of a young man, his frustrations with a touch of romanticism. What predominates is evoked in the second poem with the title The Beginning of Cancer, and in between we have reflections on the hope of a dawn, loss of friendship, desire of a return and as the metastasis progresses, the poem ‘Dead Man Living,’ culminating in ‘Death.’

‘Death is near, standing very close

Life is a fear rolling very slow,

Welcome Mr. Death please come soon.’


It must be mentioned that towards the end he saw light, a ray of love that manifested itself in grace and divinity, for in his last poem the poet finds happiness by turning a new page called freedom, as a divine light. He also leaves behind an ancient vedantic message from the Land of the Hindus:


Life gives us death

And death gives us life.


The late Suyog Sharma visited an English school in the foothills of the Himalayas, Goethals Memorial School, where pupils are expected to speak and think in English and are introduced to English manners and etiquette and, of course, English literature. But as can be expected of a young man who’s growing, the stiff-upper lip and acquired British mores change to that of what’s ‘in’ in thLife global world, where rap, hip-hop, technomusic prevail with raves and love parades which can be watched on TV. I like the  way the poet lets his sms-language and its abbreviations flow into the verses: U for you, coz for because and plz for please.


The comment by his parents in verse are touching:


‘Many a time we’ve cried in a silent tear.

Trying to find you, in things you dear.

Stumbled upon something rare,

Palms manuscript, written with care.’



Wings of time is dedicated to the Goethalites from a Goethalite


Copies of Wing of Time by Suyog Sharma can be ordered under:bhawanisharma1@yahoo.com



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Category: Short-story DESTINATION NEPAL (Satis Shroff)

“That’s a terrible injustice,” said Raj Rana aloud at the Paddington Station. Mr. Rana was at the station, on his way to Gatwick Airport. From there he had a flight ticket from Her Majesty’s Government to Nepal after long years of service in the British Gurkhas.

“What do you mean, Raj-ji?” said the turbaned Punjabi bus-driver from London, whom he’d known for a decade.

“The Brits are not nice to the Gurkhas. Look at me. I slaved for the Union Jack during the Falkland War. My father fought for the Brits in the World War II and was wounded by the Germans.”

“Why join the British or Indian Army? Just apply for political asylum like me. I came over when the Indian Army stormed our Golden Temple in Amritsar.”

“It’s not easy for Nepalese to apply for asylum.”

“Why? Everybody gets an asylum in Britain. Look at the streets in the East End, Southhall. Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Nigerians, Jamaicans everywhere.”

“The British and German authorities always say: “Nepal is a peaceful country. There’s no war out there. The tourists go there all the time. How can we Gurkhas convince the British government that we want to stay on in England after we’ve done our service? They always send us home,” said Mr. Rana.

“Home is where your heart is,” said the Sikh, thoughtfully smoothening his moustache.

Exactly. My heart is in England. My wife also wants to stay here and so do our two children.”

“When I was in India I used to say, “Indian government, no good government. Apply, apply, no reply,” said the Punjabi whose name was Avtar Singh. He’d found it difficult to get jobs in India. He’d sent out a lot of applications without any success.

The Gurkha Raj Rana replied, “Now I’m in Britain and I’m saying British government, no good government. The British we meet in everyday life are splendid people, straightforward and helpful, and hold us in high regard. We, Gurkhas, have fought for England since 1816.

“You Nepalese have no lobby in Britain. That’s the reason why the Brits treat you like that,” said Mr.Singh, scratching under his turban for the sun was shining that day in London. He’d brought along his telescope umbrella along. You never knew with English weather.

No lobby? How can we have a lobby when we live in barracks with our families. No contact with the British people. Our children have to do SLC, and not GCSE certificates when they finish schooling.”


Mr. Rana explained, “School Leaving Certificate, a paper from Nepal.”

Mr. Singh suddenly came up with: “You know what, Rana-ji? I think it’s because Nepal was never in the Commonwealth.”

“Do we have to apologise that we’ve remained an independent and sovereign state?” said Mr. Rana.

“During the Falkland War the British government said, ‘The Gurkhas are an integral part of the British Army,’” said the Gurkha.

“Yes, I remember reading about it. It was because the Argentinians protested in the UNO that the British were deploying mercenary soldiers,” said Mr. Singh.

“Some mercenary soldiers, “ remarked Mr. Rana. “For our bravery and loyalty, the Queen of England awarded us 6,500 decorations, including 13 Victoria Crosses and two George Cross medals. But you can’t live on medals alone, you know, Mr. Singh.”

“If we are equal to the British soldiers and an integral part of the Army, then why do we have lesser pay than the British soldiers?” said Mr. Rana.

“You are right. Why? I get the same pay as a white Cockney bus-driver.”

“I think you people have no lawyers and politicians behind you.”

“Mrs. Blair fought for our rights once. But her husband is no longer in politics.”

Expressing solidarity with the Gurkha movement, Liberal Democratic MP of the British parliament, Peter Carroll, had once said that the 1997 cut off date was unjustified, and that it was wrong for UK to continue to discriminate against people who had defended the UK and even sacrificed their lives, while protecting Britain and the crown. A delegation of former Gurkhas had later handed over a petition at the 10 Downing Street, the office of Prime Minister Tony Blair, and held a meeting with Veterans Minister of the British government, Derek Twiggs. In a letter faxed to GAESO and the United British Gurkha Ex-Servicemen’s Association in Nepal, Col. R.J.J. Ellis defended the cut-off date as being the day “when the (Gurkha) Brigade became a UK-based force.” On July 1, 1997, the brigade was moved to Britain from Hong Kong because the British were obliged to hand over the former Crown Colony to China.

Mahendra Lal Rai, Secretary of GAESO went on record as saying: “We will continue our fight for equal rights on the streets, as well as in court rooms against the discriminatory policies of the British government.” Very little had happened since then.

The British authorities had refuted allegations that there has been discrimination against the 3,500 British Gurkha soldiers serving in the British army.

Besharam! Such an impertinence,” said Mr. Singh, with a big sigh.

The train came and Mr. Singh hugged Mr. Rana, who entered the compartment, waved at a smiling Mr. Singh with his family, and in their thoughts they were already in Katmandu, where things were uncertain and a Maoist republic awaited them, with hikes in prices of basic commodities, political instability. Nepal seemed to be disintegrating because there was no unifying figure. The people in Nepal’s southern Terai were demanding a separate state and recognition of Hindi as the language of the Madhisays, and some had even suggested that the Terai, Nepal’s Corn Chamber, should become a state of the Indian Union. Perhaps that’s how a democratic republic functioned in the early stages.

Mr. Rana felt a terrible feeling of nausea sweeping over him when he thought about the forthcoming trip to his second homeland Darjeeling. Those grabbing Bengali customs officers who were out to rob the Gurkhas by pretending to demand taxes for foreign luxury items. Even gadgets that one used daily like hair-dryers, electric shavers, kitchen appliances were ‘taxed’ without receipts, which meant the money wandered into the pockets of the Bengali customs officers, and the Indian, or for that matter the Bengal government received nothing from this border-income. That was how it functioned.

As in the late eighties, there was the danger of a Gorkhaland civil war because a lot of problems were still unsolved. The Gorkhalis were divided now, and Subhas Ghising’s work with his Hill Council was being challenged. Bimal Gurung was gaining in profile. Jyoti Basu’s communist government was, as usual, using political delay tactics when it came to Gorkhaland issues. Where was it better? To live in strife-torn Gorkhaland or in Nepal, a republic run by a Maoist leader? Mr. Rana and his wife had to decide fast.


Commentary on Johnny Gurkhas and British Tommies:

Unspoken Barriers and the Need For a Deeper Cultural Change (Satis Shroff)

There is no major transformation in the workplace of the Gurkhas, and the pay gap still remains, even though the Gurkhas are an integral part of the British Army. Discrimination still exists between the officers and the Gurkhas, between the British government and the soldiers Gurkha Brigades. Whereas a Johnny Gurkha gets £46 per month during service, a British Tommie gets £450.

What the government ought to introduce, and the public ought to fight for, is a Gurkha Discrimination Act during or in the next legislative period. On March 2, 2008 the 30th anniversary of the Wilson government’s Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Opportunities Commission was introduced in Britain. Harassment of the Gurkhas by some of their sadistic officers should be made a form of discrimination and the officers court marshalled or brought to justice.

The Labour introduced the Equal Pay Act in 1970. The equal pay was for all British subjects, but not for the British Gurkhas. The Nepalese serving in the Brigade of Gurkhas in England might not be British subjects, but if they are an integral part of the British Army, then they should also be given the same pay. It might be mentioned that not only the Gurkhas but also the British women part-time workers earn 40% less per hour than full-time British men.

The Gurkhas are full-time professional soldiers. But as far as the dictates of Her Majesty’s Ministry of Defence is concerned, all soldiers of Britain are equal but some soldiers are still more equal than the others. What would George Orwell of ‘Animal Farm’ fame say to that?

The Gurkhas are employed primarily in the public sector as regular soldiers recruited in Nepal, and to some extent in the private sector as trusted and efficient security guards. The British have recruited even Nepalese women for a female version of the Gurkhas, and they do their military duties in the Emirates, of course, for the business delights of the British government.

Protection against discrimination is important, and it does not suffice just to write about the flavour of the extraordinary relationship which existed, and still exists, between the British officer and the Gurkha soldier. After all, the brave Gurkhas have fought under the Union Jack in France, Gallipoli, Suez and Mesopotamia in the World War I, and in Singapore, Italy and North Africa in the World War II. In the post World War era, the Gurkhas have worked in the Falkland War, Kosovo, Croatia and Iraq.

The Gurkha-problem has to be solved and the Gurkhas given equal rights, and the choice to stay on in Britain if they choose, after they are pensioned from their Army service. The Gurkha children should be allowed to attend normal British schools and do their GCSEs, A-levels, go to British universities and enter into the professions, just as any British subject. Gurkhas born in the United Kingdom and its overseas territories should be automatically granted British citizenship—without coffing up excuses about outdated British-Nepalese treaties and agreements. The soldiers in the French Foreign Legion are previliged and respected in the French society but the Gurkhas are declared persona non grata in England and the society once they develop gerontological problems and refused medical treatment by the NHS in Britain.

On the issue of the Gurkhas during the partition of Hindustan into India and Pakistan in 1947, the British General Tuker said: Our own British fault. We had hopelessly mishandled the whole business.” The Gurkha Army Ex-servicemen’s Organization (GAESO) has been demanding rights for the Gurkhas for almost 15 years. Previously, the British Army had a pension plan for Gurkhas in which they received only one-sixth of what British soldiers got under the AFP. In order to qualify for that inferior pension plan, a Gurkha needed to serve for 15 years, while a British Tommie could be eligible for the AFP program after just two years in service.

While the recent review ensures pension parity for future Gurkha recruits, the cut-off date effectively leaves out nearly 40,000 living Gurkhas who retired before 1997, many of whom live in poverty in Nepal. The British social organisations and the government don’t care about the fate of the old pensioned Gurkhas because the government can recruit any number of cannon-fodder in the hills of Nepal. The Brits have only to beckon and the prospective Gurkhas come streaming down from the hills to be recruited for the Gurkha Brigade and a trip to England, and where ever the British are engaged in a skirmish around the globe.

The mishandling of the Gurkha-business can now be corrected and the Johnny Gurkhas given their due in terms of equal salary, respect, tolerance and chances in the British society—much like the British Tommies. When you come to think of the 6,500 decorations to Gurkhas for their bravery and loyalty, including 13 Victoria Crosses and two George Cross medals, and the 45,000 Gurkha deaths in battle during Britain’s wars since 1816 till now. An additional 150,000 were injured, according to an eight-member independent international commission that visited Nepal in May 2005.

A nation has to go with the times.

Quo vadis, United Kingdom?


Drinking Darjeeling Tea in England (Satis Shroff)

Beware the Ides of September

Manchester will be a milestone

In Gordon Brown’s polit-life.

Your economic ‘competence’

Has become an Achilles heel,

Your weak point.

The people’s party of New Labour

Wants to get rid of you.

These are the rumours,

Heard in the trendy streets of London.

Twelve months ago Gordon Brown

Was the Messiah of Brit politics,

After Blair’s disastrous role in the Labour,

Unpopular, depressed,

His energy absorbed by Iraq.

Alas, even the new Messiah

Has lost his face,

Within a short time.

His weakness: decision making.

England is nervous, fidgety,

For Labour fears a possible loss,

Of its 353 Under House seats.

Above the English cabinet,

Looms a Damocles sword.

Will Labour watch

And drink Darjeeling tea,

Till a debacle develops?

Labour is in a dilemma.

Aha, wonders still do happen.

In the recent recession,

Brown was declared a winner,

Frau Merkel a loser.

David Miliband has simmered down.

A silly season indeed.

Let’s drink Darjeeling tea

In good olde England,

And do like we Germans do:

Wait and see.


The Gurkhas Are With You (Satis Shroff)

Ayo Gurkhali!

The Gurkhas are upon you!

This was the battle-cry

That filled the British heart,

With pride and admiration,

And put the foe in fear.

The Gurkhas are not upon you.

They are with you,

Among you,

In London,

Guarding the Queen at the Palace,

Doing security checks

For VIPs

And for Claudia Schiffer,

The Sultan of Brunei.

Johnny Gurkhas

Or as the Brits prefer:

Johnny Gurks.

Sir Ralph Turner,

An adjutant of the Gurkhas

In World War I said:

‘Uncomplaining you endure

Hunger, thirst and wounds;

And at the last,

Your unwavering lines

Disappear into smoke

And wrath of battle.’

Another General Sir Francis Tuker

Spoke of the Gurkhas:

‘Selfless devotion to the British cause,

Which can be hardly matched

By any race to another

In the whole history of the world..

Why they should have

Thus treated us,

Is something of a mystery.’

9000 Gurkhas died

For the Glory of England,

23,655 were severely wounded

Or injured.

Military glory for the Gurkhas:

2734 decorations,

Mentions in despatches,

Gallantry certificates.

Nepal’s mothers paid dearly

For England’s glory.

And what do I hear?

The vast silence of the Gurkhas.

England has failed miserably

To match the Gurkha’s loyalty and affection

For the British.

Faith binds humans

The Brits have faith

In the bravery and loyalty,

Honesty, sturdiness, steadfastness

Of the Gurkhas.

Do the souls of the perished Gurkhas

Have faith in the British?

Souls of Gurkhas dead and gone

Still linger seeking injustice

At the hands of Queen Victoria

And Queen Elizabeth II,


Or was it warladies,

They died for.

How has the loyalty and special relations

Been rewarded in England

Since the Treaty of Segauli

On March 4, 1816 ?

A treaty that gave the British

The right to recruit Nepalese.

When it came to her own kind,

Her Majesty the Queen

Was generous.

She lavishly bestowed lands,

Lordships and knighthoods

To those who served the crown well,

And added more feathers to England’s fame.

A Bombay-born Salman Rushdie

Gets a knighthood from the Queen,

For his Satanic and other verses.

So do Brits who play classic and pop.

When it comes to the non-British,

Alas, Her majesty feigns myopia.

She sees not the 200 years

Of blood-sacrifice

On the part of the Gurkhas:

In the trenches of Europe,

The jungles of Borneo,

In far away Falklands,

Crisis-ridden Croatia

And war-torn Iraq.

Blood, sweat and tears,

Eking out a meagre existence

In the craggy hills of Nepal

And Darjeeling.

The price of glory was high,

Fighting in the killing-fields

Of Delhi, the Black Mountains,

Khyber Pass, Gilgit, Ali Masjid.

Warring against Wazirs, Masuds,

Yusafzais and Orakzais

In the North-West Frontier.

And against the Abors,

Nagas and Lushais

In the North-East Frontier.

Neuve Chapelle in France,

A hill named Q in Gallipoli.

Suez and Mesopotamia.

In the Second Word War

Battling for Britain

In North Africa, South-East Asia,

Italy and the Retreat from Burma.

The Queen graciously passes the ball

And proclaims from Buckingham Palace:

‘The Gurkha issue

Is a matter for the ruling government.’

Thus prime ministers come and go,

Akin to the fickle English weather.

The resolute Queen remains,

Like Chomolungma,

The Goddess Mother of the Earth,

Above the clouds in her pristine glory,

But the Gurkha issue prevails.

‘Draw up a date

To give the Gurkhas their due,’

Is the order from 10 Downing Street.


We can’t pay for the 200 years.

We’ll be ruined as a ruling party,

When we do that.’

A sentence like a guillotine.

Is the injustice done to the Gurkhas

Of service to the British public?

It’s like adding insult

To injury.

Thus Tory and Labour governments have come

And gone,

The Gurkha injustice has remained

To this day.


All Englishmen cannot be gentlemen,

Especially politicians,

But in this case even fellow officers.[2]

Colonel Ellis and General Sir Francis Tuker,

The former a downright bureaucrat,

The latter with a big heart.

England got everything

Out of the Gurkha.

Squeezed him like a lemon,

Discarded and banned

From entering London

And its frontiers,

When he developed gerontological problems.

‘Go home with your pension

But don’t come back.

We hire young Gurkhas

Our NHS doesn’t support pensioned invalids.’

Johnny Gurkha wonders aloud:

‘Why they should have thus

Treated us,

And are still treating us,

Is a mystery.’

Meanwhile, life in the terraced hills of Nepal,

Where fathers toil on the stubborn soil,

And children work in the steep fields

A broken, wrinkled old mother waits,

For a meagre pension

From Her Majesty’s far off Government,

Across the Kala Pani,

The Black Waters.

Faith builds a bridge

Between Johnny Gurkhas

And British Tommies,


Between Nepal and Britain.

The sturdy, betrayed Gurkha puts on

A cheerful countenance,

Waves a silk scarf

And sings:

Resam piriri[3],’

An old trail song

Heard in the Himalayas.

About the Author: Satis Shroff is the published author of three books on www.Lulu.com: Im Schatten des Himalaya (book of poems in German), Through Nepalese Eyes (travelgue), Katmandu, Katmandu (poetry and prose anthology by Nepalese authors, edited by Satis Shroff). His lyrical works have been published in literary poetry sites: Slow Trains, International Zeitschrift, World Poetry Society (WPS), New Writing North, Muses Review, The Megaphone, Pen Himalaya, Interpoetry.

Satis Shroff is a member of “Writers of Peace,” poets, essayists, novelists (PEN), World Poetry Society (WPS) and The Asian Writer. He is a regular contributor on The American Chronicle and its 21 affiliated newspapers in the USA, in addition to Gather.com, Boloji.com etc.

[1] OMG: Oh My God

[2] In a letter faxed to GAESO and the United British Gurkha Ex-Servicemen’s Association in Nepal, Col. R.J.J. Ellis defended the cut-off date as being the day “when the (Gurkha) Brigade became a UK-based force.” On July 1, 1997, the brigade was moved to Britain from Hong Kong because the British were obliged to hand over the former Crown Colony to China. (According to this kind of administrative chase, the Gurkhas who fought for the Brits in its wars in the past 200 years were regarded as its foreign-based forces and, as such, did not enjoy the privileges that a “UK-based force” was entitled to, merely because they were put into another category by some miserly bureaucrat. I thought Germans were sticklers for bureaucracy but Her Majesty’s Government has outdone all other European nations in this issue).

[3] Resam: silk, piriri: flutter i.e. a silk scarf flutters in the wind

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Oh, Kanchenjunga (Satis Shroff)

A splash of the crimson rays of the sun appeared on the tip of the 8598m Kanchenjunga Range. Then it turned into orange and was gradually bathed in a yellowish tint, becoming extremely bright. You could discern the chirping of the Himalayan birds in the surrounding bushes and trees, amidst the clicking of cameras. I was on Tiger Hill. But my thoughts were elsewhere.

I was thinking about Kanchenjunga, my Hausberg as we are wont to call it in Germany, and the former memories of my school-days in the foothills of the Himalayas. These mountains had moulded and shaped me to overcome odds, like other thousands of other Gorkhalis, Nepalese, Lepchas, Bhutanese, Tibetans and Indians, from both sides of the Himalayas. I have watched the Kanchenjunga ever since I was a child in its different moods and seasonal changes. Cloud-watching over the Kanchenjunga was always a fascinating pastime whether from Ilam, Sikkim or Darjeeling´s Tiger Hill or even Sandakphu. To the Sikkimese the Kanchenjunga has always been a sacred mountain, and on its feet are precious stones, salt, holy sciptures, healing plants and cereals. It is a thousand year belief and tradition that the Himalayas, the abode of the Gods, should not be sullied by the feet of mortals.

Oh Kanchenjunga, you have taught us Gorkhalis and Nepalis to keep a stiff upper-lip in the face of adversity created by humans in this world and to light a candle, rather than to curse the darkness. To adapt, share and assimilate, rather than go under when the going gets tough in foreign shores. The Himalayas have taught us to be resilient and to bear pain without complaining, to search for solutions and to keep our ideals high, and not to forget our rich culture, tradition and religious beliefs.

After a brisk drive through pine-forested areas and blue mountains, I was rewarded by a vision of the Kanchenjunga Massif in all its majesty. At Ghoom, which is the highest point along the Hill Cart road, we went to the 19th century Buddhist monastery, about 8km from Darjeeling. In the massive, pompous pagoda-like building with a yellow rooftop, was a shrine of the Maitree Buddha, with butter lamps and Buddhist scarves in gaudy scarlet, white and gold.

It was a feast for the eyes. Tibetan art in exile. You go through the rooms of the museum which has precious Buddhist literature, traditional Himalayan ritual masks and a numismatic collection in the centre of the room, with coins and currency from Tibet that were in circulation till 1959. A small friendly lama-apprentice posed for a photograph of the tourists. And another little Buddha,with jet-black hair, suddenly came up, behind a mask of a Tibetan demon with ferocious-looking teeth, and sprang in front of us to get photographed for posterity.

A blue coloured Darjeeling Himalayan train built in 1881 by Sharp, Steward & Co, Glasgow, chugged along on its way to Kurseong (Khar-sang), another hill station along the route from Darjeeling to Siliguri in the plains of India. There were young Gorkhali boys from Ghoom, having a jolly time, jumping in and out of the running toy-train, with the conductor shouting at them and doing likewise, and trying to nab one of them. But the Ghoom boys were far better and faster than the ageing, panting train-conductor, whose tongue almost hanged out of his red face. It was a jolly tamasha indeed. A spectacle for the passengers amidst the breath-taking scenery in tea-country.

I thought about my friend Harka, who used to live in Ghoom, and who was one of those boys during my school-days. The last I heard of him was when he and his dear wife invited yours truly and a student friend named Tekendra Karki, now a physician in Katmandu, to have excellent Ilam tea with Soaltee Oberoi sandwiches. Tek and I were doing our BSc then at Tri Chandra college in Katmandu.

Along the side of the mini railway track, reminiscent of the Schwabian Eisenbahn from Biberach , were groups of vendors of Tibetan origin selling used clothes, trinkets, belts, bags and most other accessoirs that you find being sold along the Laden La road, leading to Chowrasta in Darjeeling.

A short drive to the Batasia loop, where the blue train made a couple of loops during its descent to Darjeeling, and suddenly you saw the clouds above the silvery massif, rising languidly in the morning.

The families of the British officers used to retreat to the hills of Darjeeling, Simla, Naini Tal to escape from the scorching heat of the India summer, and carried out their social lives and sport under the shadow of the Himalayas. Cricket, polo, pony-riding,soccer. You can still go to the Gymkhana and do roller-skating, try out a Planter’s Punch and, of course, a First Flush or dust Darjeeling tea to suit your pocket. The Chogyal of Sikkim gave the hill-station Darjeeling to the British as a gesture of Friendship, for the Sikkimese fought with the British troops against the Nepalese in the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814-15). The British government thanked the Chogyal of Sikkim and rewarded him with a handsome annual British pension. Didn’t he become a vassal of Great Britian after this act?

I went with my burly Gorkha school-friend Susil to Dow Hill via Kurseong, past the Tuberculosis sanatorium, in a World War II vintage jeep driven by a Gorkha named Norden Lama, who had blood-shot eyes and a whiff of raksi. There´s no promillen control (alcohol-on-wheels) in Darjeeling, and in the cold winter and rainy monsoon months it isn´t unusual to find jeep and truck-drivers stopping to take a swig of raksi, one for the road, to keep themselves warm. I must admit, I felt relieved when we reached our destination in one piece.

Driving along the left track of the autobahn at 150 km per hour is safe compared to all the curves that one has to negotiate along the Darjeeling trail on misty days. We were rewarded with excellent ethnic Rai-cuisine comprising dal-bhat-shikar cooked with coriander, cumin, salt, chillies, garlic, ginger and love. My school friend who´s a Chettri, a high caste Hindu, known for the ritual purity and pollution thinking, had married a Rai lady, much to the chagrin of his parents, but unlike Amber Gurung´s sad song “Ma amber huh, timi dharti,” they were extremely happy and had come together after the principle: where there´s a will, there´s a way. Or “miya bibi raaji, to kya kareyga kaji.”

As is the custom among Gorkhalis, we ritually washed our hands, sat down cross-legged, put a little food symbolically for the Gods and Goddesses, and relished our meal without talking. Talking during meals is bad manners in the Land of the Gorkhas, Nepal and the diaspora where the Gorkhalis and Nepalese live.Gorkhaland is a dream of people who cam from Nepal through migration to the British tea gardens, roads and toy-train workshops in Tindharia, and since the roads have gained importance after the British left and in the aftermath of the Indo-Chinese conflict in 1962, there was a need for the roads to be repaired by the Indian government and what better workers to hire in the foothills of the Himalayas than the sturdy, willing helpers of Nepalese origin who have lived in the area since generations.

Just as the government of Nepal under King Mahendra and Birendra carried out resettlement programms for the hill people who were eternally foraging for work in the plains (Terai) and India, the Bengal government did the same through its bureaucratic rules of transferring the Nepalese of Darjeeling district who had worked in the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway to the plains at Katihar and other places. It was a difficult transfer for the Gorkhalis, and they not only had to battle with the beastly and scorching sun of the the Indian plains but also had to learn to communicate in Hindi, Bihari, Bengali and English with the arrogant Bengalis.

On the other hand, the Bengali babus started coming in teeming numbers to the hills of Darjeeling fleeing from the plains of Calcutta, and delighted at the prospects of living in the hills of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong with perks and enjoying the fresh air and Nature, especially Kanchanjunga. The mountain took a new meaning for the Bengalis and Satyajit Ray was inspired to produce and direct a film with the title: Kanchenjunga. It became „Amar Konchonjonga” for the Bengalis.

And thereby hangs a tale.

Ode to Kanchenjunga from a Old Boy


I felt really “chuffed” when I saw your text on Radheshyam Sharma’s Blog, ” My School_ I wish “, asking after me. Yes I’m alive and kicking and have been settled in Perth since December 1972. Never too late to learn so this Bajay is grateful for the 77 years I’ve reached and blessed with good health and a close loving family and I’m still learning !

I am an ardent fan of your honest and ethical literary work and feel proud that I may have played a small part in it when I had to drum Nesfield’s Grammar et al into unreceptive heads. I pride myself in proclaiming that I have spent more than forty years in the place of my birth, Darjeeling and I have not been shaken in my love for the place and people in spite of the transformation I have seen on my visits. Your writing reenforces this and no one can take our Kunchenjunga from us.

You have done …Omnia Bene Facere

Matt Lobo

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