Sunday, September 25, 2011

North Sikkim Remembered

Sikkim is the original God’s own country (I will brook no dissenting opinions here) and North Sikkim is His own very special place. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful- rugged snow capped mountains, deep valleys, lush alpine forests, clear fast flowing streams. Sikkim is paradise on earth.

My first view of North Sikkim. Lachen  is
a pretty little village.

North Sikkim and its lovely people did not deserve the earthquake. What saddens me more is the indifferent response of the general public to the catastrophe. The spontaneous mobilisation of voluntary efforts is completely absent. True, more lives were lost in Gujarat and Latur. But  North Sikkim’s suffering is no less in its intensity.  

Life is not easy here. In the best of times, the roads are bad; in the worst, they cease to exist. Landslides are a fact of everyday life. The weather can change several times a day-sunny to wet to cool to biting cold. Villages, settlements and hamlets are scattered. Communications are erratic. Yet, in spite of the hard life, the people are among the friendliest and the most helpful ones that you could meet.

Early evening- This house in Lachen 
is a  picture right out of a fairy tale 
We were looked after by a family of three-a woman and two teenage children- when we stayed at their lodge in Lachen. We were a group of twenty fussy and demanding  big city dwellers. They checked us in, carried our bags to our rooms, had hot tea and snacks ready, served  a delicious seven course dinner, got us bed tea at 6am, followed by hot water for our baths and breakfast at 8. Their smiles never slipped. They were genuinely delighted to have us.

The pictures  in this post bring back memories of a lovely time in a lovely place with lovely people.

The Monastery in Lachung. Did it survive the quake?
Lachung - the river Teesta flows at
a lively pace by the town
The Sinba Valley bursts with colour in the months of April and early May. It is time for the annual Rhododendron Festival which draws nature lovers from all over the world by the hundreds.

Blood red, lilac, orange, lavender-
Nature's very own Holi Festival
Rhododendrons rule the valley
a few weeks. 

Yumthong Valley

The river Teesta in Yumthong

Sinba valley carries the scars of numerous landslides over the years. The media carried reports of damage to Lachung, Singa and Yumthong. What does it take to ruin a postcard?

Up Close-the mountains in Katao

Katao- about 30km from Lachung
The day before our visit, three army
soldiers were killed by a landslide at
this spot

The roads challenge the sturdiest of SUVs.Break downs and getting stuck in the mud are common.There is an accepted code of conduct that, regardless of impatient tourists, passing drivers must stop and offer help. Our driver stopped several times to help pull vehicles out of the slush or coax tired engines back to life.
Such sights are a regular feature in Sikkim. Manoj, our
driver(far right in white jersey) helped get this SUV out of
the mud and the convoy moving.  Manoj played the
good samaritan often.

This young man lives in Sinba valley and stopped
us just to ask for cigarettes. Our driver obliged and we were
rewarded with a grateful smile

 It is great pity that Sikkim's suffering has to compete for attention with the Euro crises , US debt and 2G. I suspect-and the thought does not give any comfort-that , like other north-eastern states, Sikkim has not completely integrated into our national consciousness.

As I write this- more than a week after the quake- Television Channels have started to play tickers asking for donations to the Chief Ministers fund. For those who read this, please help as much as you can. Let us reach out to the people of Sikkim at this time of need.


Sriraman Ganapathi said...

I haveo not had the oppurtunity to visit Sikkim, but I do agree, SIKKIM continues to be Gods own country. Kerala Maybe but no longer is Gods Own Country.

I will visit that state sooner than later

ADITI said...

I think people should be made to visit sikkim before they go abroad.

SRINAYAN said...

You can't force people to visit places. But,in terms of natural beauty, Sikkim is as good as many European destinations. Sadly, we haven't done much about the infrastructure. It is hard for the people living there and much more difficult for tourists.