Saturday, 25 April 2015

Darjeeling: The queen of Hill Stations in India!

After a series of posts on Mysore, a heritage city of southern Indian peninsula, now is the time to travel up the Northern hills of Mighty Himalayas and this time, it is Darjeeling, the queen of Eastern Himalayas. Darjeeling is one of those places in India, which needs no introduction, as it has many facets to be famous and known by all. I have been exploring various parts of mystic Sikkim during my stay at Gangtok for 03 years and a trip to Darjeeling was on the cards from the day one, being the neighboring area of Sikkim. 
What i observed during my several trips to Sikkim and Darjeeling was that Sikkim was relatively untouched and less explored territory, where one could unravel many gems of natural beauty, whereas, Darjeeling had certain heritage value apart from having plenty of  natural landscapes, flora and fauna. The place is famous among all classes of travelers for it's six T's - Tea, Teak, Tourism, Tiger Hills, Trekking and Toy Train.

To explore these six T's of Darjeeling, one fine morning, we, a group of 08 persons started our trip to Darjeeling from Gangtok. It was a 4 hours (nearly 95 km) smooth ride mostly on serpentine and curvaceous NH-31A, the lifeline of Sikkim, which connects it to the rest of India. For us, it was like, first going down the hill into the planes and then again going up the hill, as Darjeeling is comparatively at higher altitude. Topographically, there is no difference between Sikkim and Darjeeling. The only difference, one can make out between the two is that the later falls in West Bengal district.

With in two hours of our journey, we had crossed Rangpo, a border town of Sikkim and had left NH-31A after Jorethang for the road (Lebong Cart Road) leading to Darjeeling. We had gone hardly a few kilometers from Jorethang and a beautiful sight of confluence of Teesta & Rangit, two major rivers of Sikkim greeted us.

Confluence of Teesta & Rangit Rivers
As we were moving up the road leading to Darjeeling, the weather was getting colder and fog was engulfing the surroundings. Soon, we crossed Lamahatta eco-tourism park and a good travel destination in itself, regarding which i will write separately. 

After another hour's journey through the famous Hill Cart Road, we had entered dazzling Darjeeling. At the entry point, our vehicle's papers were checked at the check post and we entered the city with high anticipation of fun and joy in exploring the famous hill station. As we were slowly snaking up the hills, a narrow-gauge railway track along the road grabbed our attention and we instantly realized that this is the track on which the famous toy trains of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway ply. soon, Ghum Railway Station was before our eyes. 
Ghum Railway Station
Ghum Railway Station is the highest Railway Station in India located at the height of around 7400 ft. A joy ride in the toy train from Ghum to Batasiya Loop, Darjeeling offering magnificent views may be a wonderful experience for travelers. 

We had reached there by 02:00 PM and decided to look for hotels for our night stay. Darjeeling has plenty of all budget hotels and it didn't take much time to search hotel rooms. After settling in the rooms, we started exploring local markets and famous Mall Road, popularly known as Chowrasta.

The Chowrasta is the heart of Darjeeling town. It's a flat land where tourists and locals come to enjoy in the sun and watch the wonderful views of the mountain peaks and valleys all around sitting on the benches. Here, you will find some of the old and heritage stores lined up on one side, and open view on the other with many pine trees all around. If you want to feel the real vibe of Darjeeling, Chowrasta is the right  place for you. You may also notice many young local fellows with their ponies offering horse rides to tourists.
Chowrasta at Darjeeling
Cultural Programme for tourists at Hawa Ghar, Chowrasta
We took a stroll in the bustling mall road, did some shopping of woolen clothing, for which the place is also famous for and enjoyed the cultural & musical programme going on at Chowrasta. We returned to our hotel taking colourful memories of Mall Road with us and thinking to visit the place again, if time permits. 

Next Morning, we had to start for Tiger Hills, a tourist spot, from where the magnificent view of the ranges of Mt. Kanchanjangha can be seen in a sunny morning. In the next post, i will take you all to Tiger Hills and many other tourist places of Darjeeling. Till then Adios!

नालंदा के खंडहर! (The ruins of Nalanda!)

नालंदा विश्वविद्यालय के अवशेष!

कल्पना का गीत:

यह खँडहर किस स्वर्ण-अजिर का?
धूलों में सो रहा टूटकर रत्नशिखर किसके मन्दिर का?
यह खँडहर किस स्वर्ण-अजिर का?

यह किस तापस की समाधि है?
किसका यह उजड़ा उपवन है?
ईंट-ईंट हो बिखर गया यह
किस रानी का राजभवन है?

यहाँ कौन है, रुक-रुक जिसको
रवि-शशि नमन किये जाते हैं?
जलद तोड़ते हाथ और
आँसू का अर्ध्य दिये जाते हैं?

प्रकृति यहाँ गम्भीर खड़ी
किसकी सुषमा का ध्यान रही कर?
हवा यहाँ किसके वन्दन में
चलती रुक-रुक, ठहर-ठहर कर?

है कोई इस शून्य प्रान्त में
जो यह भेद मुझे समझा दे,
रजकण में जो किरण सो रही
उसका मुझको दरस दिखा दे?

इतिहास का उत्तर:

कल्पने! धीरे-धीरे गा!
यह टूटा प्रासाद सिद्धि का, महिमा का खँडहर है,
ज्ञानपीठ यह मानवता की तपोभूमि उर्वर है।
इस पावन गौरव-समाधि को सादर शीश झुका।
कल्पने! धीरे-धीरे गा!

-- रामधारी सिंह "दिनकर"

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Ten ways to remain happy in Life

As we all know that the happiness is the best gift one can give to and receive from others. In today's world, when we have started joining the blind race for achieving materialistic well being, happiness has become a scarce commodity. Happy are those people, who live life on their own conditions, live simplistic and contented life. Late Mr. Khushwant Singh, noted writer and columnist was one such person, who lived life on his own terms, aired his views on everything bluntly and straight-forwardly and inspired a whole lot of our generation with his witty and humorous take on different aspects of life. At the advanced age of 96, he gave us 10 rules to stay happy in life in his article "how to live and die". I think, these practical rules are more relevant in today's world, especially for those, who are in constant pursuit of happiness, but don't know the right way. 

Here i am reproducing his article for the benefit of those, who have not come across this fabulous piece of writing by Mr. Khushwant Singh.

How to Stay Happy in Life:

First and foremost is good health. If you do not enjoy good health, you can never be happy. Any ailment, however trivial, will deduct something from your happiness.

                                                                                                                                                           Image Courtey:

Second, a healthy bank balance. It need not run into crores, but it should be enough to provide for comforts, and there should be something to spare for recreation— eating out, going to the movies, travel and holidays in the hills or by the sea. Shortage of money can be demoralising. Living on credit or borrowing is demeaning and lowers one in one’s own eyes.

Third, your own home. Rented places can never give you the comfort or security of a home that is yours for keeps. If it has garden space, all the better. Plant your own trees and flowers, see them grow and blossom, and cultivate a sense of kinship with them.
                                                                                                                                                                  Image Courtesy :

Fourth, an understanding companion, be it your spouse or a friend. 
If you have too many misunderstandings, it robs you of your peace of mind. It is better to be divorced than to be quarreling all the time.
                                                                                                                                                              Image Courtesy :

Fifth, stop envying those who have done better than you in life—risen higher, made more money, or earned more fame. Envy can be corroding; avoid comparing yourself with others.
                                                                                                                                                        Image Courtesy:

Sixth, do not allow people to descend on you for gup-shup. By the time you get rid of them, you will feel exhausted and poisoned by their gossip-mongering.
                                                          Whoever gossips to you, will gossip about you!                 Image Courtesy :

Seventh, cultivate a hobby or two that will fulfill you—gardening, reading, writing, painting, playing or listening to music. Going to clubs or parties to get free drinks, or to meet celebrities, is a criminal waste of time. It’s important to concentrate on something that keeps you occupied meaningfully.
                                                                                                                                                                     Image Courtesy :

Eighth, every morning and evening devote 15 minutes to introspection. In the mornings, 10 minutes should be spent in keeping the mind absolute!
                                                                                                                                                                       Image Courtesy :

Ninthdon’t lose your temper. Try not to be short-tempered, or vengeful. Even when a friend has been rude, just move on.

Tenth,  Above all, when the time comes to go, one should go like a man without any regret or grievance against anyone.  Iqbal said it beautifully in a couplet in Persian: “You ask me about the signs of a man of faith? When death comes to him, he has a smile on his lips.”

I would love to hear from you on how to be happy in life and do you think these rules are easy to be practised.