East Sikkim Saga: The Silk Road Tale

15th Mar 2016

Valley of snow & stunning blue sky: Mountain Love

Photo of Gnathang, Sikkim, India by Shreya Nandy
Day 2

Misty mountains. Nose numbing cold. Thin but fresh air. Spiraling roads flanked by dense pine forests. Industrious locals. With broad smiles. Passing army trucks. Lurking inside are pining souls, itching to get back to their sweethearts and family as soon as their duty ends. A young captain, waiting serendipitously in the mist, to invite you to join him for a walk - and in the course and bends of the mountains, you unravel intriguing stories - about him, his work, his mates and 'border'-line realities. A proud strong fellow, surrounded by death and harshness. But weakness doesn't show. Neither he sounds like a fatalist. He's just that. A man. With a job. A duty. A regular. And you silently witness the Indian army's 'bear hug' sized hospitality. Playing a game of cricket with the locals during leisure time or just inviting us over for a glass of chai and 'biskoot'! Tinged with ginger and fragrant with cardamom, the warmth spreads beyond the finger, tongue, throat and makes way to our hearts. Sitting on their bunker beds, surrounded by jawaans, eagerly sharing their stories, with fogs setting down heavy outside and temperature dropping sharply: our experience couldn't have been better.

The road which led to many adventures

Photo of Zuluk, Sikkim, India by Shreya Nandy

Zuluk is much much more than its proximity to the zigzag road (a BRO wonder - you've to see it to believe it), a helipad (too mainstream for us to visit) or the Shiva temple in the village (although we went twice in the same evening because the location was generous with phone signals and soon it became our hangout zone with the young army captain). For us, Zuluk meant seeking shelter at a Nepali Aunty's hut from a sudden spell of rain. To be ushered in with hot cup of chai and a wood fired heater along with a cuddly house dog, Tommy and a heater loving cat, Mao. 'Snug as a bug in a rug' - if that would have been at all possible, we felt quite near.

Gnathang: a hilly hamlet

Photo of East Sikkim Saga: The Silk Road Tale by Shreya Nandy

Of course, home-stays found in this circuit are yet to attain that label of luxury. Location is remote, construction dubious and supply is expensive. Yet people like Gopal Pradhan and Sebastian Pradhan are trying to gradually get the government to help in creating more comfortable accommodation and also generate income for the local natives, thereby checking city migration. Cause is noble but development is slow, but travelers who don't snort at homely atmosphere with basic amenities provided and friendly and helpful hosts, can enjoy their stay here. Because nothing can kill the location experience.

A religion that unites us all: cricket!

Photo of Zuluk, Sikkim, India by Shreya Nandy
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