Monday, October 04, 2004

A walk in the clouds..

The winding road that leads you from Siliguri to Gangtok is the most picturesque one that I have ever come across. Grooves of tall eucalyptus greet you as soon as you leave the dusty plains of Bengal. A little further up the hills the ever beautiful Theesta river gurgles her exuberant welcome. She links her silken arm to yours promising to walk by your side as the you make your way up. All along the way she whispers playfully into your ears inviting you to stop a while and look into her emerald green eyes, or gaze at the majestic Himalayas that stand guard all around. Interesting nooks abound by the roadside, standing from where you can witness the mesmeric rhythm of undulating hills, each crest with its own shade of green, silently beckoning you to get off the beaten path and explore. At the Tibetan style gate to the state of Sikkim, Theesta bids you goodbye and rushes back down to guide other wayfarers like you. The majestic mountains now take over your charge and lead you through the pristine green forests and stay with with you until you enter the quaint Gangtok town, perched on the top of a mountain 6000 Ft over the sea level.

Gangtok is a fascinating place, a Sanghri-La where time itself stopped to take a breather. It is an interesting mix of classical Tibetan culture juxtaposed with modern Indian lifestyle. The scenery all around, from any point in the town that you might be, is truly breath-taking. The majestic Kanchanjunga looms over, as you slowly take a stroll through the main shopping district and gaggles of cute children can be seen running around most of the time. Small Momo shops dish out tasty Tibetan fare in street corners even as shops next to them sell everything from Sikkimese handicraft to the latest electronics and fashions merchandise.

The view from the terrace of Mona's house is really wonderful. Green mountains, almost untouched by human habitation slowly unveil themselves through the mist every morning. Throughout the day colourful Buddhist flags flutter in the mountain winds, spreading afar the tidings of peace and the blessings of the Enlightened One. As the evening wafts in, amidst the chants of mantras, Buddhist hymns and the ubiquitous whine of televisions, the whole of Burtuk Busti clothes itself again in a blanket of mist, as if getting ready for facing the cold night ahead.

I have been to Gangtok thrice already and each of these times I have found new places to explore and new things to learn. Rumtek Monastary, Changu Lake (Tsamgo in Tibetan), the Orchid Gardens, the institute of Tibetology, View Point, Ganesh-Tok are some of the must-see and must-do things there. There are a number of places in and around Gangtok, from where you can actually see clouds floating much below where you stand. One of my recurrent dreams is that of flying, being in Gangtok is the closest that I have gotten to that.

However, what enchants to me the most, each and everytime, is the way of life in Gangtok. Make no mistake, Gangtok is a modern Indian capital town, with its own share of typical urban problems that assails the rest of the country. Still, in the face of all that life moves along a trifle unhurriedly and with a little more grace in Gangtok. Neighbours here really are neighbours and not faceless people with whom you share walls and the warmth in the morning greetings can still be discerned.

I feel the appeal of Gangtok, for me, is in its people who have refused to become automatons in face of the pressures of modern day living. And in summary that's the message that I bring back for myself every time I visit there: Stay Human.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Eternally Uttam

Satyajit Ray had once lent words to what all Bengali film goers had always known of Uttam Kumar - There isn't - there won't be another hero like him.

Uttam Kumar, as Uttam Kumar himself said in a movie, is Uttam Kumar. The kind of mass adulation he received in his lifetime and beyond is unsurpassed and is likely to remain so. He has, at various times of his career, been called legend, a genre by himself and at times even a God :). His electric performances with Suchitra Sen and later Supriya Devi are stuff that makes history, and make history he did.

An hypnotic presence, an thoroughly disarming smile and just the right amount of impishness, he represents, I think, what every Bengali, who is a little romantic at heart, (and that would be almost everyone) would aspire to be. Whether he won the heart of his lady love in Agniparisha, became a saint in Sanyashi Raja or gave up his life in service to others in Agnishwar, he had the whole of Bongdom rooting for him all the way. He was and is for us the Only superstar, part of the set of essentials like Durgapuja, Football and Ilish Mach that makes us, us.

Saw an Uttam Movie last weekend, an adaptation of The Sound of Music, really enjoyed and hence this reverential tribute to the our Maha-Nayak.

Uttam and Suchitra

A couple of Uttam Links that I liked:
3to6A Movie Portal Tribute
Uttam Kumar