Kalimpong is a boring town. The Bielefeld of India. You may think, at first glance. But that it is not quite fair. Uniform lovers will love the city in any case. There are lots of schools and military. Back in colonial many schools were founded in Kalimpong and in the afternoon the city is full of teenagers in school uniform.
But the town is also a religous and political hotspot. There are several churches of various confessions, an ashram dedicated to Krishna, several Hindu temples, a mosque and monasteries of all four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Also, Kalimpong is surounded by four foreign countries. It is only a few hours by car to Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Tibet (China). Since the relationship between the two biggest countries on earth is not really friendly the whole area is fortified, every day troop transporters are driving through Kalimpong and the army has outposts up to 4500 meters altitude, only a few Kilometers away from the chinese border.
Kalimpong is on the traditional trade route between Tibet and India and used the be a market town where Tibetan wares were traded. Now the border is closed and instead of traders there are, allegedly, a of lot Indian, Chinese and Tibetan agents in Kalimpong. A known fact is, that the noodlemaker of Kalimpong, the brother of Dalai Lama is living and here and he used to have contact with the CIA and was negotiating with the Chinese.
In my peaceful monastery, however, I feel nothing of Kalimpong’s 007 vibes. Most of time I am sitting on my veranda, work, surf and enjoy the view on Kalimpong. I’ve never had a more beautiful work place. Especially now, since the rainy season is finally over. It lasts from July to September and the biggest inconvenience ist not the rain but the fog. During the monsoon Kalimpong is a city in the clouds and drying the laundry close to impossible. But now the weather has changed, the sky is blue and rainfall rare. It may be hard to believe but here winter is the nice time of the year.
But even though it would like to spend most of my time on my veranda, I have to go town at least ocasionally. I need to buy fruits, milk powder and cheese or sometimes I have to go to see a doctor. But that is not really cumbersome. The journey costs me 10 Rupees (12 Cents) on one of the shared taxis that travel so frequently on the main road and it doesn’t even take ten minutes until I reach town. The taxis are (very) small Suzuki vans. In Germany maybe four persons would fit into such a vehicle. Here in India, we can be up to nine other people in the car. But even that is not really annoying but, somehow, always fun. I really enjoy travelling in India, though it is often slow and always crowded.
In contrast, the toothache that I’ve had for some weeks and that kept continously getting worse is quite annoying. In the beginning I could still ignore it, but at some point I realized: I have to go to the dentist! So, with a heavy heart I set out. I’ve been to the doctor in India for several times and the experience was throughout good. But a dentist is something different. Potentially very painful. Do they use anesthesia in India?
Having arrived I am somehow reassured. Everything looks the same way it does in Germany. Only a little bit smaller and older. But the same smell and the same nervous faces. Besides me there are only four women in the waiting room. But they go in pairs into the treatment room, in India your family won’t let you go alone to the dentist. And the ladies seem to have only a small check-up, ten minutes later it is my turn. I am so curious to see the treatment room that I’ve nearly forgotten my anxiousness.
But as in the waiting room, everything is a little bit older, the room is small but everything is clean and tidy. And if drill and pliers are old or new is not really important, much more important is the person handling them. And I am lucky. The dentist, although also a little bit older has exactly the calm, comptent and caring radiance that one expects from a doctor and only rarely gets in Germany.
So I sit myself into the dental chair without concerns. The dentist finds I huge cavity in a wisdom tooth, gives me three anaesthetic injections, drills and prepares a provisoric filling. Finished, almost without pain, it couldn’t have gone better. And it costs only 300 Rupies, about four Euros. I can definitly recommend Indian dentists. Next time I have bigger problem with my teeth I’ll just take a flight to India and combine my new teeth with a nice holiday and will probably still be able to save some money compared to a German dentist. Once in Kochi, I’ve met an English couple that has been flying to India for years, just to get their teeth made. And they both had a splendid smile.
Anyway, I quite relieved I buy my fruits, milkpowder and cheese, take a shared taxi back to my buddhist monastery and spend the rest of my day on my veranda.