I never felt as good leaving a city as when I left Kolkata. During the monsoon the dirty charm of the City of Joy is buried beneath countless, deep, dark puddles and continuous rainfall. The air is so humid that even after turning around in my bed I am already soaked in sweat. But tomorrow everything will be better. It will probably still rain. But the air will be much cooler, my room much cleaner and the atmosphere so much calmer.
My train leaves Kolkatta at 10:05pm and is supposed to arrive at 8pm in Siliguri. There I will meet my contact from the monastery, Gendun. This time I chose not economise and and instead of travelling with Sleeper Class I booked a seat in the 3rd Class AC. Another world! In sleeper class I met mainly young men but here I am surrounded by Indian families. Everyone here seems to be a bit plump. The economic boom is expanding hips, too. Back in Sleeper Class everyone was still slim.
There is not much conversation going on, everyone is staring into their phones. After the controller has passed through our car we unfold the beds and go to sleep. There are one or maybe two people snoring in the car but overall I have a peaceful night.
The train arrives on time, at half past 8 in Siliguri. Terminus, everyone is in a hurry to leave the train. In spite of the early hour, the sun is already shining brightly as I get off the train. No cloud is staining the clear blue sky and it is already quite hot.
While I am getting of the train Gendun is calling. He will be late. The road has been blocked by landslides but he will be at the station in twenty minutes anyway. I am still not in the mood for eating so I buy myself a bottle of Thumps Up for breakfast, sit down on bench and wait.
Suddenly a cleaner appears next to me, in his hand a cable that is ending in three wires. He puts each of them neatly in one of the holes of the socket in the wall. Then he walks to his scrubbing machine and calmly starts cleaning the floor. I am not sure if I should admire him or if I should be shocked but at least now I know: Plugs aren’t necessary!
Gandun is calling again, he has just arrived at the station. He wants to meet me on the flyover. So I go, just as I had started talking with an Indian soldier from Nepal who is on his way to Nagaland with his whole family.
And then we really meet on the flyover. It takes me some time to recognize him. He only wears the wine read skirt of tibetan regalia and a bright red shirt. He is approximately my age and he wears almost the same glasses that I used to wear. Together, we walk to the taxi he has booked to bring us to the monastery.
After driving for about one hour we are having a short break. Until now we were driving on flat land, full of forests, barracks and here and there a small village. But now the mountains rise in front of us. We have arrived at the foot of the Himalayas. The road winds itself along the slopes of a narrow valley. On the bottom of the valley the rains masses of the last days transform themselves into a rushing river. Forest covered mountains rises high to the left and right.
The road is getting narrower, its surface rougher. Soon we are driving over the first areas where mud slides have covered the road. There has been enormous rainfall the past few days. But as there is only little traffic, we are moving along reasonably fast and after only two hours we arrive in the monastery in Kalimpong.
Kalimpong lies on the border to Sikkim which has been a small, independent himalayan kingdom until seventies. Bhutan the remaining kingdom is only a few hours away and Nepal and Bangladesh are not too far away either.
I am lucky. Even up here the rainy season takes a break. The sky couldn’t be bluer, the air is neither to hot nor to humid. As we are entering through the gate the gong is calling for lunch. It is every bit as beautiful as I have imagined it. Instead of cars honking I hear birds singing, flowers are thriving everywhere, and the forest is growing up to lower border of the monastery.
Gendun shows me his room which is quite big but maybe a bit to sparsely furnished. But that can be easily changed. And I even have an own bathroom, I wouldn’t have expected so much luxury. As I am tired and in dire need of rest I am relieved when I am finally alone. Exhausted I let myself fall onto the bed and am sound asleep soon after.