Thursday, April 3, 2014

Incredible, Magnificent, India: Sikkim

 Sikkim: a must visit place, where people are very simple and very helpful too.
We went there for our 25th wedding anniversary, that was almost 9 years ago. We were there from October end to the 1st week of November. It was very cold, but very good, it was not yet snow season,  but was just a month away.  We were at the right time, although we could see and experience snow, walk on snow covered mountain paths, but only when we reached a little higher, not from where we had started our journey of Sikkim. For Pelling to be covered with snow one would have to wait for one more month.

 Sikkim is huge  we cannot cover everything within ten days. There are many beautiful places to visit in Sikkim, you have to choose what you actually want to see and then plan accordingly.
 We started our journey from Pelling.
We booked ourselves in the famous Tashi Gang Resort.
It is a lovely hotel, in the sense one can have the best view of the beautiful  Kanchenjunga, said to be the third highest mountain in the world. Imagine it is right across your room, almost as if you can touch it. Everyday you can just keep looking at the most mesmerising mountain  right from your balcony.  
The room was comfortable but other than that we did not feel like trying their food, as I think during off season, people there tend to look as if it is asking for too much. The reception and the staff looked like they could surely do with make over. It is a shame, to have a hotel in such beautiful calm location, with beautiful views, and not have an enthusiastic staff. I suppose all hill stations are like that only in India, now of course things have improved with the setting up of such classy resorts like the Mahinderas, etc.
Anyway we, found a nice homely place to eat nearby, which was quite good. Also we could walk a few miles maybe for 20 to 30 minutes, and reach the local market place where you can find some good Marwari restaurants serving you good meals, good samosas, and momos, excellent tea. It was good walking down the hill watching nature, exploring, taking in the fresh mountain air, and then climbing back,  which used to be a little tough, but we soon got used to that.
This was the hotel we stayed in Pelling: it belongs to the famous  Indian actor Danny Denjongapa's (Danny who acted in the movie Seven Years In Tibet) brother
The view from the entrance of the hotel 

        
                                                     
Khechopalri
Literally, the Noble Heaven- Reaching Mountain. A lake so calm it is said to be protected from all disturbances. Locals insist that not even a leaf falls on it to disturb its placidity; and if one does, a bird immediately swoops down to carry it off.
It was indeed a beautiful sight. There is monastery too there. It is very peaceful and serene.
There are a few other places too like Rimbi Falls and Kanchenjunga Falls and Pemayangtse Monastery,
Singshore Bridge which is second highest suspension bridge in Asia. A chill down your spine is ensured when you look down from center of the bridge. All this can easily be seen by hiring a Sumo jeep whose drivers themselves are guides too, in a single day
You would be surprised to see young boys in the age group of 15 to 18  handle these jeeps and rough terrain beautifully Unfortunately I have lost the pictures of the falls and the bridge, but you can look them up in the net.



We were lucky we could always see the majestic mountain from everywhere in Pelling.

We then left Pelling and travelled all the way up to Lachung,( which is much higher) where we stayed in a beautiful looking hotel. The room was just okay, but the food they cooked specially for us was really great, and since it was off season, they would make whatever we asked them to make.

It is called the Snowlion Hotel. It has dragons in the entrance , and is also the tallest building, and very grand too from outside.

                                                           This is a borrowed picture from the net

 For this hotel , we had to book only through their official agents known as the Marcopolo travels
Once again I have lost the picture of this hotel, which has a typical Chinese architecture, and very colorful too.

Here it was much, much colder than Pelling.

More about Lachung:
Lachung is a town located in the state of Sikkim. It falls under the north Sikkim district and is not very far from the China border. At an altitude of about 3,000 m above sea level, Lachung is located at the confluence of River Lachen and River Lachung, which are tributaries of the Teesta River. A forward base has been set up in this town by the Indian Army to guard and protect the borders.
From here it is a must to see Yumthang, which is about 2 hours from Lachung. 




The tropical lushness of the ever flowing Teesta River



The river Teesta behind me: since it is winter, you see very little water flowing through it. In some places the flow is heavy, and as we travel through Sikkim it is always by your side , one can never get tired of watching this lovely river flowing by. In the summer months people do river rafting. The icy cold waters of the rugged Teesta have a series of rapids with varying intensity and character. It offers one of the finest rafting stretches in the world. Rangit, a tributary of the Teesta, has more turbulent waters and offers many challenges to more experienced rafters.


Gurgling mountain streams are almost constant companions on the journey through North Sikkim.






A view to die for

Next we travelled to Yumthang in the Bollero provided by our Hotel in Lachung.

A brief stop to see the natural Hot Springs.

Near the natural hot springs:which is believed to have high therapeutic values. Saline in taste, the water of the spring emits sulphurated hydrogen gas and its temperature is 106 degree. The water of the spring with such composition is believed to be beneficial for skin diseases. 

Yumthang also has the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary with antique species of orchids and rhododendrons, which we could not see because they bloom only in summer.



Amazingly beautiful Yumthang: at other times river Teesta would be rushing in full force behind me

A brief stop to see the hot springs here. So close to these mountain ranges.





Chocolate lovers would immediately be reminded of Toblerone when they see these mountains.

A lone forest rest house in the middle of no where


The two drivers : so young, and such expert drivers and very friendly too.



Near the Hot Springs : although it was a bright day with sun shining, yet it was very cold with the cold breeze literally freezing me




The icy source of Teesta, Sikkim's mightiest river...
from November to March, Yumthang is all white and a perfect site for trekking and skiing.


Pure Heaven




Yumesamdong: set on the brink of the Chinese border, this place is actually a land of perennial snow. It is well known for its hot springs, there are about 14 of them around Yumesamdong.

This is the Zero point, where the road ends, as this point is the end of India and beyond is Indo- China border.... it is really awesome. Nobody to bother you, it is just you and the snow covered mountains.



I felt like staying there for ever.

After this we came down to Gangtok



From its perch on a hilltop facing the city of Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, the monastery complex at Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre embodies the vision and aspiration of the Sixteenth Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, to establish his seat-in-exile to help spread the teachings of the Buddha throughout the world.

I did not like Gangtok very much, although the hotel where we stayed was very good, it was a 5 star hotel, their rooms too had very good view of the far away Kanchenjunga mountain. I felt we could have planned better and could have seen some other beautiful places in Sikkim, instead of Gangtok.

Our trip to Sikkim ended here. It was the most unforgettable trip and I would always cherish it.

I have started a new blog on cooking, please visit it if you can : tocookoutofthebox.blogspot.in

Thursday, March 27, 2014

If A Dog Were Your Teacher : Author Unknown

                           our latest dogs: Loki and Bumbilli

If a dog were your teacher
These are some of the lessons you might learn...

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face
to be pure ecstasy

When it's in your best interest
practice obedience

                                waiting for the their biscuits
Been asked to stay!
                             Been asked to hold

 Let others know when they've invaded your territory
Take naps and stretch before rising
Run romp and play daily

watch your home: playing the guard duty


Plan something naughty with your best buddy 

Then go about doing them, the other one looks on innocently, knowing that he is the one who going to get the beating
watch the world go by from the terrace
Play time
While you drink water, I can coolly rest my chin on your soft back
My Ball (our previous dog Toffee)
My tennis ball, I won't drop it from my mouth
( our first dog Cookie)

Thrive on attention and let people touch you

Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do
On warm days stop to lie on your back on the grass


On hot days drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree

             Afternoon nap under the shade of the Cashew tree

When you're happy dance around and wag your entire body


No matter how often you're scolded
don't buy into the guilt thing and pout
run right back and make friends, even if you are locked out. Try out all the tricks: they would surely fall for you...



Delight in the simple joy of a long walk

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm
Stop when you have had enough
Be loyal
Never pretend to be something you're not

If what you want lies buried
dig until you find it
When someone is having a bad day
be silent .....


...sit close by.

...and nuzzle
Do you have a dog/ dogs?
What did they teach you?
Though having dogs can be quite a handful, but somewhere deep within us they manage to make a beautiful space, which nothing on this earth can ever replace.
 When people say, that "our dogs are lucky to have us",
we say "we are the ones who are lucky to have had the good fortune of not only having had two dogs (they died), but continue to have two more equally lovable dogs now, who are both hale and hearty".
To our darlings Cookie, Toffee (still living very much in our hearts), Loki and Bumbillli!!!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Women and Men Who Inspired Me

Today is Women's  day, and I can not only think of some women but also men who inspired me to be the person that I am today.
First let me start with my mother:
I have written many blogs about her. She was and still is my first inspiration.
I must say,  I have inherited her humor, her sense of never feeling old, always young at heart, her mimicry, her cooking skills ( though I am still to reach her level), her patience, her frankness, her art of enjoying her own jokes or jokes made at her expense, and last but not least her smile.
When I look back to the life she was forced to live, I feel she had managed pretty well, despite various hurdles thrown in her path.
She loved to sing, she had a soft, sweet voice, and she was a good story teller too. She used to have a temper too sometimes, which also I have inherited from her, though these days I don't get as mad as I used to, when I was younger. Like her I also love all the fun things in life.
Till I got married, I was always dependent on her to select my dresses and sarees for me: she had excellent taste.
From her I learnt to be more forgiving. She had sacrificed so many things for us, her time, her desires, her aspirations: only to make us happy.
I am sure this is nothing new, for all mothers are like that only.




 My mom and my eldest sister taken during my wedding.

My Sweet elder sister:
She is 11 years older than me, and she is almost like a mother to me. While she was very young, many a time it fell upon her, (when my mom was busy with cooking or other errands) to look after me. She would sing a beautiful lullaby for me, which she just made up for me. I can still hear her sweet voice,  filled with love and tenderness,  even after so many years.
She is an excellent singer, trained in both Carnatic music, and  Hindi Bhajans. Her voice too is very soft and sweet. I remember when she sang the song "Hey Mera Watan Ke Logo", (a patriotic song sung by Latha Mangashwar) in one of her college functions, I could see tears in every body's eyes.
She was also a brilliant debater, she stood 2nd in the All Assam Debate Competition in 1964. She was very smart, nothing was challenging for her; for she was ready for anything in life.
She got married  when very young, and the trials and tribulations of her married life did not make her a cribber. She faced everything, without uttering a word of regret, or complain, she was the type who, when given a lemon could make a lemonade out  of it and be happy.
Family was important to her more than her goals, desires and aspirations, which kept knocking at her door, but which she chose to ignore.
She is a real gem  of a person. A person who would never gossip, nor entertain anybody who likes to gossip. She was my father's favorite child. And she is our favorite sister too.
I always look at her and try to learn certain good things from her.

Then comes my 2nd elder sister:
                                  Here she is with my mom: taken during my parent's visit to the US.

She had a good life here in India, until her husband went to America to help his sister who felt she needed some family of her own. My sister too went with him taking her two small kids with her.
Life in those days was quite tough in the US. She was used to domestic helps in India , who would look  after her home, her kids, but in the US she had to do everything  by herself. As if that was not enough, she was forced to learn car driving, do all the household work, look after the kids their school, run errands, go to the bank, take her sick Father in law to the hospital for regular check ups, handle money and everything, which she never had to bother in India. Children were growing up, high expenses, and recession.
She started a Day Care Center for kids, had a Cassette lending library, and a travel agency. In the US it is mandatory for both partners to earn to live well.
She finally closed the other businesses and was only concentrating on her Day Care Center, which was very popular, and there was a high demand for her services.She is very good with kids.
Then her husband got laid off. But that did not make him give up, he took up Home Improvement projects,and he was very good at that.
When I look at all these people,  I am inspired, and wish them well. I don't know whether inspiration alone is enough, for I often feel I would have failed to come up as they have, if I were in their situation.
My Brother in law was not  only a smart engineer, he was also a very good man. He would help my sister in all her work, encouraged her to learn driving, to drive in the snow, to be a brave woman.

As if all this was not enough trouble, he suddenly got a Stye type of infection in his eyes, first the doctors thought it was just a regular,  harmless Stye, but after various tests it was found that it was a rare condition, where although there was nothing wrong with his vision, he would not be able to see because his eyelids would automatically close, some muscular problem there.( I don't know the name of this medical condition). They have still not found any cure for this condition.
This happened when he was so happy to get back his regular engineer's job in the same company. He was hardly in this job for 2 years when this eye problem cropped up, making it impossible for him to continue in the job.
He got some surgeries done, he  was on Botox, and that did not help him much, then he got some minor operation done by which he could partially keep his eyes open, but that has its own disadvantages too.
My sister became the sole earner, while he used to get some occasional Home Improvement jobs, and some finance from the various investments he had done.
He is still the smartest person on earth, he can travel alone, he can take good pictures of my sister, and he is very dependable man. He can see, but has to forcefully lift his eye lid.
The main thing about him, is that,  he stuck there, and did not come running back to India. One needs lots of guts and tremendous courage to stay there and somehow tackle all the odds and make a living and be happy under any circumstances.
My second sister and her husband are the people I look up for inspiration whenever, I am down and depressed. I also give full credit to my sister in being there for him all the time. She is also a person who has a real zest for life, making it a point to enjoy every minute of her life with her husband and her lovely grown up children, and grand children. They all simply adore her.

My Father:
Anyone can get inspired by him, for him nothing is impossible, even if it is he would somehow make it possible by hook or crook. Life has treated him pretty harshly, but has never been able to crush him.
He has a lot of will power to bear anything in life and he will always face the hurdles with a smile. I feel, I have inherited this trait of having a strong will power from him, and I thank him everyday for that gift.
He is 92 still going strong, manages his own affairs, like finance, buying his own tickets to go wherever he plans to go, travels by bus / train all by himself, and also ride his TVS Moped even at this age.



Finally my husband:
He never questions me about anything. He is always around as he runs his business from home. He is there to cut the vegetables for me,( he would cut them according to our menu), he would go to the market and get all the things for the house, he would also not mind, to cook if I wanted him  to cook.
He gives me all the space needed in our relationship, and is always a fun person to be with. He has been with me in good times as well as bad times.
His goodness is very inspiring, although whether I can ever be like him is doubtful.




No point in celebrating Women's day, if we cannot acknowledge some of the good men and also some good women who have had played some significant roles in our lives.
Cheers to all the inspiring women and men in our lives !!