Darjeeling is famous for the little blue “Toy Train” that runs on an 18 inch wide track gauge. I opted for the shared jeep from Siliguri since the train takes nine hours for the sixty mile trip. Most of the people here are Nepali and it feels like a different world from two hours ago down in the plains of India. Passed through some tea plantations and many billboards with advertisments for boarding schools. No coincidence that friends Salman and Mesbah from Dhaka both went to school in Darjeeling. Many of the schools were started by British missionaries over one hundred years ago and it’s a visual disconnect to see the modern- looking students walking alongside the Nepalese porters who live very close to the earth. It’s really nice to escape the noise pollution of Dhaka in this quiet town of about 90,000. There aren’t that many travelers here and after 7 pm the streets are deserted.
Woman’s demonstration for Ghurkaland, Darjeeling
The Ghurka’s have been involved in a long bitter struggle with the government of India and West Bengal for a separate state. On my third day thousands of woman arrived in town on buses and staged a demonstration. Many also sat along the road on a twenty four hour hunger strike. Since Darjeeling is close to borders with China, Nepal and Bhutan it’s doubtful that the Indian government will give in to their demands. Still the Ghurka’s are a formidable force. More than 200,000 fought in the two world wars and in the past fifty years, they have served in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Borneo, Cyprus, the Falklands, Kosovo and now in Iraq and Afghanistan. The name “Gurkha” comes from the hill town of Gorkha from which the Nepalese kingdom had expanded