Darjeeling – The Comical Episode of Monkeys’ Rampage Against The Humans!!

Most of us are acquainted with the beautiful city of “Darjeeling” traced in the Indian state of  West Bengal, by the Himalayan foothills popular for its summer resorts, tea farmsteads, tall peaks and scenic beauty. But this city has something else too, not uncanny but certainly captured in all the cameras that ever stopped at the city, that is the plethora of diverse clans of monkeys found in every single corner across the entire city. And this tale certainly revolves around them…

After an impressive stay at Manali and having scaled the splendid snowy heights of Rohtang Pass, the next stopover was Darjeeling. It was early morning when we checked in for a few days, into an exciting great hotel with cliquey  but undoubtedly beautiful rooms. I vividly remember, standing in the veranda of the room, gazing into the never ending expanse of towering green trees touching the altitudes of the beautiful blue sky, as the cold wind brushed my face. The view was enchanting, to say the least.

Nevertheless, little did we know that though the morning bequeathed us with amity, afternoon had its own set of mayhem well thought-out for us. It was late afternoon when Riddhi (my twin) and I were playing noiselessly in our room with mother by our side, having her peaceful nap. This was the stint when we overheard our first set of ‘Thad Thad’ like a slim door bang which we overlooked absolutely because, in our opinion then, our game was rather more important to play. But then again came another ‘Thad Thad’ and then one more (a bit more intense), for us to finally leave our game unfinished and go on to discover that person – OUR GAME INTRUDER!!

It was swiftly then that we saw this monkey behind the clear glass doors of veranda eyeing constantly and seriously at us with the nonstop bangs on the door. It was a medium-sized young brown monkey with black jaws and a long twisted tail. Well, as we call ourselves ‘THE HEROIC ONES’, Riddhi and I quickly went to shoo the monkey away from our side of the glass door so that mother’s sleep remained undisturbed. But just as my sibling had my back, I guesstimate, the other monkeys had the culprit’s back, two of whom hastily joined the intruder monkey and started pounding the door more intensely.

It quite gave us a feeling of ‘OPEN WAR ON US BY MONKEYS’; but based on our previous experience, what we were truly terrified, at the moment, was our mother’s sleep getting disturbed. And guess what, it did happen! She woke up, woke up with the brash yell “uhhhh.. What are you girls up to? Stop making the silly loud noise” – attending to which we quickly spun around, took a deep breath and instead of explaining it all, we swiftly moved sideways for her to see the ongoing MONKEYS’ RAMPAGE. Though we could comprehend by her look, how mad she was at us, we realised it would be a lost cause to clarify that it wasn’t our fault. Thereafter, rapidly she roused to team our mob and joined us in banging the door from our side. It was only after a moment or two that we grasped that the monkeys had a concealed army somewhere from which 4 or 5 more monkeys joined their cause.

It would be incorrect on my part to say that, by this time, we weren’t frightened, frightened that they are going to break pass the glass door and bout us. But that was only Riddhi and I. My mother, on the contrary, battled like the tough empress who denied giving in to the monkeys and, using her swift instincts, nippily gripped something and began to startle the monkeys. And I am not definite if it was the fright of the object or my mother, but the monkeys started to back off and run away.

However, the story doesn’t end there. The intruder monkey, who instigated it all, had no concord in itself and came up with a different ploy. It started to tug off the red track-pant of Riddhi, hanging on a chair in the veranda, as if it knew that they were Riddhi’s favourite pair of pants at the time. With the ceaseless struggle of dragging off the pants from chair with its petite hands, the monkey gave the impression that it was firm to take the pant along with itself. It was not at all a choice for us to let it take away the pants as one could literally sense the weeping eyes of Riddhi over the feeling of losing her beloved pants.

At this moment, each of us knew, the only way to save the pants was passage into the opposite terrain and scaring that nasty monkey with rather harsh looks and vigour. It was time to gulp down our fear and showcase some real courage. That’s when we had to finally open the glass doors, enter the enemy-encroached territory and start terrifying the monkey in its close proximity. The first minute or two were rather nauseating where it seemed like we were failing but then unbelievably the monkey finally took off, took off with nothing but a futile attempt to win from us! Aah, and this feeling of “YAY, WE WON!”

And yes there was this something that we saw; it was rather an astonishingly amusing sight, the sight of hundreds of monkeys hopping from one tree to another, playing and swinging and this sight was the only thing visible for as far as the naked eye could see. It was a happy feeling, feeling of victory and amusement which can be relived even today after 8 long years since the incident… Undeniably, all of us have tales endorsing monkeys, and this was our little story. It was indeed a memorable episode from amongst the best travel diaries at which, even today, we laugh, something so crazy and heroic then, but utterly comical some today…

Pelling – The Disparate Episode of Bugs, Leeches and The Dark!!

Towards the west in the north-eastern State of Sikkim was yet another tourist place named ‘Pelling’, a 110 kms drive from the capital of the State, Gangtok. After a rather drowsy drive from Gangtok towards the pre-booked cottages being our lodging for the night in Pelling, the episode began with our car finally pulling into the cottage’s driveway – almost an hour before midnight.

Alighting from the car, what we saw with our somnolent eyes was a silhouette of an old-fashioned wooden cottage far away, barely visible thanks to the dimly lit street lights outside the cottage. By then, dark though it was, we comprehended that the left hand side of the street was a green property, with tall, lanky treesstalling all the far-off marvels. The place seemed to be concealed in the shadowy cold calm for us to hear the intense buzzing sound of the night bugs like the Cicadas moving their ‘tymbals’ louder than usual. The idea of other visitors being accommodated already? – Hah, it was clearly a distant possibility!

Out in the winds, shivering in the chilly weather (believe me, 13 degrees is cold), we were straining our eyes to spot just anybody – the staff or another human perhaps? – who’d guide us to the entrance to the property – the entrance which seems to be missing like a door in a maze!

Finally, after a while of chaotic hither and thither, to pass in the property, we used one of the lumpy passages, all covered in the wet mud, the mud which felt just like an homely, baked-earth aroma that rises from the land just after the first rain. The passage was sided by towering plants on both sides, that goes steep down from the street on left and then after a straight march, a minute further, goes right up to the cottages through the wrecked wooden steps alike.

Finally a sight of the cottage staff dozing on a workbench, underneath the street lights, was, to be honest, quite a relief. He pleasantly showed us the way to our duplex cottages (which was surprising given that we’d disturbed his sleep).

It was while glancing and checking into the first of the cottages, that we glimpsed the first few drops of red blood on the flooring, splattered from the door to the bed. An instant later, we realised that it was one of the boys’ right leg that was bleeding. He didn’t seem to be in pain though and there didn’t seem to be a wound – just a thin stream of blood rolling drop by drop down the legs… like a leaking tap. Furthermore, it was hard for us to ignore our uninvited roommates – some tiny, some worryingly large bugs and insects. They’d called dibs on the cottage’s walls, while we were free to use the rest of it.

Kids that we were then, we girls already panicked with the sight of all those winged strangers followed by the mounting dark night outside, un-willing to stroll any further, grabbed one of the cottages at the limits itself while the rest of them ambled ahead. The next row of cottages was located a 15 minutes’ walk away, marching far-in the dark through the muddy alleyway followed by the bridge overhead the water-stream and all the stretched patches of grasses too.

While we girls freshened up for the bed-time, with the playing cards all set already, awaiting the boys to join around, our eyes uninterruptedly kept a track on the growing number of bugs and their movements, turn by turn. “Aaann Aaann”, there were these unintentional small screams of ours, every now and then owing to any close encounters with those scary little creatures. It was then that we grasped this sense, sense of being trapped under a four fenced roof shielded by these bugs, beetles and insects of all types and species, some shiny, some terrifyingly yellow and green and brown, some with long antennae and some with way too many legs to count. We named these little, but scaring-the-shit-out-of-us, creatures as the ‘LITTLE MONSTERS FOR THE NIGHT’!

Then joined the boys, joined with a twofold narrative occurrences – one where one of the boys, en route their cottages, got bit on his leg by a slimy worm which grew in size on sucking his blood. The other incident was a parallel one with the only difference being the boy who got bit and that this time, the blood sucking attack happened on their way back to us.

So, by now we were clear about one thing – we were under attack, we were under a damn attack, attacked by the blood-sucking leeches outside the cottages (thanks to Mr. Google for the quick research on name and description) and by bugs and insects from inside. And oil in the fire, no sun is rising in the dark sky for hours more!

The goose bumps were set in already and there was this weird feeling, a delusional feeling of some tiny creatures moving all over our body again and again accompanied by the bizarre noises of the night bugs from all around us. Now to be a little brave, we decided to start playing the cards with our favourite game, ‘Not Drum’. It was just the second round of the game when my twin sister, all of a sudden with a loud yell, pointed towards the ceiling just above us to show the lustrous black bug that could horrify even the boldest with its glistening body and two round blue eyes staring right at you as if it were to swoop at you anytime and bingo, you are dead already.

Somehow, convincing ourselves of the fact that we are indeed humans, far larger in size and strength than those bugs around us, we moved on with the game for two more hours, finally dispersing for a good night’s sleep (hoping to get some that is). As far as I can recollect, I was fast asleep by then for an hour or so, only when my friend , suffering from cold, woke me up to help her call her parents from the other cottage just at the side. Guess what, the cell phones were running out of network and I actually , ACTUALLY moved out in that eerily silent night with the blankets still wrapped all around me. And it was just for me to gather that, though being a horror-film fanatic, how afraid I was of the little monsters and the terrifying night buzzing sounds. Praying continuously to God for letting me encounter a Black Panther, if the need be, but no little monsters or leeches anymore, I very well deserve to say that I undertook the most audacious task of my life that night and finally fell asleep!

Just as the school times’ essays read ‘Every dark cloud has a silver lining’, our story had a silver lining too. The morning was utterly spectacular and full of content. We could notice ourselves living in a wooden house located right in the middle of a beautiful expanse of greenery and vegetation spread far-far wide. And the sight of those colourful flowers all over the place, oh my god, it was simply breathtaking! There were no more horrors of the bugs and the insects from the night before, but only the vibrant birds and butterflies all around. And of course, not to forget the sight of too many people, human beings at last!

All I know, as I write this, is the feeling of “WOW” after an unforgettable night, a night at Pelling, that even today, after six whole years, feels the same, truly a disparate episode of bugs, leeches and the dark…