Waking Up In Kurseong

“I’d love to do nothing” — that’s all I wanted from this holiday. Perhaps take some walks, breathe in the fresh air, and eat local delicacies. Moments later we tugged our luggage into a homestay in an idyllic setting, I could hear the downpour outside. I sank into a chair near the window and watched the rain wash the entire town. Not a soul in sight. Even the scheduled toy train didn’t show up. But I was easily pacified with hot roti, aloo dum, and soupy dal, as our host regaled stories of a nearby village. A plan was laid out. I could barely sleep that night, and the crickets agreed. I mean, the racket was nothing like what you’d hear in the city.

Kurseong — many will ask you to steer clear from it. You might even consider ditching it for Darjeeling because everything this town has, Darjeeling has and more (so it claims). Deluged in fog, the beauty of this town is best seen when you walk through the village area. Beaming faces, idle dogs, and train tracks could barely hold my attention because I was taking a peek into the colourful homes (sorry for the intrusion) with snug kitchen gardens, glass bottles turned into vases, and trees bearing moody flowers. The entire town appeared like a shapeshifter that could scamper between being too cheerfully green and gloomily grey. Both the moods, I was quite okay with.

Things may seem slow and silent, but the market area is where all the hullaballoo happens. Dotted with tiny stores selling handicrafts, baked goods, newspapers, this is where you’ll spot the railway station too. Which is also home to the DHR Museum — a quaint museum of archives that gave me a glimpse of how the first Himalayan railway track was built, photographs and artefacts, and a bygone era that had the nerve to do what some thought was impossible.

Now you cannot leave this town without visiting a tea garden, is what our host said, and he suggested Makaibari. The spectacular roads that led to this place were flanked by rolling tea gardens, abandoned houses that were no longer homes, churches that offered shelter to strays…and a whole lot of greens!

While planning an escape, I often find myself in a maze. But Kurseong has been on my mind for a while now, and I’d do it again if I could. I would make myself a cup of chai and plonk on a bench right under a tree. With Vikram Seth’s poetry and gentle drizzle for company, I’d ask not much. And then there’s the promising siren of a far-flung train…all of that sounds like a different time, as I sit in my room, nearly bored to death.

I haven’t traveled much this year. In fact, it almost feels like a year where I’ve done nothing? And that’s problematic, isn’t it? What do you call a year when you don’t fail, don’t create, do nothing new — a year of playing safe? Or a year of cowardice?