My winter production kicked off in full earnest today – at 0530 in the morning to be precise. For a change I was on time while Roshan lay fast asleep in the comforts of his ‘razai’ and just as we were about to leave he realised he couldn’t find the car keys – great start to the day I thought. Made it to Kurseong station minutes before the departure of the 6 am ‘school train’ to Darjeeling. After much hesitation, I set up tripod at the station and to my surprise no one realy gave a shit which is another reason why I love this part of the country – people don’t object to the use of cameras or crowd around someone filming. Anywhere else in the country and I would have instantly been greeted with the all to familiar, “hanji, permit hae aapka?? ” with a good 7000 spectators watching the proceedings by then.
If my computing skills are anything to go by, we stopped at no less than 22 locations en route to shoot the train from and contrary to what I had imagined, we were always playing catch up. Almost lost the chase on more than a few occasions. That steamer was going great guns this morning and was only 20 minutes late at Darjeeling. I say ‘only’ cause it’s no surprise if it turns up a couple of hours late on most mornings. Managed to goof up a lot of my shots but overall the experience was more than gratifying..
I’ve realised of late that chasing the train can often be more enjoyable than actually riding on it. It was cold that morning but the thrill of being out there, setting up shot and waiting for the moment was so worth it. I could do it again and again..
Darjeeling is no longer the hill station it used to be. Certainly far from being the ‘queen’ of hill stations it calls itself. Even from my first visit there in 1993 a lot has changed and not all for the better. However parts of it still retain a charm and character unique to it. One of these is the ancient Land Rover which was once the mainstay of tourist transport in these hills. Its numbers have dwindled over the years to only a handful today but every time I see one amidst a plethora of less graceful Sumos and Mahindras, it sure brings a smile to my face.
After an endless spree of shooting everything Railway it was time to unwind and enjoy some of the other pleasures of this hill station. How about a cup of tea at the Planter’s Club to begin with? With a retired Tea Planter who kindly offered to be my interviewee the next day. And what a thorough gentleman he was. Probably one of the last generation of Bengalis with that clipped accent from the days of the Raj. Followed that with a well deserved late afternoon siesta and then a walk down to the market in the evening to Glenary’s – one of the oldest and finest eateries in Darj for a mixed grill dinner. Ended the day with a warm shot of old monk at a delightful little watering hole called Joey’s.
Met an interesting selection of folk while there including a bunch of guys who’ve driven 3000 + kms in autorickshaws from Cochin to Darjeeling! I leave you all this evening with a link to their blog www.dosaboys.blogspot.com