Siliguri – Gate to North East India

Siliguri first gave the impression of a sleepy town, the day we traveled to the Hotel Impees from the New Jalpaiguri Railway Station by autorickshaw. Although we had to pay through the noses, the ride was really enjoyable as the residents of this city slowly got out of their beds. The weather was cool and vigorous, as the magnificent Kanchenjunga shone with a silver atmosphere in the distance. Our notion of a sleepy city turned out to be wrong as the day unfolded. The hustle and bustle, in general, was the contribution of automobile authorizations, cycle rickshaws, bicycles and loose buses swirling about on the street.

Siliguri's rise as a major hub has begun since much of Jalpaiguri district was left by the floods in 1968. Siliguri, the sandwich between the Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling regions, is a transitional point towards destinations like Nepal, Bhutan, Gangtok and Darjeeling. Located on the outskirts of the city, Bogdarga Airport offers tourists from other countries and abroad an excellent stop on trips to all air-bound North-East cities. The Mahananda River, which flows through the city a major attraction. Places of interest for tourists in the city, though limited to the Kali temple and some sightseeing along the banks of the Mahananda.

The host of our hotel suggested taking an autorickshaw in Sevok, located on the outskirts of the city. This turned out to be a great idea as we set off from the city deer to beautiful gorgeous landscapes and tracts of reserve forest on either side of the road leading to Sevok. A few kilometers after we left the city, traffic slowed sharply as we entered the wildlife sanctuary of Mahananda. The flora and fauna here are unique. Conservation activities have begun properly to preserve whatever is left after uncontrolled chopping and tree felling has left a very depleted reserve. The forest department gives tourists an opportunity to enjoy elephant trips through the woods. Our first stop was a bride across the Nandi River which is actually a tributary of the Mahananda as the river divides and flows in two different directions around a hill. The riverbed was not completely dry as it flowed along a shore. The view was stunning with a railroad bride in the background adding a romantic touch.

It was time to move on as we had a tight schedule. Three and a half kilometers uphill we reached the stairs leading to the Kali Temple in Sevok on the side of the road. The temple is embedded on a rocky hill. We decided not to go down here the time was running out. Just before this is the point from where the road closes. One goes to Sikkim -Gangtok and the other to Assam, the Coronation Bridge which was inaugurated shortly after the coronation … is located at this point on the road leading to Assam. A sight to see, the bridge towers about 400 meters above the Teesta River flowing under a bluish-green tinge. Teesta joins Mahananda just ahead, behind which is the Indo-Bangladesh border. This has been a land of disputes between India and its neighbor for quite some time. The wide riverbeds where these two rivers meet resemble a large plateau that spans miles. Looking down from the Coronation Bridge, the waters of Teesta seemed clear and attractive. Without a moment, we went down the stairs leading to the riverbank. Spending an hour and a half on those banks, occasionally dipping our toes in the water, which seemed clear from the crystal clear nearby, was by no means sufficient to satisfy our appetite for more. The obligatory backdrop of mountain magic and greenery was intoxicating, but unfortunately we were behind schedule and it was time to return.

During the evening, a few hours before boarding the train to Trivandrum, we visited the Bidan and Hongkong markets. All the imaginable items were available there, but the prices were high. Since our soldiers had warned us about this, we were not robbed of much money. The apples and oranges displayed appeared fresh and we brought some. Walking back to the hotel, just across the road was the famous Kanchenjunga Stadium, where a soccer match between India and the Philippines was taking place.

It was 9pm when we arrived at New Jalpaiguri Railway Station. A steam locomotive shows up outside the station and has some admirers mostly, kids. The Dibrugarh- Kanyakumari Express was late for two hours and the night was getting colder and colder. As the train drove to the bottom, I couldn't help looking in the direction of Kanchenjunga, which had been captivated days earlier, now entrenched by the herd of darkness. The experiences here, rejuvenating our minds, bodies, and souls will stand the test of time, I told myself, settling inside rolled-up blankets on the couch for a good night's sleep.