Bandhs are a great leveler. Whether in Darjeeling or Nepal, bandhs definitely put people in peculiar situations. 5 students accompanied by two guardians had to fly, ride a bullock-cart and a boat followed by a taxi all on the same day, to return back to school in Darjeeling from Kathmandu in Nepal. The reason for this weird journey- bandh.
It was a great relief for Sanjok Rana of Kathmandu, when she got the news that schools were finally reopening in Darjeeling Hills, after a more than one month long bandh. She immediately contacted her friend (whose son also studies in the same school) and both decided to accompany their sons and 3 other kids back to St. Joseph’s school, North Point, Darjeeling. The 5 boys are students of classes 4, 5 and 6.
“It is a trip we have undertaken numerous times. Never in our wildest dreams had we thought that this time things would be so different. As flights from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur were overbooked on Tuesday we decided to undertake the journey on Monday” stated Rana talking to HT.
The group landed in the midst of a bandh at the Bhadrapur Airport- the nearest airport to Darjeeling on the Nepalese side, located in the district of Jhapa in Eastern Nepal. The Limbuwan State Committee of the Federal Republican Socialist Party (FRSP) of Nepal has imposed bandh in the nine districts of eastern Nepal on Monday.
The group had to cross both the Jhapa and the Ilam districts (included in the bandh) of Nepal to reach Darjeeling in India. “We usually drive up to Darjeeling directly from Bhadrapur via Fikkal and Pashupatinagar in Nepal. However this time this entire area was closed owing to the bandh. Locals suggested that the only way out was a detour through Siliguri” stated Tshering Doma, the other guardian.
The distance from Bhadrapur to Darjeeling via Pashupatinagar is 123km while the distance from Bhadrapur to SIliguri is 84 km. From SIliguri to Darjeeling it is a near 76km journey by road.
Little did they know that the journey would be straight out of a adventure television show. “We had to cross the Galgalia river twice once by a bullock cart and once by a boat” added Rana. As luck would have it the buffaloes pulling the bullock cart seemed stubborn and refused to budge when they were mid stream.
“The buffaloes nearly sat down tilting the cart. We died of fright as we were on the verge of drowning” stated Rana. The bullock cart journey took them 45 minutes. From there it was a taxi ride to the banks of yet another tributary which had to be crossed by boat.
“This time it was a smooth ride” added Doma. From the banks of the river by taxi via Siliguri to Darjeeling. “It was straight out of the adventure story book. I will never forget this journey, specially the bullock cart ride. This time when we are asked to write essays I am sure than all five us will write on this journey” stated Kritagya Thapa.
All along the journey taking undue advantage the group was overcharged. “From the porters, to the bullock cart to the taxi we were fleeced” added Rana.