Scorching heat and I with nothing in my hand decided to leave for Gangtok, a place named the cleanest city in India, a place most disciplined, a place whose beauty is incomparable.

Last night in Hotel Jagat Inn in Siliguri I was encouraged by a friend of mine Vivek Gautam who told me his story when he was stuck at a place and had to steal blankets from a hotel to sleep at night. I still remember the conversation. I was alone physically but there were many people with me while I needed support. Again there were the same friends whom I mentioned in my Part 7 of another series when I was hospitalised. I remember Vibha was as calm as she has always been on the phone. She is always like nothing has happened. I started to believe this was normal. I remember Ruqaiya laughing her heart out at my situation. I decided to go to Gangtok from Bagdogra. I called Chandani's father from the airport and asked for the directions from Bagdogra. He briefed me about the directions and I sat in the same auto for SNT to take a bus to Gangtok from Siliguri.

     SNT buses were all filled by the time I reached there. It was around 2 pm. "There is no bus after this", said the lady at the counter. "Well, how can I reach Gangtok today?" "Take a shared cab". Okay, I said. I wanted to ask a few more question but she was not interested. I always keep the distance from taking a shared cab, especially on the mountains. There is a huge problem for me to take a shared cab. I can't sit in the backseat of a cab which has its face sideways. I start to feel nauseous and there has never been a day that I sat during a journey to a hill station on that seat and not puked. My eyes tell me we are moving where my face is but my ears says we are moving straight and this causes a state of confusion resulting in vomiting. One guy came to me and asked: "Do you want to go to Gangtok?" .I said "Yes". "Come with me". I said, "Look I can't sit in the backseat". He said, "All the other seats are occupied". "Sorry then". I moved ahead and called Chandani's father again "I can't get a bus from Sikkim National Transport Bus Terminus or SNT in local language". "There is another bus stand at a walkable distance from SNT Bus Terminus". "Alright". I moved ahead and about 150 meters away from SNT bus terminus and saw the board "TENZING NORGAY BUS TERMINUS". "Well, this is it". I quickly went to the counter and asked for the bus from Siliguri to Gangtok. The lady said, "There is only one bus to Gangtok from here at around 6 am in the morning, you can catch the bus tomorrow only".

I asked Chandani's father again and he said, "You might have to take the cab now". I went outside the bus station and the tumult surprised me. I asked for the cab to the drivers there and they said, "You can get a cab from SNT only" I went back to SNT and the man that invited my earlier saw me. I told him, "I am ready to sit in the backseat". "Sorry brother, seats are now occupied". "Well, tell me where I can get another cab?" "Norgay bus stand". What the hell!! I just came from there and they said cabs are hired from here. I went again to the Tenzing Norgay Bus Stand. I asked one person for the cab. He said, "My car will be here any minute, you can go in that, but you have to wait for a little". As soon as he said this a very skinny guy screamed from few meters away, "He is lying, they are looting everyone. Yesterday they took a passenger and dropped him on the way and asked them to go on their own from there. They are not trustworthy sir, come with me". Then the driver whose car was coming went to him and they both started shouting at each other. I have never in my life seen a place where people are so fond of shouting at each other except Siliguri. As I said in my earlier post even a shopkeeper shouts to his customer. I stood just beside the Tenzing Norgay Bus Stand and waited for my luck to shine. I could see buses coming very frequently. As soon as the bus would come to the gate, many taxi drivers and other bus conductors would beat or bang hard on the bus with their hands and start shouting, "Move, Move". They would do that until the bus reaches the main road. They would do it even if there is a red light. I was so damn eager to sit in a cab and just leave Siliguri. If you are reading this and you are from Siliguri, really sorry to you. Please take me out of this place. This is the worst place I have seen in my life. I cannot withstand this for one minute and they are living their whole life in this place. I really wished I had never put that power bank in my bag. I was standing for about 1 hour now but there was no sign of any cab that read Siliguri To Gangtok. Then the same skinny guy came to me and said, "Look what I told you, they are fooling you" and again the shouting started among them.

I saw a taxi coming towards me from behind the bus stand but it was completely occupied. I crossed the bus stand and went behind it to see if there are any more cars waiting there for passengers. I saw a Mahindra Bolero 50 meters far away. I was so relieved to see GANGTOK written on the cab. I quickly went to the cab. It was completely empty. Maybe it was not going there. A man was tying ropes to keep his luggage on the top of the cab. There was no one there. I asked him, "I want to go to  Gangtok". He said, "Yes Yes I am going, bring your luggage and till then I will tie this". "This is all I have". "But you have nothing". I laughed listening to this. He laughed too and said, "No luggage? Great!!" One man came from the Tenzing Norgay Bus Stand side towards me and asked, "Is this the cab for Gangtok?" I said yes it is. I could imagine what he must have gone through before coming here. He was a healthy man with specs and very small hair. He was around 6 feet. He sat inside on the front seat. I sat in the middle seat. The driver finished his work and came down and said, "Okay, we are ready for Gangtok!!"

Tenzing Norgay Buses
  The driver was a Nepali man. He was short, wore a white plain t-shirt and smiled on every sentence he spoke. He looked like a very happy man to me. We started our journey from Siliguri towards Gangtok at around 4 in the afternoon. As soon as we came to the Tenzing Norgay Bus Stand gate (around 10m away from where the car was), his car stopped. He tried to ignite the engine but nothing happened. He said to us, "Self-start is not working in this car" and then smiled towards us. Two men who were busy calling everyone to sit in that cab were his mates. They all worked together. You pay to this man and another will drive. I paid to the man who was calling everyone and 2 more persons came and sat inside. The cab was fully occupied now. Those two mates of the driver now pushed the car to start it. They were all laughing at what they were doing. It took them 3 pushes to start the car. I asked the driver, "What if this car stops in between". I was worried because Gangtok city is located high on the altitude. We will be climbing on the elevated road, it is a little dangerous there. He said, "No it won't" and smiled. The car started and finally, we started moving towards Gangtok.

Mahindra Bolero (Google)

The roads towards  Gangtok before we started climbing, in Siliguri, were very clean. They had trees on both the ends and it was cooler than the Siliguri city area. I guessed outside Siliguri everything is pleasant. From the scorching heat that burnt me in the city, the clouds cooled down the place here. I could see black clouds moving in the mountains far away and we were going in the same direction. When we started climbing up the hill, the weather became more and more pleasant. I pulled down my window pane and enjoyed the cool wind striking my face and eliminating my tiredness. I saw towards the mountains and the clouds were darker than before. Wind speed rose and it was the most pleasant thing I felt till now. We were now much ahead and far away from Siliguri.
On the way to Gangtok
Time had past so quickly feeling the cold wind on my face and thinking about my trip till now. We were travelling for 1:30 hours now and I could see little droplets on the windshield of the car. Perfect weather! Isn't it? That car was not seeing it's best days though. It was making a few noises and the driver had the responsibility not to stop the car because it would be so hard for anyone to push on the elevated road. The wind speed increased to an extent that I had to close the window. It was not pleasant weather anymore, it was the start of a storm. Far away I could see the rain shower on the mountains which looked like a five-year-old has brushed grey paint on a white canvas. On the right side of me, I could see the river flowing down in the valley. Soon, brown and dry leaves started flowing in the air. There was no dust or sand, just the leaves as far as I could see. This scene stopped soon after two or three minutes. All of us were happy that at least we won't be stuck in the storm but just then we heard a noise, it was the noise that came from under the car. The sound was as if a metal pipe is being struck to another metal pipe again and again. We asked the driver what is wrong? He said nothing is wrong, everything is fine. We knew we have hired the wrong cab and reaching Gangtok is becoming more and more difficult now.

A few minutes later just before the sunset the car passed through a pothole and after that the sound changed which was coming from the car. Now the sound of metal pipe being dragged on the road was all clear to us. I was sitting on the window seat. I peeked through the window to see what happened just now but I could see nothing. I told the driver, I can't see anything and he said, oh! Don't worry everything is fine. He was still smiling as he spoke any word. We could not stop the car because self-start was not working. A few minutes later I was looking outside the window and noticed that everyone is looking at the car where the rear tyres are. Everyone was looking towards the tyres. That really made me curious, I knew definitely something is wrong. I peeked through the window again and I could not believe what I saw. Smoke was coming from the tyres and beneath the car. Being in India and watching Bollywood movies have made up my mind that this thing is about to explode. But I knew it is not that easy. I deleted that thought as soon as it came in my head and I told the driver that smoke is coming from the rear end. We had spent about 2.5 hours inside that car and it was the first instance I saw his face without a bright smile. He got worried I guess. But still not that much. Who would not? Driving up the hill is a very tedious job for any vehicle especially for one who had 10 passengers sitting. No cab starts from Siliguri without at least 9 passengers out of 10. He did not have money since that skinny guy at the bus stand took the fare from all of us. I was sure this is the thing that had made him worry. Where would we spend the night if the car breaks down? It was a complete forest area with no street lights and nothing for stays. I was worried too about the same when I saw droplets on his windshield. In a few seconds, it was raining cats and dogs. The leaves were flowing everywhere I could see, the rain was pouring so much it looked like someone is throwing the water at us and the atmosphere was as windy as one could imagine. It was the nightmare of my life. At least smoke cooled down a little but that did not solve anything. In very few instances of my life, I have seen such a storm and believe me I have even witnessed a cloud burst. It was as windy as it can be, as rainy as it can be. It was terrible. The driver saw the Indian Oil sign a few meters away and stopped the car at the fuel filling station.

I got down of the car and peeked down. It was raining so heavy, the droplets were pricking my eyes, neck and anywhere on my body, it was touching. I saw a metal pipe broke down and was hanging from one end only. I asked the driver what is it? He said, "This is the spring, it keeps the tyres in position". I looked at the tyres and I could clearly see that the left rear tyre has moved a little bit back. It was touching the mudguard and the friction was producing the smoke including the sparks from beneath the car. The healthy man who asked me about the cab in Siliguri and two ladies were sitting inside, all the boys came out to have a look. We were stuck in a place where there is no electricity due to the storm. You cannot even see the house few meters away. No streetlights, and the most efficient car of the world. I did not know who to blame for this trip? Nothing good has happened till now. I was not worried, maybe because I had nine more passengers with me who were willing to reach Gangtok in time. They were calm too. I guess this is in the blood of Indians. It is really hard to make us worry about anything. Worry as in "Panic Worry". Everyone was asking something to the driver but he did not answer. He had no answers, I knew it. The ladies started chatting, the man sitting in front started to chat on Whatsapp, four men sitting at the back were talking in Bengali, two boys took out a packet of Gold Flake and lit a cigarette. I looked at the driver who was thinking to do something and I asked him the million-dollar question, "Can it be fixed?"


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