“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
Travel… the word enthuses me for sure, but I haven’t had the opportunity for a trip often, reasons being many. My friends say I have an eidetic memory, so penning down my thoughts on a memorable trip wouldn’t be quite difficult.
The earliest memory of a trip is that of Kurseong…. I was barely 3-4 years old. I remember (and my relatives still remind me of it) creating a ruckus for “feeding bottle” (for my staple diet at that time- milk).
The trip to South India in 1991 was also a very special memory. My birthday was celebrated at Auroville (Pondicherry). The sheer beauty of the place where Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal meet the Indian Ocean, that ferry ride to Vivekananda Rock, the plush Hills of Nilgiri at Ooty…. I still search for that album whenever I go home.
In the mid-1990s, we visited Gangtok. Driving through snow, clicking photos on the frozen Changu lake or the joy of seeing a live yak were too good to forget. And if I start counting the numerous short trips around places in Dooars, it would take me ages to complete this post….
My first trip without family was the Excursion in the third year of graduation at Presidency. After heated deliberations, my suggestion of North Bengal trip prevailed. Those 9 days with Physiopals were pure bliss – the elephant ride with Bham, Madhu, Ritu, the wrong knock at Jaldapara, social physiology surveys and awkward situations faced when you ask about birth control, the Lataguri food, canopy walk at Loleygaon, midnight mayhem, Chadan’s fainting at Lava, PM Sir and his antics, Ritu using AKS sir’s armpit as headrest, hypoxia, dim petni, Rheshyap, bonfire…. Those were unforgettable memories…..
This trip was followed by another one – to the sea this time. Bham, Sayan, Sugata, Sandipto, Sabir and I went for a 3-day trip to Chandipur near Bengal-Odisha border. The tranquility of the sea, the ferocity of the rain, that adventurous walk in the rain through knee-deep water, the jeep ride and masti…. Those were the days.
Even my recent trip to Digha was a memorable one. The first trip in ages with my parents… A trip to Digha after a gap of 25 years… The much-needed vacation… The fast-paced development in Digha, thanks to the new regime in Bengal… The mini-vacation was worthwhile.
Life is all about moving on. I am sure in the days to come, I would get more opportunities to explore the world. The book of life has a lot left to explore!
On 30th July 2013, the Congress-led UPA govt opened a Pandora’s Box by giving their stamp of approval on the creation of Telangana, thus validating a struggle for separate state that had been rocking the political scene of Andhra for over half a century. Although the decision brought smiles on the faces of the people of Telangana region, it ignited unprecedented and widespread violence across the country, specially in the Hills of Darjeeling in West Bengal.
Ever since the current government came to power in Bengal, the focus of the administration, led by the Chief Minister, had been to reach out to the people of North Bengal, who had been ignominiously ignored by the Left Front government for three long decades. From roads to basic amenities, education to infrastructure development, the districts of North Bengal had always been subject to a step-motherly attitude from Kolkata.
Post 2011, there was a paradigm shift in the way the WB administration viewed or treated Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Coochbehar or Dinajpur and Malda. From instituting a separate ministry for North Bengal development to setting up a Secretariat in Siliguri, the government made all the right noises. That their intent was positive was shown by the CM’s visits to the Hills or Dooars almost regularly. The current government has even unfurled a host of developmental agenda for the backward districts that form North Bengal, including setting up of colleges and laying the foundation of an industry hub in Banarhat.
The demand for Gorkhaland is not new. Since the establishment of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, presided over by Subhash Ghishing, in 1987, the separate state movement has always been used as a carrot by the political parties in the Hills to consolidate their votes during elections. Arson and violence follows a 5-year cycle here, where the Gorkha leaders embark on a “final battle” for Gorkhaland, sacrifice the lives of youths, throw public life out of gear, sound the death knell for commerce and tourism, putting the livelihood of thousands at stake, and then go into slumber for next half a decade.
The demand for Gorkhaland would’ve been pertinent even five years back. But now, with the autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, the Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha has no legit reason to call for separation. They wanted power; GTA has been showered with that. They wanted development; both the central and state government have earmarked funds worth hundreds of crores for GTA (centre had cleared annual grant of Rs 200 crore while WB govt in its annual budget for the fiscal allowed Rs 150 crores for development of GTA areas). What transpired in this one year that GJM had to take this tough stand? What have they done with the GTA funds? Do they have any developmental achievements to boast of?
That the WB govt is truly empathetic towards Nepali aspirations was demonstrated by the decision of the CM to start schools with Nepali as the medium of instruction. The birthday of great Nepali littérateur Bhanu Bhakt is celebrated pomp that equals Rabindranath or Nazrul. Nepali is also recognized as one of the official languages in conducting the business of the Assembly. Why then is there a need for Nepali speaking brothers and sisters to feel alienated in a Bengali-majority state? The aspirations of development and identity politics that Gorkhas clamour for can be met by GTA with ease. They need to give it time, and send honest, committed leaders to represent the masses in the council, and not self-serving ones.
In the end, I would like to sum up with an extract Shankkar Aiyar’s latest column for New Indian Express:
“The cry for smaller states is less about representation and more about real aspirations. Size may matter. Big could be bold and beautiful too. Bigger states like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu do better by leveraging the state’s output and budgets for intervention and investment. So let’s forget formulaic solutions and worry about formats. In a democracy, every vote is sacrosanct. Voters vote for change, not to be presented with fait accompli. And delivery of governance is dictated by devolution, not dialects. India turns 66 this month. Let not petty political cartography obfuscate the real reasons for failure. Let not India get lost in transmogrification.”
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