“अगर कोई एक ईंच ईधर से उधर गया तो दिल्ली (Delhi) से बीजिंग (Beijing) तक सब हिल जाएगा”
Those are the very words that echo in my brain whenever the memory of Nathula, Sikkim returns to me. It was part of the fitting reply that a soldier guarding the Indo-China Border at Nathula gave to a ridiculous query of one tourist among us. The naive or perhaps ignorant tourist had asked what would happen if someone accidentally or unintentionally stepped on the other side of the border. Had the question come from a kid, even an adolescent, it would have sounded reasonable. The reply of the soldier in this context summed up the significance of respecting mutual borders. It also made evident the huge responsibility that soldier on both sides are shouldering.
Beginning of a ‘Start’
For long I kept thinking, from where to start writing to share my experience? After long, out of the blues, a thought struck me. You don’t need to structure your experience or build a format to share a story. Being a part of the community of Civil Aspirants for long had caught me thinking that I needed to bind my experience in a particular format, with introduction than formal body and finally a conclusion. Like we do when writing an essay.
Is it justified? Can any experience be concluded? I realized that we just live those moments and wish to live them again and again. These are memories which bring us joy, happiness and all sorts of good and bad emotions, mine was also the same. And emotions, though need to be controlled, cannot be bound in a proforma when it comes to expressing it.
The dream of flying came true
My journey to Sikkim started from Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport, New Delhi, in the month of September, 2018. I was going to board an airplane for the first time in my life. Countless emotions of thrill – adventure with fear – were going through my mind. Happily married for past eight months and accompanied by my wife on this journey, I was like a child who was desperate for his wish to fly to come true.
Luckily I got window seat for my onward & return journey. Those windows opened to whole new world. From there I was able to have a different view of earth which I had never seen before. On reaching among the clouds, the highest an aircraft can go, I witnessed a very mesmerizing view of clouds.
First I thought that those clouds were against gravity or anti-gravity. But post some analysis I inferred that anything we see is with reference to earth. On the contrary when you see earth with reference to clouds, it is earth that defies gravity, not those cottony clouds. I poured my thoughts on my wife, who pulled me back to reality by ridiculing my claims.
Upon Reaching Gangtok
We reached Bagdogra airport, West Bengal around 14:00 hours and from there we hired a taxi to Gangtok to hotel Sher-e-Punjab. The taxi-man charged me an exorbitant amount of money around ₹ 4000/-. Unaware of the local taxi rates, I fell prey to trap. They usually charge ₹ 2500-3000. But owing to the fact that I was traveling for the first time to North-East and was a tad apprehensive about the safety of me and my wife, I didn’t even bargain only to realize later that I should have. The journey took nearly five hours and we reached our hotel around 19:30 hours. Having Traveled for the whole day, I was too tired to move an inch and felt drowsy. So I sank in my bed and got into deep sleep.
Next morning, the hotel manager, Mr. Sherup Bhutia, arranged all the essentials for my Sikkim trip. After having breakfast at hotel restaurant I found a cab waiting for us for local sightseeing. We explored the local culture and cuisine of Sikkim. My cab Driver was cordial and served me as local guide too. Places I visited were Ranka Monastery, Banjakhri Falls, Tashi view point, Namgyal Institute of Tibetolgy, Gojang Monastary, Ganesh Tonk and encountered many small waterfalls while returning to my hotel.
The day was cloudy and the mind filled with pleasant experiences of local sightseeing went to a peaceful sleep early at night. The excitement of visiting Indo-China Border NATHULA for the first time awaited me.
To NATHU-LA – The Pass that listens to silence
Next day started with the same schedule, Mr. Sabin Rai was waiting for me with his cab to take me to the Nathu-La pass (Indo-China Border) and Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir. The road has steep climb at some places and due to frequent rains it is in bad shape at some places. But my mind and heart was full of sense of pride of being an Indian. Hence I ignored the unease I faced to reach the place. The view along made up for all the discomfort.
The roads are maintained by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) or you can say in crude language by Military Personals. Hats off to them and their integrity to serve the nation at any front and in any situation. Upon reaching Nathula, we learnt that it had been cordoned off, for an important meeting of military officials from both side were going on there. We waited for hours anxiously for the meeting to end and the roads to be opened for public visit. After spending a considerable amount of time waiting, we decided to visit Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir and had lost hopes of getting up close with Nathula.
After visiting the Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir we decided to try our luck again and went back to Nathula, though many among us had returned to Gangtok. I did not want to go back without a face to face with Nathula after having traveled such a long way. To my joy and excitement, the meeting had ended and roads opened for us.
Rendezvous with NATHU-LA
Finally I was there and the China’s border was inches away from me. This was the most memorable experience for me which I will never be able to forget in my life. We have seen, heard and read at many places that what our soldiers guard Nathula with their lives and standing along them filled me emotions and pride. I was able to visualize to some extant what it takes them to be there protecting our borders. We were around 100 peoples there from different parts of the country but this identity was dispersed into one common identity, that of being an Indian.
With the sense of national pride I returned to my hotel in the evening and started packing my luggage as we were supposed to leave the next day to Delhi. The hotel I stayed in was good one with cordial staff especially Mr. Sherap Bhutia (Manager) and Mr Phurva (Restaurant manager).
On my return journey the weather was so clear that I was able to have a glimpse of several high peaks of Himalayan Mountain range along with same anti-gravity effect of clouds surrounding my aircraft :P. The experience was so memorable that I am looking to visit Sikkim again, but this time for a longer holiday.