Travel has always been my favourite thing, regardless of the mode of transportation. I’ve always enjoyed bus rides, but the views I get to see on a train ride make it even more enjoyable. And a car ride gives me the feeling that I’m about to embark on an adventure. Those who know me are probably wondering what I’m on about… Yeah, I couldn’t travel as much as I wanted to because of my health, but I treasured each travel experience in my heart and mind as a memoir.
One of these memoirs was about my trip to North Bengal, and from where I visited the only foreign country in my life.
Kamakhyaguri was home to a school run by the organisation I was working for in Kolkata. In most cases, people confuse this name with either Kamakhya Nagar in Odisha or Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, Assam. But it is a tiny settlement in North Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district.
The 18-hour trip to Kamakhyaguri was always both exhausting and enjoyable. The main draw for passengers in trains passing through those places was the hawkers selling cheap electronic goods from Nepal and Bhutan. But they also won’t let you close your eyes for even a second during the entire trip. On that trip, the yelling of a hawker selling sarees woke me up from sleep at around three in the morning. I shouted at him asking, “At three in the morning, who will purchase your sarees? Don’t you see that everyone is asleep?” But he walked past my berth as nonchalantly as he could.
After lunch, we rested because the train ride had been exhausting. I later became busy with the task for which we had travelled there. On the third and final day of our stay, my colleague, the school’s principal, organised a trip to Jaigaon to witness the tea gardens. We were ecstatic. Around eleven in the morning, we all piled into his car and decided we will have lunch there.
The lush tea gardens stole my heart as we got closer to Jaigaon. In my entire life, I had never seen such a breathtaking sight. Even when Jaigaon’s roads were terrible, the surrounding greenery made me forget about them.
Then came the biggest surprise. My colleague and the guide of the trip announced that we will enter Bhutan soon, crossing the border.
“What? You mean, India and Bhutan border, seriously?” I couldn’t believe my ears. He smiled and nodded.
“What about the visa? I don’t have one, will they allow us in?” That was my next question to him. Then he explained how the people of both countries are allowed in each other’s territory to a certain extent without any visa as there’s always been peace between these two countries from the beginning.
“That would be my first foreign trip, then?” I asked joyously. He answered in the affirmative.
We soon passed through the gate separating Bhutan and India. The stark contrast between the regions on either side of the gate amazed me. Despite the fact that India is much more developed than Bhutan in every way, Phuentsholing, was much more beautiful and clean than Jaigaon.
We entered Bhutan, parked in the market area, and I recall purchasing two cups as a memento of our visit to Phuentsholing. After eating Momo, a dish from Nepal, for lunch, we drove inside to do some sightseeing. Before heading back, we paused at the main checkpoint to explore that region of Bhutan.
The experience was a beautiful one and a special one too for me because that was the only time I stepped out of India to a foreign country in my life.