New Jalpaiguri to HMI Darjeeling
At 04:45 AM of 12.09.2015, I came out of the station. There were lot of taxis standing waiting for passengers to Darjeeling, Gangtok and Kalimpong. A taxi driver called me to his Tata Sumo going to leave for Darjeeling as soon as there were ten numbers of passengers. There were already six passengers in the taxi and I was left with the side facing back seat. I did not mind and took my place. The driver asked for Two Hundred Rupees for the eighty kilometers journey. We started from NJP at 05:45 AM. We reached Chowk Bazar (Motor Stand) at 08:30 AM. The place is the center of the town, crowded throughout the day full of taxis and people. The place contains hotels, bus stand, taxi stand, market, hospitals and everything. One can reach Mall Road, if one goes up on one of the branches of the main road. Two of the passengers Manjeet and Harvinder from Haryana also going for the same course I was going to, but we did not realize the same till we reached Darjeeling.A co-passenger informed us of shared taxis running on presetroutes in Darjeeling which take Ten Rupees per passenger to drop at the destination.
HMI is about two kilometers from Chowk Bazaar. Once dropped at the main road we walk into the campus of Himalayan Zoological Park hiking up to road beside the Barking Dear, Wild Yak, Leopard and other animals. Our lungs are filled up of fresh air in the beautiful cool weather with mist hanging around in the sweet morning. We go a little higher when we enter the gate of HMI. A little up further and you see the administrative buildings along with Principal Office and lecture halls. Opposite HMI is the HMI Museum and the hostel is behind the offices.
Since, we reached earlier at about 09:00 AM we will have to wait for the office to open at 10:00 AM. Till then we meet other students of both Basic and Advance courses. Some students had reached HMI last night itself and they were allotted rooms to stay at night easily. Even those who came in the morning could keep their bags in the unlocked rooms of the hostel and get ready. I like the flexibility that HMI offered to such students. I put my luggage in the Room No 2 and came back to the Quadrangle which is the open area in front of the offices and waited for my turn for registration and room allocation. There was a queue of students waiting for their turn. By this time, Manpreet (another student who had contacted me earlier on Gmail after reading this blog) had also arrived. He is a nice guy likes to meet and talk to people. I also made acquaintance with Nischit and two Bengali boys.
Some people before me were asked to get their Medical Certificate again because either it became obsolete (more than 3-6 months old) or because HMI had lost it from their records. Since, I had applied in June 2013 and once transferred my vacancy from March 2014 to Sept 2014, my certificate had also become obsolete and I was asked to get a new one. They gave us the printouts of the Medical Certificate format and told us that at Kalyan Medicals in Chowk Bazar there is an MBBS doctor who will sign our certificates.
I went there along with a group of Marathi students who came for the Advanced Course. We took a taxi from the main road in front of HMI and went to Chowk Bazar. At Kalyan medical shop, the attendant took us down in some street at another medical shop where in a back cabin a doctor was seeing patients. We waited for some time in that street in the sun amidst the vegetable vendors selling hens and cocks. When our turn came, the doctor filled up our forms after asking us our health details and checking pulse and blood pressure. Surprisingly he did not take any prescription charges for the same. From the other students I came to know they had to pay even Rs 200 for getting the certificate signed by the same doctor, strange! We came back to the main bazaar took some snacks and walked back to HMI by the afternoon. After submitting our forms we were given a slip which we had to show to warden to get a room. The warden asked us to fill entries in his register including vegetarian and non-vegetarian option. The rooms are allotted randomly. He asked me about my luggage to which I replied that it is in Room No 2 and allotted the same to me.
Exploring HMI Campus with Friends
The afternoon was spent roaming around the campus and meeting students from different places. Me and the two Bengali boys, who were serving in the Civil Police of West Bengal, went to HMI Cafeteria and had Momos for lunch. By the time, I took my room, I found Pemba sitting on the lower wall side bed. He is from Sikkim and works as a guide for trekking agencies and has been to many treks including Stok Kangri. He has come here to complete the course as this would help him in his professional life. I seeing that the Lower Window Side bed is already occupied by someone else I made my bed on the Upper Window Side. I also chose an empty almirah, put my luggage in it and locked it. By the evening, already our room was occupied with seven roommates leaving one bed empty.
Sagar and Buddhadeb Vajpayee came together, both are from West Bengal, Sagar from Asansol and Buddhabed from Burdwan, both were around twenty years of age and were also serving in the Civil Police of West Bengal. Civil Police as I came to know are recruited on temporary basis to serve as police constables because of insufficient number of police personnel. Later I would know that all of them had quite different experiences depending on their place of posting and the work they were allotted. Both were well built sportspersons and had already been in adventure sports due to their job requirements. While Buddhadeb was impulsive and quick in his actions, Sagar was cool-minded and takes some time ti think before action.
Rituraj Sameer is a studying in the final year of Engineering in Electronics and Communication branch in Vishveshwarya Institute of Technology, Karnataka. He is also an NCC Cadet and is devoted to the organization by his heart and body. Later I would know that his self-respect lies in his unlimited love for NCC. He had come along with another NCC official whom he called ‘Sir’. Sir helped him do the necessary purchasing and showed him around Darjeeling. He had carried the maximum luggage possible. Other than NCC uniform including shoes, belt, hat etc he also carried a lot of personal stuff including a heater, a bottle of mustard oil and what not. He won’t be able to carry much part of his luggage to the trek but it made our days in hostel quite comfortable.
Pranav is a nineteen year boy. He is from Maharashtra and studying Bachelor in Computer Science (BCS). He is super-energetic and knows no limits. He is interested in almost everything and never gets tired. He is also an adventure sports enthusiast.
Rasheed Pathan twenty-three years has completed engineering and looking for a job. He is a thoughtful and pleasant person to talk with. He looks innocent but has experienced and done lot of travelling in unconventional ways. I liked talking to him and enjoyed his company. I was surprised to find out that of all my roommates, I was the oldest. The warden came to my room in the afternoon and asked to become Room Senior (as I was the oldest). I was given a form in which material allotted to the roommates. It listed bed sheets, quilt cover, pillow cover, steel tumbler, spoon, bucket, mug etc. It was the responsibility of Room Senior to see that the materials are returned at the time of leaving hostel. I signed it. In the afternoon we were briefed about the next day program and a time table was put upon for the whole course with a list of instructors signed by the Course Director. Advance Mountaineering Course would also start along with ours.
After the long train journey and the whole tiring day, I took bath in cold water, washed clothes and let the clothes dry in the room itself. So, I felt fresh and fine.
We chatted for some time while Pranav and Rituraj Sameer were out with their newly made friends in other rooms when it was the time for Dinner. The mess is a large hall with dining tables on one side overlooking the mountain ranges outside the large windows and the kitchen on the other side. The dinner consisted of dahl, boiled rice, chapatti and sabzi. The food was tasty and healthy. I really liked to sit outside the hostel on stairs and enjoyed the cool peaceful evening in Darjeeling.
Lying on the bed, while writing the diary entry for last three days I was nicknamed ‘Writer’ which will last till the end and will prove to be correct by my habit of taking out pen and paper every couple of hours and jot down things in detail. I tried to sleep early as we had to wake up at 04:00 AM to get ready by 05:00 AM for tea. Other roommates were having Aaloo Parantha which Rituraj Sameer had brought thinking there will be no dinner tonight which I politely declined as I was more than full.
The approximate map of the hostel room is given below:
Read more my experience at: