Anatomy of a disastrous Indian vacation, part 3

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So far:
We made to the foothills of the Himalays, by plane, no train, some autos and a whole lot of non-mobile things. Here’s part 1 and part 2


The music of the hills was all around us.

It enveloped us, stuck a Rs 20 stamp and airmailed us to a dreamscape where the mighty Khang-chen-dzon-ga towered above jagged snowcapped peaks and Yetis were picknicking on the glaciers while playing antakshari. Or so we imagined. It was too foggy to see anything clearly and it was getting dark. We reached Darjeeling by 5 pm, after being stopped at every village to pay a “Chaandi toll”. The flora changed from evergreen to deciduous and the street dog breed changed from mongrel to Lhasa apso. Wonderful dogs they are. Quiet, unlike Pomeranians, and have an air (and general disposition) of a wise Himalayan sage.

On reaching our hotel, Viramma Villa, the very first question I asked the friendly maître d was “where is Khang-chen-dzon-ga?” and she pointed her finger in the direction of some fog, and said “There is Khang-chen-dzon-ga”. “Ah. Can I see it?”, I asked. She said – “Very unlikely in January”. Disappointed, we soothed ourselves by tucking in more momos than is considered healthy (for an adult alpha male Gorilla, i.e), slurped on Thukpa, briefly fought “The Blanket Territorial Wars of Viramma Villa, circa 2009”, and then slept.

The next day, our only day in Darjeeling was precious to us, and therefore had to be rationed carefully between the adventure lovers (me) and Tibetan market shopping lovers (the rest). To cut a long story short, and get back to the disaster-filled parts of this story, the day was lovely. We managed to see monasteries, and young monks play some mean soccer, red pandas, Himalayan black bears, the insides of several trinket shops, a little bit of Nepal and importantly, hogged large quantities of Tibetan, Nepali and Gorkhaland food. So there. Now let’s get back to the regular grind.


The fun started when it was time to settle the hotel bill the next day. The maître d informed us with the tone of someone saying “Oh, by the way, the taxi ride down to Bagdogra is complimentary”, but instead of saying that, she said – “Oh, by the way, the tariff card had a small error. It was missing a zero. At the end”. Now, it was a lovely vacation so far, with Kingfisher planes and Indian volvos providing us a totally alternative experience, but to be charged (a lot) extra for the only boringly normal (read “enjoyable”) part of the vacation was a little hard to digest, like dry Jhalmuri with pungent mustard oil, like biting into a juicy looking kozhukattai expecting an explosion of sugary sweetness mixed with the crunchy coconut filling and finding instead that it is one of those atrocious non-sweet, tastes-like-mud, kaarakozhukkattais. We could go on with the metaphors, but I’m going to get back to the main thread now.

We haggled a bit, managed to convince the glib Pnjaabi gentleman who owned the place to give us a bit of a discount, and once he convinced us that the only reason he was reducing the tariff was his love for all things South Indian, we actually ended up feeling happy with ourselves for paying just a little bit less than the outrageously high tariff they demanded in the first place. Nobody does business like them I say.

We were on our way now, with the driver promising to take us to the Makaibari tea factory where we could sample and buy the freshest Darjeeling tea. We had earlier decided to not buy tea from the mall on his promise that direct factory maal was much better. And needless to say, we found the factory shuttered because it turned out to be Republic Day. Normally I would let forth a stream of choice curse words, but just one day in Darjeeling around the locals who rarely seem to get angry, always smile and play with Lhasa apsos, I did not feel like polluting the atmosphere with profanities. Instead, I made a mental note to remember to rickroll as many people as possible once I was back in the plains. We then bought our tea at a small shop downhill after steadfastly refusing to look at the expiry date on the packaging. Ignorance, for that moment, was beyond bliss.

Soon enough, we were back in familiary territory, the insides of an airport. With our experiences in the recent past, the first thing I did was to identify a seniorish SpiceJet rep and asked him the state of the weather in Bagdogra. He seemed confident and we soon checked in and were waiting for the departure announcement, which by now should be amply predictable, never came. I met a Bengali gentleman who, prior to retirement, worked in Air Traffic Control at this very place, Bagdogra, and he enlightened us all with this:

SpiceJet then formally announced that despite the fact that 6 other planes had landed, they did not manage to obtain clearance to land their plane, and therefore had to cancel. And just so they could completely obliterate any trace of silver lining in what was already a monstrously dark cloud, they told us that SpiceJet Corporate Policy prevents them from offering any kind of accommodation for the stranded passengers. Just so the passengers wouldn’t get skeptical, he played an audio clip that featured Darth Corporatus saying – “No accommodation. Is that clear. (Sounds of heavy breathing)”.

We then spent a day in Bagdogra. And guess what, the women spent that day shopping.

The next day, SpiceJet almost cancelled our flight again because of one lady who refused to let her hand baggage be screened and also refused to adhere to the liquid quantity limits imposed by airports. She threatened to call people whom she assured us, were in high places. Security was not amused. The rest of us were so amused that we could have cried.

3 hours later, we were back in Chennai.

The end.

ps: The audio clip features me attempting to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Adagio sostenuto. Kindly excuse the many mistakes.

53 responses to “Anatomy of a disastrous Indian vacation, part 3”

  1. Abinav Avatar

    Aah… so your ooru sutthals come to an end, finally?! I am also from the Singaara Chennais of Indias. ..

    and now i know what not to do if ever i plan a darjeeling…!

  2. Gamesmaster G-9 Avatar

    When 4 Bong men light cigarettes, it is called a strike.

  3. Vadakkoodan Avatar

    I really enjoyed this 3-post series on your disastrous vacation. Does that make me a sadist?

    Condolences on the vacation and the copywriter’s copy right violations. Saw that tweet. Laughed again for the pandava’s facebook 🙂

  4. Roopa Avatar

    I have never laughed so much in quite a while. There are several phrases that tickled me pink in this trilogy – the Indian Bholbho, death by chilling, galactic headquarters at Bagdogra, Deep Purple playing “Smoke,” – ok this is endless. Thank you for making my otherwise nondescript Sunday so enjoyable.

  5. Teesu Avatar

    Not that I am an expert, but your Moonlight Sonata needs a little more strength and confidence. The notes were pretty good though! Your story is interesting and shows that your sense of humour does some serious hand holding for you in trying times!;)

  6. Sailesh Avatar

    Oh man, cant believe I fell for that rickroll!

  7. cram Avatar

    “yetis playing antakshari” lolololol…romba lollu. what are you gonna come up with next?

  8. sarvamitran Avatar

    I thought Rick had finally found his home in an Indian movie – too bad man.

  9. Aqua Avatar

    LOL. a fitting end to your trilogy of posts.

    and OMG, you went to all that trouble for only a day in Darjeeling. Gosh!!!

    and my earliest memory of the tourist species in Darjeeling is a monkey-capped-blanket-covered tourist asking me “what time is the konchenjonga abhailable?”, in the Mall.

  10. Anna Bond Avatar

    that graph was ROFLicious!

  11. Ranga Avatar

    The graph was fantastic and looks like graphjamming is a great way to express your creative thoughts pictomatically.
    women shopping in bagdogra – rotfl! yetis playing anthakshari … how does ur thought process work? 😀
    your post took me back to a trip several yrs ago.
    jhalmuri (with pungent mustard oil) is an acquired taste and u will love it if u try it several times. but i have not managed to like anything else with mustard oil yet 😦

  12. K.Ramachandran Avatar

    ROFL !! Magnificent humour !! luved the juicy kozakattai analogy , i have the same taste, but btw (1) the salty ones have a different shape , and (2) are almost palatable when taken with sauce. The graf was very funny .And HOW to u get the time and energy for all this write-up, in the midst of an exhausting trip ? gr8 stamina and speed . glad that Darling-jee-ites are still smiling in these tough times, and that u reserved ur explosion for later — perhaps in a blog or chat-among-pals on Monkey-ruled, Saffron Mangalore . ( soon humans will start deserting Mangalore due to gorilla attacks ).

  13. donraja Avatar

    super stuff. I could probably change your blog to my homepage. blogrolling might not be credit enough.

  14. G Avatar

    Ah Ashok hard luck . Had gone to Sikkim in December and it was fantabulous! If you are looking at adventure I very strongly recommend the Goechala trek. It requires a lot number of days though but well worth it.

  15. catcharun Avatar

    as i sit here LQTM, my humble request is to lengthen your music bits so we have awesome accompaniment to your amazing, adjective-laden assays.

    i could learn to read faster but my tubelight is of the sodium vapor kind and it takes a while for them jokes to hit my funny bone.

  16. RukmaniRam Avatar

    “It enveloped us, stuck a Rs 20 stamp and airmailed us to a dreamscape” takes the cake.

    P.s: Airmail Rs. 20?

  17. boo Avatar

    ps: The audio clip features me attempting to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Adagio sostenuto. Kindly excuse the many mistakes.

    Hey, I’m glad you didn’t rickroll your readers.

  18. sangu Avatar

    “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

    atleast RLS seems to think you had a great time through your holiday!

    and i typed a similar comment, but akismet enna akistu aakiduchunu ninaikkaren..

  19. Renu Avatar

    happened to wander here. enjoyed your post :). though i wish it wasn’t at the cost of you not enjoying the trip.
    hey u went all the way to darjeeling, but didn’t go to gangtok? now, you certainly missed something.

  20. Ashika Avatar

    Hi Krish, your witty optimism is laudable! Btw, that analogy of the kozhukottais….brilliant! The disappointment is still fresh in my memory!!

  21. aarabik Avatar

    hmph *grumpy* what’s with the kaara kozhakattai bashing? 😛

  22. maxdavinci Avatar

    metaphor maama! kalakarel pongo…

    yup read em all together and it was much more fun that ways!

    PS: I shud thnk yor copywriter frnd, I got a lot of traffic my way from your post over the weekend!
    Ashok: Be careful. His response to his getting pwned online was to send me a “cease and desist” email threatening legal action. Our man does not like being called out for what he is

  23. meo meo Avatar

    how abt upload some nice photos?

  24. naren Avatar

    This great epic has moved me to write an

    Ode to Darjeeling

    Darjeeling, Darjeeling
    O what a wonderful feeling
    The paint on the walls may be peeling
    But all of us want to stay more
    Darjeeling, Darjeeling
    So what if the food’s un-appealing
    And the local public’s occupation stealing
    It’s a place all of us just adore.

  25. Sunita Avatar

    All that for just a day in the hills?….but might still be worth it ..isn’t it?

  26. Arthi Madhusudhan Avatar

    Awesome! I got to the end of the post with a smile on my post and finally reading “The rest of us were so amused that we could have cried.”… really got me in splits!!

  27. K.Ramachandran Avatar

    @Naren : regarding stealing: do u really think so, or did u include it for the rhyme? bcoz most ppl in rural Nepal and North-East , are famous for honesty ( rather , were , 30 yrs ago , and I presume , are still so today)

  28. naren Avatar

    @Ramachandran – Elder son lost an ipod in october when we went there. Sore point with the poor joe who had to buy him a new one. To be fair, the prime suspect is Shri Topos Bhowmick of Siliguri, West Bengal, our driver for the day. Strictly speaking, not a local.
    Actually, the locals are really nice.Very polite.

  29. K.Ramachandran Avatar

    @Naren ok, fine.

  30. Deepa Mohan Avatar

    I think that when one is leaving on a trip (anywhere in the world) one of the first essentials to pack is a good sense of humour….only then can one survive all the weird happenings!

    But even that…I was standing in a US airport, with one of those “quadruple S” boarding passes that would ensure that all my bodily orifices would be examined by strangers…and wanted to joke about it when my eye lit upon a LARGE sign that said,

    “There is nothing humourous about security measures. Please do not joke about this.” …or something to that effect.

    My sense of humour withered up in my carry-on baggage, and died…for that trip, anyway..

  31. Revathi Avatar

    Reminds me of the time when we used to live in Port Blair way back in the seventies where there used to be more cancelled flights than scheduled flights.

  32. K.Ramachandran Avatar

    similarly in the 60’s during the Cal-Agartala-Silchar-Imphal flight, once we (parents & i , i was a kid ) spent 2 days in a lovely cottage right next to, almost inside, Silchar airport , with ( i dont recollect this detail now, but i’m guessing this one: ) dense forest behind the back-yard.

  33. chokkathangam Avatar

    hi ashok,

    was wanting to ask you one question. you do put up “copy left and right” signs all around your blog. then why are you asking that cpywriter fellow to acknowledge your work? amean, the moment he acknowledges it, he won’t exactly be copying what? he would be more like using it.

    btw, i think the fellows an idiot only. he is copying stuff and that is not something most ppl would like to do. but then, it is his judgement that should come into question right? irrespective of what you think abt it, he was not violating your blog policy what?
    Ashok: Copying left and right is prefectly acceptable and totally allowed, because I do believe that we live in a remix era, but the central tenet that makes this remix era so valuable and sustainable is the common sense protocol called attribution. It’s my fault that I did not explicitly state the CC license for the stuff here, but even then the etiquette is to assume that attribution is required

  34. K.Ramachandran Avatar

    @above : u asked 3 or 4 questions !! ( if 2 ques separated by “amean” count as one, its 3, else its 4 ) — just kidding 🙂

  35. Sudhir Avatar

    Rickroll = hit with rick astley in the guise of a sonata? Or am I the only one to have suffered thus??

  36. Dinesh Babu Avatar

    He he … Hope you enjoyed the vacation and still enjoying sipping that tea that you bought. Pictures please? Did you speak to the Monks? Can you throw torch light on that?

  37. Sridevi Avatar


    Nice post about ur trip to Darjeeling…i went there last September..luckily, our flights to and from Bagdogra werent cancelled…

    We saw the Kanchenjunga when we went to Tiger Hills to see the sunrise at 5.20am…it was a really beautiful sight…

    Although it is almost 6 months now,we havent yet had the Darjeeling tea that we bought…i wonder if all the relatives to whom we gifted it have atleast had some!


  38. Poornima Avatar

    @S: Yeah! I dont believe it is either…

    @SirDinglyDang: Even your ‘about me’ gets copied. flattering, but I wonder whats next! Look-alikes of you?

  39. krishashok Avatar

    Holy Mother of Mareechan Masquerading as Mariamman!
    That is not me. And damn, I had to create a new account to leave him a scrap 🙂

  40. Anish Avatar

    Regarding the link – There seems to be a song running in the background. Not from Yaadon ki Baraat though. It’s our National “family” anthem.

    You seem to be having a tough copyright protection month :-B

  41. K.Ramachandran Avatar

    lets tar and feather him . he’s trying to get a girlfriend or impress a boss inthis way . he even claims this to be his web-page !!! the shameless, unethical rogue !!!

  42. Maruthi Avatar

    Muhahahahahah…was on d floor wen i read thro d guys orkut profile

    *We then spent a day in Bagdogra. And guess what, the women spent that day shopping.* that is so perfect of an indian women….shri ram sena should felicitate ur wife for being a model indian woman 🙂

    btw…hi…i have been a silent follower of ur blog till now

  43. Ranga Avatar

    Just checked A Raghavan’s orkut profile – completely shocked by that amazing ‘similarity’ to not only his profile but the web page which is this blog. Oh my god! what psychos roam the planet!

  44. K.Ramachandran Avatar

    Ve vant another blog ( b4 i get a job ) !!!

  45. K.Ramachandran Avatar

    @Ranga : Ramasyko and Rangasyko 🙂 . intha PJ sahikkalai

  46. K.Ramachandran Avatar

    @Ranga ( excuse me, KA, for not including above itself ) : and this syko will roam half the planet ( Dallas back to Chennai) if i dont get a job by Mar end

  47. Gigi Avatar

    I have decided to change my vacation plan from Darjeeling to Sikkim as suggested in the comments…

    So funny that my dull day became a bright one

  48. flowergirl Avatar

    And I thought I was the only one who had travel adventures!! But then, mine have always been with Indian railways, you KA are a superior being with KF and Spicejet experiences!!

    Here’s my latest:

  49. ramji Avatar

    Ashok, you are the limit!!! How do you come out with this sort of humour? Reminds me of Crazy Mohan’s tamil stories. tell you what, if you ever drop into Sydney, we will make your trip worthwhile!! Imagine all the naked bodies in Bondi beach to jolluoutify!!

  50. SpecialSoph Avatar

    Google the “new world order” please people! Spread the truth on…

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