I am not from Darjeeling but I can’t forget the memory I had in Darjeeling as I studied there , as we all know most of the world famous Schools and Colleges of the Hills were established more than 150 years ago. Since then Darjeeling is renowned for its centers of educational excellence. students from the neighboring countries come to study in Darjeeling . for the same purpose my parents also sent me to study in Darjeeling Hill Station back in the 80s. I am always thankful to this beautiful Hill Stations as I learnt a lot and faced a lot of on going Problems of the Hills .
Even after three decades I didn’t see much changes and development in the Hills. The Hills have been effected by never-ending struggle, movement and identity crisis. People of the hills have been demanding separate state as Gorkhaland long time before India got it’s independence. I am not writing in details about it but if you search in google you will find a lot of facts and chronological dates of the movement of the Hills.
I still remember those days when our daily routines used to start with the rhythmic sound of the Darjeeling Toy Train. A most familiar sounds of whistle blown by the Toy trains in every curves and cross-section of the roads and the railway lines reminds me those golden days. May be due to its rhythmic sounds there are dozens of songs have been composed and become eternal master piece of local musical field. Unlike express trains of the wold the sounds comes just a few yards away from the local traffic and the crowd of local folks who used to hang, swing and just cross the toy trains in a typical foggy to sunny days. It’s their daily activities or the way of life. Better say it’s an integral part of the hills since early 1800s when British first established the Train routs in the Hills. I am sure like me every one has the sweet and unforgettable memory of the toy train if they are some how part of the Hills or lived in the hills.
I never got a chance to get back after completing my graduation and moved to University then in the USA. But my recent visit just put me in halt as most of my friends used to say Darjeeling has changed a lot and developed a lot but for me I didn’t see any big changes or development except adding concrete jungles instead of natural flora and fauna of the hills on both side of the roads & railways and a crowded unplanned houses digging roadside slopes and falls with lots of populations. If every one agree with this as the development of the Hills than I don’t have anything to argue but for me it’s not a development of the hills. and But after almost three decades I saw the same innocent & confused faces of the local people who are many times used and abused by the political parties, Government and the Tea Plantations and gave them never-ending pain and uncertainty in their life. That’s why they still demand for the separate statehood.
I saw the kinds of crowd of the students , tourists, and little bit renovated Chaurasta and Bhanu Bhawan, congested broken Mall road with lots of footpath stalls and of course adding few Malls and shopping complex to attractive hotels and Restaurants . But I missed the ride of century old Land Rover Jeeps that used to take us through Singamari roads to our college have been replaced by the new cars and automobiles but with same congested roadways and unplanned syndicates and Tours and Travels that makes tourist upset easily as they have to see where to cross the road.
The Land rover was the land mark of the Hills since I was a student there but don’t know when those all most used Land Rovers gone these days. According to one of the article in BBC , “
Many of the vehicles have been used and abused for the last half-century without locals being aware of their value in the West. Experts say that some used as taxis could be worth in excess of $38,000.”
Some of theme were manufactured in the UK in between 1956 and 1958. and only less than hundreds of them are exist in Britain, and only around 500 worldwide. Of these only a few are in working order, which is why they would be worth so much money in the West.” So it can be one of attraction for the tourist around the world to visit Darjeeling for these valuable assets beside Toy Train. There should be local awareness program to preserve and promote Darjeeling’s most attractions Three Ts, they are Tea, Tourism and Toy trains and of course rare and almost extinct Land Rovers of Mid 50s.
It is Local responsibility and initiative to promote and preserve these three Ts of the queen of the Himalayas.
I just found out that The Toy train of Darjeeling has got the status of a world heritage site by UNESCO on December 5, 1999. According to UNSECO section chief and program specialist for culture, Moe Chiba, “Conservation of the DHR is people-centric. It is a culture-based development. If one respects the local culture, then they in turn will respect the world heritage DHR,”
The statement touched my heart and felt I should write a blog about it and if I am able to communicate the message with my friends who are now well established in their careers and as a good qualified citizens they have lots of influential positions in the hills. I just want to urge all the local folks to focus on these to keep the name and fame of the Hills. What I believe is there should be local participation and local has to be empowered to preserve, respect and promote these three Ts of the Himalayas for their socio-economic development since Education is the one of the key attraction of the Hills even before the independence. The local people should focus for it’s over all development with the strategy to sustainable development. Even the educational institutions should educate and empower for the development of social, economic and environmentally sustainable infra structures for the better and ever lasting future of the Hills. Roads, garbage disposal and sewer has to be well maintained with active participation of the local people. In my recent visit I found the hills peoples are confused and divided according to their ethnic identity. It’s good to have such developmental boards for their over all development if they include all the Gorkhas in the ethnic development that will bring positive development to the Hills People but we have already studied in the History of India about the Strategy of “Divide and Rule” imposed by most imperial powers in Indian Subcontinent. Unity and collective effort is the key to Hill development & It’s identity.