The journey to Darjeeling is one of the most serene experiences one can have, the toy-train, which apparently is not as slow as a real toy-train, but is really true. And oh! The scenes that one encounters on the way to Darjeeling are, well, they can't be described. You'll have to see for yourself.
There are many small stations that come in the way, many with names that can't really be pronounced. One such station is Jalpaiguri.
We were to start off with “New Jalpaiguri” station and reach Darjeeling in an hour.
We had started from our home town,Jaipur and reached Delhi in a Volvo bus.
According to our itinerary, we had boarded the Brahmputra mail to reach New Jalpaiguri station.
"Disha! Get in the train, before you miss this one too!" screamed Aarzoo from the train.
"Yes, Mom" I said and giggled. Aarzoo, my friend, had been with me since we couldn't tell the difference between Bharatnatyam and Kathak. In short, we go long back.
"Let her be, Aarzoo. At least I will get some peace when there'll be no Disha to keep on blabbering." joked Aarush.
I turned around to look at him with intent of a murder. But as soon as I see an even cuter version of Aarzoo's face, my anger melts away and I join in the laughter. Oh yes, they are twins. Except that Aarzoo has long straight hair while Aarush has those long but curled up hair that made him look like an innocent child. He wasn't one, though.
We were laughing when the train started with a sudden jerk. I ran to our compartment door and tried to climb in but Aarush barred the gate and was laughing continuously. "I won't let you in unless, of course, you promise to stay shut for the journey." he said still barring the door.
I rolled my eyes and said "okay, promise." He smiled and gave way. I took my seat opposite to Aarzoo and Aarush came and sat beside me.
"Do you know these hill people are actually very nice dancers. Especially the boys. Not to forget, they are very cute too. I wonder if I can get one..." I started.
"Aah! Here she goes again. I shouldn't have let you on the train." Aarush said.
"Enough, Aarush." Aarzoo stopped him. "Disha, I agree. They are so cute." she said and we both laughed.
"What! You have a very handsome guy sitting right next to you and you're talking about guys you haven't even seen yet. You should be happy with what you have" he said, starting another of his 'Oh-I'm-So-Handsome' lectures.
"Tough luck, Aarush. You're my brother" Aarzoo said.
"Yeah, and she's my sister." I said and Aarzoo hi-fived me. Aarush rolled his eyes and plugged-in his earphones. Aarzoo got busy in her magazine. I looked out of the window as our destination drew closer.
I was crazy. My friends had confirmed that a lot many times, but as crazy as I was, train journeys by a window seat always landed my mind in serious „overthinking‟.
To add to it, two of my friends weren‟t there to keep my brain from wandering in places it wasn‟t supposed to go, so it just strayed far away; To my crushes, to my dream date, to my dream wedding, to TOM CRUISE, to just everything and everyone out of my reach.
As I was lost in all those girly thoughts, the train almost rolled through a fruit shop and startled me out of my reverie. I refrained myself from seeing those daydreams and engrossed myself in the picturesque scenes of tea gardens, deep valleys and beautiful snow-clad mountains.
The train smoothly made its way on the narrow gauge railway track that traversed through the small towns to Ghum, the highest railway station of India from the sea level, to our destination, Darjeeling.
WB 77 DN 1234: A white Indica caught my eye as we exited the Darjeeling Railway Station.
Actually, that was the nearest car for hire, and we were in no mood to walk to different taxis and settle for the best offer after bargaining.
I asked Aarush to approach the car driver and ask him if he could drop us at Sterling Resort, Darjeeling.
“We‟re three people and we need to reach Sterling Resort. How much would it cost?” Aarush asked straightaway to the driver who was busy tapping his feet to some hard rock music.
“1200 bucks!” He said after staring a quick scanning glance at me and Aarzoo.
Aarush raised his eyebrows with a questioning expression of what to do.
Aarzoo and I looked at each other like 2 puzzled kids and just nodded.
The driver helped us with our luggage, after which we took our seats.
“He‟s hot yaar!” I typed a message on my cellphone and showed it to Aarzoo. She gave me a wide-eyed “You‟re impossible” look and burst out laughing.
Aarush who was sitting beside the driver got surprised with that sudden bout of Aarzoo‟s laughter but did not react anything significant, perhaps because he was too tired.
After a few seconds, I started off “I hope I get a partner for the dance competition. I‟ll be able to participate too, then!”
Aarzoo consoled me – “Disha, you will find one; and if you don‟t, you should feel blessed that you‟ll be able to cheer me and Aaru”
The driver switched off the loud rock music and said “Are you here for some dance competition?”
I was a bit sceptical about conversing with a driver, but he was hot so I chose to reply.
“We‟re here for an outing but when we booked our tickets at Sterling Resort, they told us that there would be a dance competition so my friends are participating…”
“…And you‟re not?” He asked looking at me from the rearview mirror.
I had seen a guy looking at a girl through the rear view mirror, only in movies and that day I was living that movie scene for real.
“No… Most probably not… Let‟s see if I get a partner!”
He just smiled when I said that and asked “What is your name?”
“Disha. What‟s yours?”
“Nitesh” He replied
I was feeling awkward talking to him, but then as I said before, he was just too… ummm… tempting!
I mean, talking to him, you dirty mind!
“His voice is so sexy…just like honey…” Aarzoo passed me on her cell phone after typing that.
“You like him too???” I typed in after clearing her message and winked at her.
She shook her head violently in disagreement.
“Thank God!” I whispered to her, the exclamation mark very clear in my voice.
“By the way, I dance too, in case you… ummmm…” Nitesh said with a hesitant voice.
“Well in that case, how about you show us a sample of your awesome dance?” I said in a very excited voice, like that of a child asking 'what is our car's color, dad?'
By the time, I asked that question to him, I had developed a really huge crush on that guy.
The way he drove, his no-honking and „flicker headlights only‟ policy, the way he looked at me through the mirror, his voice… Everything was just very impressive and I was expecting his dance too, to be great.
“When would it be convenient to you to see the dance, then?” He sounded so very enthusiastic for the sample dance.
“You wait for some time outside the resort. I shall let you know after we check in. Would that be fine?” I said in a confused tone.
“How far is the resort now???” I had the trouble of motion sickness and the hilly roads were adding to it. The unleveled roads, steep bylanes and the diesel car were making me feel more uneasy.
I did not feel it that much, may be because Nitesh had kept me distracted from the trouble.
“Actually it is just 5 kilometers from the Darjeeling Railway Station, ma‟am. But as you can see, the cobblestone roads and sharp turns make it a bumpy drive and a long one too!”
“Yeah. I see that”
Aarzoo and Aarush had dozed off, while I was busy conversing with Nitesh. I wonder if they were just pretending to sleep, and listening to all that, to tease me later with a driver.
We reached the resort and after checking in and all the necessary formality plus signatures, I asked them regarding the competition.
“Can an outsider not residing in the resort participate???” I inquired
“Yes, but you‟ll have to pay 500 Rs. extra for that” The hotel manager replied after checking the rules and regulations of the competition.
“Alright. We shall think and let you know” I left the place wondering if Nitesh would be dancing good enough for 500 Rs. and hoping that he would.
“Excuse me? Please come to the room in half an hour. We can see your dance, then and get started with the practice too, hopefully” I went up to Nitesh and informed him. He looked at me and gave me a warm, heart crushing smile
I freshened up by 30 minutes and waited for him.
As expected, he was right on time.
“I am a hip hop and salsa dancer basically. I will be able to show you a glimpse of my hip hop dance.” He said as he removed the jacket he had been wearing while driving the car.
“O Pardesiiii… O Pardesiii…” He started that song from Dev D in his absolutely classy “branded” cellphone and started the dance.
Aarush and Aarzoo too gathered to see the dance.
Nitesh‟s moves were so neat and so perfect that I slipped even deeper into that quicksand of infatuation with him.
His expressions, his posture, everything was beyond perfection.
“You dance so awesome” I said after 3:43 minutes of that wonderful performance.
Aarzoo and Aarush too cheered him. Aarzoo offered him water too, because I was obviously lost too much in his dance.
“Nitesh, we start practising from day after tomorrow. Would that be convenient to you?” I asked in a doubtful tone.
“We can start tomorrow too. It won‟t be a problem for me.” Nitesh sounded so very confident.
“Actually tomorrow, we plan to go out for some sightseeing around.”
“I can accompany you as a driver cum guide if you want to.”
“Oh yeah… That sounds a great idea and it would save us the trouble of searching a new driver too.” Aarzoo suddenly got enlivened after hearing Nitesh‟s offer.
We dispersed after finalizing the next day schedule with Nitesh.
We slipped in deep slumber owing to the super-tiring journey we had had.
We were supposed to leave with Nitesh at 7 AM to visit all the important sights of interest in and around Darjeeling.
We dispersed after finalizing the next day schedule with Nitesh.
We slipped in deep slumber owing to the super-tiring journey we had had.
We were supposed to leave with Nitesh at 7 AM on that day to visit all the important sights of interest in and around
Throughout the way, Nitesh kept drawing me in a conversation with him and kept me glued to it.
It seemed like someone had told Aarush and Aarzoo to keep the 'finger on their lips'.
They hardly took part in that conversation. God knows why!
Nitesh shared how he had danced on the same stage as Pradeep Gurung, a contestant of
Dance India Dance Season 3 but lost because of his hard luck.
We had an amazing time visiting the rock garden of Darjeeling, Ghum Monastery, Mirik lake, the Swiss
Houses and the lush green tea gardens with ladies having those beautiful baskets tied to their backs.
He showed us his semi-furnished cottage near Mirik lake, which reflected his ordinary family background.
We returned back after making super awesome memories and having the most amazing time of our lives.
Nitesh was a great dancer and an even more awesome human being.
That made me like him even more than what I previously did.
It may sound unbelievable and absurd, but even though we had to dance a really intimate dance form together, he made it absolutely comfortable for me. I could trust him, not because I had a crush on him already but because he was actually trustworthy and deserved to be trusted.
He even paid the 500 bucks which were supposed to be paid for the extra-participant, a non-resident of the resort.
“Tu hi hai aashiqui, tu hi aawargi…” – That was the song we were supposed to perform on in the competition.
Nitesh had taught me some really intricate and amazing footwork for the performance, and honestly, I wasn‟t dancing for the competition anymore. Yes,undoubtedly, I wanted to win, but I would not mind losing „cause I was taking back home the really precious dance steps as memories given by my crush.
We were practising in our living room of the suite at the resort. Everything was going okay and we were on the lines where we were supposed to be distant, and make a few moves individually with some complex footwork and rhythmic hand movements. . . . AND POOF! The lights went out.
It was absolutely dark and in that sudden unexpected black out, I almost forgot what step was I supposed to do.
"I started waving my hands and move towards the direction where I had last seen Nitesh.
"Nitesh!" I called out to him. "Where are you?" I know I'm a grown up now and so I should consider it absurd myself, but darkness sort of freaks me out a bit. Okay, I'm afraid of the dark, a little. Okay, very much. He didn't answer and I felt sweat beads on my forehead. "Nitesh!" I called out a bit longer this time. Still no answer. I felt the sweat beads multiplying. 'It's just a bit warm. That's it.' I tried to calm myself.
I felt the wall with my hands. I turned around and started walking further, with hands still outstretched to feel something. Or someone. I kept walking, wondering if he was alright. Filmy, as I was, I started to wonder if someone had orchestrated this power cut to take him out. Like as they do in films to attack or kidnap someone. Lights out and someone jumps in from the windows. I looked at the three windows of that room that were made completely of glass. They were perfectly normal. I hit my own head and whispered 'stupid, filmy, shut up'.
And then, I felt a very soft something. They were like fingers. "Gotcha!" I heard Nitesh saying. I intertwined my fingers into his and pulled myself in an almost hug like position with him, like I was a very small kid, afraid of the dark. "It's okay it's just a power cut.” I know it was, but what of this filmy mind of mine that had made this stupid heart almost believe that someone had kidnapped my crush.
Wait! Am I hugging him? Oh My God! But let it be. I like it this way. My whatsapp mind was already thinking of the smileys me and Aarzoo would share if ever this small moment was let out.
Shy was the word many used for me, but that was the last thing I was feeling around him and especially in his arms. But still, after a while I moved a bit away from him. He held me by my shoulders and asked "Are you alright?". I nodded. "Good, that you're safe. I was very scared for you". His words were very passionate. Or was it my mind making me think so? I looked at him for answers. His eyes had concern. But they also had a bit of passion.
I didn't know what was happening. All that I felt was that I was slowly drifting close to him, feeling his breaths, feeling his heartbeats, feeling a bit of wetness on his clothes, and feeling a bit for him. We were inches apart when suddenly, the lights came up.
I looked at him and he looked at me and we both blushed. Oh! These hill boys! Their blush was very cute. But then I realised that how close we were actually standing. I coughed a bit and he looked at me with questioning eyes.
"I think we should... Umm... Practice" I said.
It dawned on him and with a little blush, he let go of me. "Yea... We should... Yes... Continue" he stammered. I had a strange and sudden urge to pull his cheeks but then I suppressed it and we went back to practicing.
That night after the practice, I slipped into my night clothes and then into my bed. Although, I was present here physically, sleeping here in this cozy warm bed, my mind was wandering off somewhere else. Far in a meadow, dancing in the sunlight on the lines
Dil Nay Kaha Tha Na Tadpegaa
Fir Aaj Dil Dhadke Kyu Jaaye ?
Khwabo Nay Tay Kiya Tha Khonaa
Fir Aaj Kyu Palat Wo Aaye
And then he joined me on the last line. It was just 'perfect'. Like I had always wanted it to be. Like the movies. And then we stepped close to each other. Closer, closer. So close that our noses touched. And then we both burst up laughing. And I woke up.
Aargh...!! Why God had to pull up the '3 Idioits' prank on me? And that too in a 'way-more-than-just-perfect' dream. It seemed funny to us in the dream. But I was a lot piqued now. One question on my mind. Would my story also end up incomplete and with him laughing on me?
Nitesh had put on a creamish shirt and formals… He looked so adorable !!! :) I was sure that I‟ll take back some amazing memories and forever-cherishable moments in my heart through that performance.
We were supposed to perform on stage in front of so many people…!!! Finally our names were announced. I was nervous.
“Disha, you‟re awesome. Don‟t be so scared.” Nitesh tried to cheer me up.
“Yes you‟re right.” I said so and we proceeded for our performance.
----AND …. MUSIC!
I was just experiencing the presence of Nitesh *close to me* and explaining myself that I won‟t be having any excuse to be in his arms after the next day. We were hardly a millimeter apart but emotionally he was out of my reach.
The musical notes were being played in the background but the chords of my heart were playing something else. I was lost with Nitesh. It was not just a dance form or a performance anymore.
It was perhaps the last time I was seeing him.
Nitesh lifted me up and turned around holding me in his arms. That was our last dance step and with that pose, we ended the performance.
He gently put me down and for a few seconds, I missed those arms which had held me tight for almost 240 seconds. I tried hard not to „look‟ upset, but perhaps I did not succeed in hiding that feeling.
“Thank you Disha for giving me this chance of having a dance with you, not judging me on being a driver and believing in me. I am indebted to you.”
I couldn‟t believe a driver could talk such philosophical stuff, the stuff I only thought while traveling by a window seat.
“I am grateful to you too Nitesh, and Congratulations to us no matter what the result is.”
Having said that, I was almost going to give him a hug.
I still remember that split second of the awkward situation, where he had extended his right hand and I had stepped forward for the hug.
But just in time, I stopped myself and we ended up with a handshake!
It was a senti-mental moment for me. In that split second of our skins touching each other, I looked into his eyes. He had given me something, something that was more than just memories.
Packing was always an arduous job for me. But now it had an emotional side to it too. Leaving behind all that I felt and enjoyed here in Darjeeling, was more than just tough for me. I had to bite my tears back many a times so as to not give Aarzoo an idea of my situation. She was a hell lot mischievous but as soon I used to start crying, she turned into an over-caring mom. I really was trying to avoid that side of her.
It took me 4 long hours to pack, halfheartedly, that too. We had the afternoon train, and it was 11 so I went to the bathroom and took a quick shower, slipped into a jeans and pullover. And got ready to leave. I went to knock on Aarush and Aarzoo's room's door.
Aarzoo and Aarush had a grand party last night. Oh, did I forget to mention? They won the competition. The first prize out of the seven participating couples. They were training for this from a month, as compared to mine and Nitesh's 2-day rehearsals.
Nitesh, the name brought a fresh bout of tears in my eyes. But the door opened and I had to bite back my tears one more time. Aarush opened the door, and we went on to check out of the hotel. And as soon as we stepped out of the gate, he was there, waiting for us. He was there to take us on our probably last journey together. Mine and Nitesh's. He smiled at me and I smiled back. Although, I was all broken up inside, I maintained a constant grin on my face.
The journey back to the station was a lot quieter than the one to hotel. Aarush was sitting beside Nitesh and me and Aarzoo on the back seat. Both of them had drifted back to sleep but me and Nitesh were still awake, for obvious reasons. But no-one spoke.
The journey ended shortly. As they say, from a height, coming downhill is very easy. How ironic! The train was there, ready to leave, to take me away, back to Jaipur, away from Nitesh and the memories. I woke them both up and we took our seats in the train. We checked how much time was still left for the train and on finding that we had 20 more minutes we got down and went to thank Nitesh. It was Aarush's idea, not mine.
We went back and Aarush and Aarzoo talked to him and I just stood in the background, waiting for my chance. But these devils ate all my time and the train's hooter sounded. It was our cue to leave and so we waved back at him from the station's gate and he waved too. I had a rush of feelings but I knew, that this is the last time, and I had to control. I gave him one last look.
"Disha! We're getting late. Get in" Aarzoo screamed.
"Coming, mom" I choked and said. And I ran to board the train. Once in, I settled in my seat and noticed they were asleep again. They deserved it, given all the hard work they had put in. And so now I was free to cry my heart out. Free to wail as the train took me away from him, the hope of my life, the rhythm to my song, the guiding hand behind my dance steps and the light in my world.
But I don't cry. I look at the piece of paper I had in my hand. It had a phone number on it. And the words:
Tu hi aashiqui
Tu hi aawaragi.
I told you he had given me lot more than just memories in that handshake.
*********** The End ***********
- By >TARUN< and Disha