“A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.” Anonymous
Life is full of unplanned detours. Some small. Some big.Some on the surface and some deep within. This is a story about a small detour apparently on the surface but which touched the cores. It was a trip to Kurseong and Darjeeling.With a sudden strike at the plains I had to postpone my flight back to Kolkata.Time came as a sudden blessing and I decided to explore a bit more on the extra day that came as a gift. As I began searching over for some quaint place where I could spend the morning my eyes got fixed to this place called Chimney. Chimney – a small village near Kurseong , very colonial in its name and I thought the place had stories which were untold.
My driver was not too happy with the sudden detour and he went about saying that it was a roundabout.I convinced the young guy who looked rather tired that this roundabout may be good to both of us.Straight paths which are known can be boring as well as tiring for him.I thought he was thinking at my words and he did, with a smile he said – Let’s Go. As my car turned back I googled the Merriam-Webster Dictionary which defined a roundabout as “a circuitous route, not simple, clear, or plain: long and confusing.” Wikipedia describes a roundabout as, “a type of circular intersection or junction in which road traffic flows almost continuously in one direction around a central island. These definitions of “long and confusing” added to my thrill .
As I began thinking about roundabouts and detours in life while I sat to write this, my hands reached out to a leather bound Bible gifted to me by a friend.Though I am not religious but some experiences in life convinced me of destiny and destined.Things which you never imagined in your most wild dream has happened to me and infact led to little transformations within me .
As I turned the pages of the Bible I stopped at a line in Genesis 12:1 when God says to Abraham, “Go … to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 ESV). Not only does it poke at my need for control, but I get lost … a lot. The Bible preaches that God determines the time and place that each of us is born. Irrespective of religious and philosophical convictions this is universal. Nevertheless, there are times when a detour is also actually a part of predestination I suppose.I remembered the story of Abraham and Sarah. When God asked Abraham to leave his homeland, Abraham and Sarah packed up their little family and began the journey. However, just as they were starting to make some headway, a famine struck and the couple suddenly found themselves detouring into Egypt. But the curious thing is that when they left, Scripture says that they traveled right back to where they started.…”to the place where his tent had been at the beginning…” (Genesis 13:3 ESV).This story convinced me that everything has a purpose – even the detours. Even the difficulties. Even the desert roads and the mountain bends.
As I turned a bend from Kurseong towards Dowhill and again a diversion the road became unfamiliar to my driver.We reached a shaded village called Bagora. Chimney is located 8 km uphill from the heart of Kurseong. The road from Bagora was accompanied by lush beautiful trees called Japanese Cedar locally known as Dhupi Sallaa which further intensified the joy of a detour on the stunning hilly slopes.The embalming silence was only broken by some chirping of birds.In listening to the strange sounds I realised with every chirp the birds had a different tune , maybe it was like human conversation with voice modulations.
Chimney, gets its name from a 23-foot high chimney that was probably built during World War I and used by British officers.The quiet hamlet of Chimney at 6,800 ft and the neighbouring villages of Mazua, Seemkharka, Kochegaon, Khundruke, Simantar and Chaitepani are nestled in the midst of thick forests.The Old Military Road on which we travelled was one of the cleanest and most smooth road I travelled in the hills.The solitary 23-feet Chimney is the only evidence of the Dak-Bangalow which existed in this area in the former times. Erected around 1839 by British, the Dak Bungalow got entirely divested over time. It got worn away leaving behind its only central fireplace in the form of Chimney. Eventually, the Chimney rightfully shared it’s title to the Village.Chimney is not merely a nature lovers’ paradise, for those who love basking in the melodious silence of nature Chimney won’t disappoint. Overlooking the Teesta and Mahananda Chimney was a beautiful escape.
My quest for silence and peace found its destination , the gentle breeze over time loved planting occasional kisses on my cheeks , my frizzy hair got ruffled as it covered my eyes . I took no effort to flick off the hair, sitting on the elevated grassland with some warm thupka which my driver got for me as well as for him I thought life as well might come to a stop.
This detour was happiness no doubt but it also made me question several things in life in general. Is purpose and direction important in life , do we chart it out or direction itself finds a way in our life. I was convinced detours are important in travel as well as life …uncharted detours.They do not come announced but when it knocks do open your heart. This is not to say that detours won’t be sad or frustrating or challenging. There will be detours that are and when we are ready to experience a richer and more abundant life enfolds.Even if it doesn’t feel like that “in the moment”, there is abundance waiting only to be allowed in.
A detour is an opportunity to see things anew. Not always the way we probably look at road construction.And such is life. Just as my driver was in two minds over the roundabout, I thought, what if we looked at life detours through a different lens? What if we looked at life’s detours as something to embrace?
Taking a detour is the only way to keep moving forward in life I guess.We always have a choice as to what that detour will be. And that’s a choice of our attitude and the path we choose to take. When we can see the positive, the good that’s out there – those detours in life can be very life-fulfilling. Taking a few detours along the way – and really experiencing them. Meet new people. Build new relationships. Develop new ideas. The list is endless. Especially if we’re open to seeing the possibilities that exist on these “detours” life often throws at us.
By the time we were getting back to Siliguri via the Pankhabari Road with a wealth of sharp turns, Ashok, my driver had a bright smile on his eyes.Looking through the glass he asked me about my flight time. With no idea what was on his mind I told him it was at 5 pm, he looked at his watch it was just past 1 pm and we were already approaching the plains. With a shy smile Ashok asked whether we could go for another detour. Another detour in a day ….did not want to disappoint him, for I thought the joy of knowing the unknown was being enjoyed by him now.I agreed within a minute and off we took another detour at Pannihata to go to Dudhia. I googled and saw that it was a little village besides the Balasaon River.
Driving past a beautiful road lined with tea bushes we hit a check post dotted with shops selling basic momos and wai wai. We had reached the banks of the river.Overlooking the checkpost was the most beautiful bridge I ever saw in life which supposedly went towards Mirik. It was a May afternoon with overcast skies and could not spot another tourist.Yet to see the Balason river, I was dazed at the sight of the shining bridge to nowhere,I began descending towards the banks.The other end of the bridge seemed to vanish in the darkness of the forests.I crossed big and small boulders and reached the river.In a word it was mystically beautiful. Balason is the kind of the picturesque river shown in Bollywood movies where the lady romances his man dancing over boulders and the man bathing her in the mountain waters.
I had to be bare footed when I was in the middle of such a gurgling river. I put my feet into the cold water and I felt like getting drenched in the first rains of April.The freshness not only touched my exteriors, it percolated deep inside, trickled into my senses as I began to feel at peace with all my doubts in life.I lost count of time as I sensed every little wave touching and receding. It was akin to intervals of being hugged by your mom. Ashok was back spotting that shy smile which was now a bit jubilant as he was happy that his suggestion of detour was as beautiful as mine.
It was time to leave for the airport and as if the finale was waiting, grey clouds collecting overhead burst and as I walked towards the car over the boulders I was drenched with little droplets over my hands, eyes and forehead. It felt like I was returning after a pilgrimage.For a pilgrimage of the soul I don’t need Pushkar or Haridwar , a quaint mountain stream did that to me.It purified, it strengthened and it embalmed.
Most of us are taught the importance of planning, the necessity of being highly structured and organized in life.Known for being unorganized, spontaneity has been part of my life, away from mindlessly existing within the confines of predictability. Chimney and Dudhia these sudden detours taught me to embrace things as they come, we can hardly write our routes of life, they are pre written, we can only force a roundabout.