Since childhood, I have always loved holidays of all sorts; in fact I’ve also enjoyed Sundays to the hilt. Lazing around with no worry and care at all in the world, fantasizing in my own dream world with no one to intrude, no rushing for getting ready and going to school, it used to be completely my day. Obviously, after my favorite Sunday, a travel plan was always an excitement , something to look forward to. Whether it was family holidays with cousins or school trips with friends, it was the most pleasurable part of my life.
It was the first week of December; my best friend, Nidhi and I wanted a change of weather; for that purpose Darjeeling has always been the best retreat for me. I had been there countless number of times in every month, during all seasons. As Christmas is my best festival, I thought of spending Christmas there with its special décor, a blanket of snow, the never ending hills and the chilly air. The mountains and its view beckoned me in all seasons so enticingly that it was an offer I could never refuse.’ Oh God, I find Darjeeling pure magnetic’, I thought to myself. I closed my eyes and could literally feel and visualize the whole scenario with ease. Ah, the power of creative visualization!
We started the process of getting our train tickets done and booking our favorite hotel,’ Sunflower’ bang on the Mall Road itself. The homely atmosphere and the delicious food was a culinary treat which tantalized our taste buds completely. They have the system of packing the food and bringing all the meals in the room with endless casseroles fitted one on top of the other. The smell of their famed crispy alu bhajia wafted into my nostrils and made my mouth water without any restraint.
So we were finally ready with all the arrangements; our big fat suitcases bulging with an assortment of woolies were packed and we were ready to leave on 23rd night. We were at Kolkata station; it was an extremely chilly night and we put our comfortable shawls more closely around ourselves. We were both very excited for this cold Christmas holiday. But we were in for a shock; we were ready and seated in the train but the train was unable to move, it was as if some unknown power was stopping us and preventing us to go. Somehow, after the mechanic checked, we were good to go; the train chugged and finally gathered speed, so we were on our way to our favorite destination. We hugged one another with joy and gave a thumbs-up sign and saw our home city trailing far behind; it was dark and amidst the clingity clang and the rhythm of the train, we slept. We both had nightmares of losing our handbags and some thief following us; without paying heed to all this, we were ready to embark on this bright cheery morning of 24th December.
We reached our hotel after absorbing the pristine energy of the mountains, savoring the lush greenery around us and breathing in the pure, fresh air. After checking in, we decided to sleep for a few hours, get dressed and then step out onto the mall road; we were in no hurry, there was a good whole week ahead of us. We got ready in our new pullovers, jeans, mufflers and shoes and felt on top of the world. There was a frenzy of activity outside; the queen of hills was dressed up in festive Christmas revelry, Christmas trees festooned with their typical hangings of multi colored stars, balls in all hues were there in each shop. The whole scene was mesmerizing; with teeth chattering we decided to have our customary hot chocolate in Keventer’s, that soothed us and imparted the much needed warmth and energy. In some time, because of the cold, the crowd had dissipated and surprisingly we were the lone ones. Strangely, there were many people dressed as Santa Claus. It seemed to be a perfect day and we would surely be showered with gifts galore.
Suddenly, two Santas came together, each snatching away our bags and we were too shocked to react. ‘Oh my God, what’s this, the giver in the garb of a snatcher, what’s this world coming to,’ we wondered? We trudged our way back to the hotel with broken spirit, angry and helpless. Spending the rest of the day in the safety and comfort of the hotel and each other’s company, we just relaxed and did nothing. Thankfully, there was not much cash in our bags and our phones were in our pockets.
Next day, we came out a little hesitantly, holding onto our wallets like dear life. We walked for a bit and again like the previous day, the crowd dispersed and two Santas appeared out of nowhere, kissing us hard on the mouth and held our breasts by the hand and fondling it, then making a beeline, all in a fraction of a few minutes. We were again rendered completely speechless and inactive. All the charm of Christmas, Darjeeling, the fresh mountainous air, the chirpy and packed mall road, the hot tea, coffee, chocolate, warm breads of Glenary’s, went for a toss. After this second manhandling, we would rather be on the way back home. In addition to lost money and our bags, we were also bereft of our dignity and did not know what the third day would hold for us.
‘Where on earth could we women be safe after all?’ was a pertinent question running crazily in our heads but we were devoid of a appropriate answer. ‘Decency seemed to be completely lost in this age’, we thought sadly with anguish! We could not fathom our next course of action and we were almost in tears, felt like two small kids who were slapped hard on our cheeks. Our faith and trust in the entire humanity had dwindled, fell apart like a flimsy pack of cards.
The train screeched to a halt and our eyes opened!!
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