Becoming an author at 79.

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Monila De, after the launch of Unforgettable Kalimpong. 

About DE

Monila De released her first book, Unforgettable Kalimpong on 22nd of July, in St Augustine School hall. The book is about the early 50s when China was invading Tibet, Kalimpong was flooded with foreigners, the sudden influx of foreign nationals led Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister; announce that Kalimpong was a ‘nest of spies.’

De, was born in Kolkata, and came to live in Kalimpong during the Second World War at the age of 3. She initially stayed in Kanchanjunga Kothi but she eventually moved into Monjula, in Atisha Road here, where she claims to spend her glorious childhood.

She did her schooling from St. Joseph’s Convent and graduated from Loreto College of Kolkata. She got married in Kolkata and has two sons, (she is also blessed with a grandson.)

Mrs De shares a very outdoor personality since her school days, where she used to play hockey and tennis. She was the only lady member of Kalimpong Tennis Club as she outshined in that sport.

Her hobbies ranged from making Japanese dolls to oil paintings but she excelled in photography which bagged her many trophies. She is also a proficient equestrian as she used to ride back home from school every afternoon.

She was just a housewife at the beginning of her marriage but in her later years, she started making wine and Chinese sausages which became very popular among her friends and family. Though she has now stopped making them, yet they are still being talked about by her friends and family.

She has rightfully given herself the title of a ‘party animal’ as she loves to host parties as well as attend them. She has also visited every state of India and has seen all the marvellous historical places of India.

She also enjoys going abroad once a year, especially to London, Wimbledon the Mecca of Tennis. She has visited all the countries, but she still prefers to live in Kalimpong where her heart belongs.

After her book-release, Monila De along with her friends joined for a small interview session with the authors of C&C at Coffee Day here at main road. The Question Answers are on the basis of our three-hours-long conversations.

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Interviewing at CCD

Q: I would love to hear your journey about, Unforgettable Kalimpong in short, how did you give birth to this book at the age of 79?

A: My journey of writing this book is pretty long. I am the time machine; I will take you back to the time when Kalimpong was a paradise.

As you see the cover of the book, it shows the picture of the house with a little girl looking at it. The house is MONJULA where I spent my wonderful childhood and the little girl is me. I always had this picture in my mind about the cover of the book. The picture of the house looks blur as if you are looking from the window pane, washed with raindrops. The back page of the book is the burnt remains of my beloved house Monjula. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but an attractive cover attracts its readers.

All the stories in my book have been covered in newspapers and magazines in the past, in fact, there are several people in Darjeeling and Gangtok who have preserved and filed them. For several years nothing has happened…. It did appear in the print and later people kept asking if I have stopped writing, I said No, a writer never stops writing.
Every time I go to town, people keep asking me this question, it had become quite embarrassing, my relatives and friends kept pestering me, especially my friend Uruna, who is mentioned in the book, keeps telling everyone that I am the Ruskin Bond of Kalimpong; this, of course, is a far pride. It was my cousin who sent my name, address, email, phone number to Notion Press in Chennai, after that there was no way to evade them, then they have printed the book to which they have done a good job, I think.

You have no idea what is to get your book on print if you haven’t done so already. Those innumerable forms I had to fill, the scores of time I had to correct the texts, which is more than difficult to give birth to triplets. Thank goodness for the machine called computers, the use of which I had no idea about, but it made life easier when corrections were at stake. Luckily the Rotary digital library had opened, and I was able to make use of it for days and months. I had neither typed nor had any idea about the use of computers. When I had done the corrections for over two weeks, suddenly everything disappeared, nobody could get it back.

The computer can be your best friend or your worst enemy, eventually, I had to get a laptop at home to do hours of work, and very often I got stuck. So, the nearest place I could run to was Chitra Bhanu, where the young man very kindly helped me.

I was a very good student at the school, but I constantly lost marks, as I never revised my work. You always have to pay for your sins, and I am paying for mine. I had to correct this book at least twenty times, and if you still find mistakes in it, it is not for the want of try.

Mistakes are writer’s worst nightmare. Then there are spellings, of course, my spellings are as bad as my handwriting. Most times I can’t read my own handwriting. The fat dictionary in my house is in tatters, after being constantly being used by Elizabeth- my friend, to correct my spellings, she also managed to type out my stories, since she can read my illegible handwriting better than I can. But then, when it came to putting it to the computer, she tried. One day the page went blank and she has not touched the computer since. I am not a professional writer, thank God, I don’t have to make a living by writing, I would starve then.

Writing is not a hobby or a pass time for me, it is a compulsion and a pleasure. I write about anything that pleases me, moves me or upsets me. These emotions I have to write it about and kept it out of my system. I write about people, places and experiences. I remember my past, like a lot of you all, but I can’t remember what I did yesterday, I want to write all that down before Alzheimer’s claim me.

If I don’t write even two lines a day I feel my day has been wasted, even if it means like writing a general diary to the police. I too envy those writers with great imaginations, who write fictions, who have produced books like Harry Potter, Frankenstein etc. I, fortunately, write only what I have seen and experienced, so I hope you will find all the real characters in my book interesting. I have met many interesting and famous people over the years here in Kalimpong. There are all gone, their memories will still remain with me.

They say a writer’s life is a lonely life, but it is not so, you are in the company of the characters that you are writing about and we often live in the past. It is an excellent exercise for your brain. In this book you will find, Nepali, Bengali and Hindi words in italics, which I have not translated, as I expect my readers to be smart enough to figure them out.

Q: How long did you take to finish this book?

A: Ohh, these are stories that I wrote a long time ago, they were sitting at home, stacked up. They have all been printed in magazines and newspapers, and I had never bothered to compile them together. My friends and relatives kept pestering me to compile them. And many people in Kalimpong who are fond of my writings wanted a book that they could read. I was dilly-dallying, trying here and there, not successful. Eventually, my cousin wrote to Notion Press and after that, they got in touch with me and asked me to do certain things, which was a long process.

Q: What were the ordeals that you had to go through during the process of print?

A: when I said I wanted to print some old photographs, (in the last few pages of the book) they were giving me all kinds of excuses. So Bharat Mani (member of Rotary) asked me to tell them to do it anyway, and they wanted 300 DPI resolutions, so I insisted them, because without photographs the book is of no use, that is when they printed all kinds of photographs and sent me the copies, I asked for more copies, but very unfortunately, they have not been able to send me even during the time of launch, but the book is available in Amazon and Flipkart.

Q: When are you preparing for your second book?

A: There are enough articles/stories that I have written (in the past) for another book… it is ready, but then I have to go through the horrible exercise of correcting them, and that takes time and energy like anything. So, once that is over, another one will be printed.

Q: What will the other book be about?

A: It will be about Kalimpong of more recent years, like… about the people of Kalimpong, people who were well known in Kalimpong, who lived here and who made a difference here.

Q: When did you start writing?

A: I started writing since I was a child, it just used to come, and I used to write and throw it away and forget about it, it went on and on for years but I had not done anything constructive like putting a shape and putting it together. I slowly started sending them to newspapers and magazines

Q: When did you start writing for newspapers and magazines?

A: Some 10 years ago.

Q: what are the things that you have been writing now?

A: I haven’t written anything recently, it’s just that I have written a lot of stuff before, now which I am trying to get together to separate sections of books…before I die, I better produce all the stories that I have got. The whole problem is, I like to write a lot of things, I write and forget about it, I don’t want to revise it and go through it… it is horrible. So the piles of handwritten things are stacked up in the house.

Q: Do you also believe that writing is an introvert’s job?

A: Not at all, I don’t believe that at all, and I am not an introvert.

Q: How do you feel to have a physical book in your hand after these many years?

A: Ohh, that’s the most wonderful feeling you can ever have.

Q: Had you been dreaming about this for a long time?

A: Yes, I had, and I had this particular idea about this photograph of my cover right from the beginning, and I wouldn’t have anything else, this (cover page) was what I wanted and nothing else.

Q: There are many writers in town lately, what advice would you like to give to them?

A: Writers, writers, and writers, all have different ideas about writings; you cannot give them advice at all. It is up to them to figure it out by themselves. Some write for their living, some write for pleasure, some write to impress somebody, or just for the sake of writing … it is something like that. There are so many categories of people who write for different reasons.

Q: What is your reason for writing, then?

A: I have no reason what so ever, as I said, it is a compulsion, I just have to write, otherwise I feel that I have not done something at all, I feel that my time has been wasted, whatever comes to my mind, whatever I see, I have to write it down and that eases my brain and makes me feel that I have done something positive. Whether it is published or not, it really doesn’t matter, what matters is to get it out of my system. That is important to me.

Q: You said that you have no idea about computers, how did you manage this book?

A: You have no idea, I had never handled one or never grew up with one, nobody ever taught me how to use it, I had a great difficulty, I have just learnt to type with ‘one finger’ and then the paragraphs go up and down, I have a lot of troubles putting it together (Chuckles) All that has been a nightmare to me. Jonah was there to help me (Jonah from the Rotary digital library) it was a huge problem when he was not there. (Out of the context, I am soon going to visit my son in America and he is a computer expert, which is an irony. )

Q: What was your time schedule to visit the Rotary library?

A: I am a very lazy, laid back person, after a good Bengali lunch, I take a siesta, and I had been used to it all my life, then suddenly, I have to get it going, therefore I used to miss my sleep, I used to lie down just for one hour instead of three, and then I would go off to the library, because I was determined to finish the correction, each time I correct it, the publishers wanted something else. Oh My God, I remember, it was hell. So those went on and on, corrections after corrections and eventually I said I have had enough, enough is enough. However, I spent most of my time there correcting the manuscript.

Q: How many times did you re-write the manuscript?

A: More than 20 times, Notion Press sent me the very last bit one day, and then they said, ‘Mrs De, this is the last correction you do’ so they sent me this whole manuscript and I went through it, and I only found one fine mistake, which was good. But now, while flipping the book, I find that they have made more mistakes than I have made, ‘printing mistakes.’

Q: My last question to you, Mrs De, with time we have seen technology evolving, how do you, as a writer, compare kindle with physical books?

A: When I write, I prefer pen and paper, it’s easy to sit in bed and write; you scratch it off and do whatever you want. But doing that in the computer seems so much simpler, but that has no personal touch for me. Writing in a paper is something where I have a personal touch. Even though it is difficult for corrections, it’s the same with books. We would like to touch it, feel it, smell it and look at the words, go back–forth, you have something tangible on your hands, and that makes a lot of difference, otherwise holding a tablet is ridiculous, there is no personal feeling towards it at all. For example, the National Geography magazine, such beautiful smell they had, I loved it.

 

(END)

De is very dynamic, it gave us immense pleasure to meet and interview her. I hope you guys will find inspiration in each answer that she has given.
We will be back with other local stories until then, take care and keep reading. 🙂

Regards,
C&C

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Agitation and iskus ko munta.

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We were counting days of the indefinite strike. It was the 58 days and the hills were still shut- from receiving groceries from Siliguri, shut from Right to Information, shut from the freedom to speech and express and shut from several other human rights.

‘INTERNET SHOULD BE RESUMED!’

People gave speeches in this context to no avail.

The agitation.

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Interestingly, the third phase of the Gorkhaland agitation which was revived from the protest of three language policy allegedly ‘imposed’ by the Chief Minister Mamta Bannerjee on May last year had taken a serious turn making history for the generations yet to be born.

While the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha protested in the streets shouting ‘Bhasa hamro ama ho, bhasa mathi atikraman garnu paudaina’ (Language is our Mother, you cannot impose any language)

‘Language Protest’ slowly twisted to the protest of Gorkhaland movement- they called it ‘people’s movement.’

We heard slogans like ‘Bangal hamro chihan ho, Chihan ma Gorkhay basdaina’ (Bengal is our grave, Gorkhas doesn’t reside in the graveyard) every day from 11:30 am till 2:00 pm.

The stir reached to a degree where people swore that they are not going to settle in anything less than the state of Gorkhaland. Meanwhile, the protesters and the law enforcers often got involved in the violent clash in most of the places. Many people lost their lives in 105 days.

They, who bled, had a dream, an aspiration to live for a moment in Gorkhaland! The dream… just faded away.

Yet, the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee ‘tried’ to come up with many concrete resolutions which indeed failed many times. People had their faith in the unanimous decision of ‘all-party’ that time.

The squash tendrils!

We, perhaps, had never been so interested about iskus ko munta in our lives before but this particular tendril had become one among the few green vegetables available around us in those 105 days.

Maila daju used to come from Sangsay with a doko (ethnic Nepali basket, bigger in size, carried in the back with the support of a knit rope in their head, by adjusting it in the basket) full of iskus ko munta and bitter gourd. Oh, monsoon; the strike was all about fungus, ferns, bamboo shoot and squash-family!

By the time he reached 10th mile fatak (dus-mile-fatak) he sold half-doko of vegetables. People who came for the procession used to buy and take the vegetables home.

‘Aju ta Julus ma munta nikalayra dekhaunu parcha Bangal Sarkar lai’

(Today we need to display tendrils in the procession so that Bengal government sees)

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They were probably saying that because the impact of the indefinite strike and this legitimate demand had outraged people down there in Siliguri who in return had been stopping the transportation of food items to the hills. And it was alleged that the police along with some civilians were involved which was understood that the government had instructed them.

One odd morning while walking in the street of Dambar Chowk, I stumbled upon an old friend, who had come back to Kalimpong and those days the most important filler of a conversation had become ‘what are you eating lately?’ and the person at the other end unsurprisingly used to answer ‘Iskus ko munta!’

It was almost 60 days that people had been happily eating those tendrils for the sake of eating ‘green-vegetables.’ We got other organic vegetables too but ‘munta’ had become an ‘item’ cooked in every household those days and for the ones dwelling in the town, ‘iskus-ko-munta’ had become one of the delicacies.

One day, our veggie-stand was empty and we had gone down to Bhalukhop to send our stories, it had been days that we last ate greens, we were dying to eat vegetables. My pillion rider grabbed a handful of tendrils that was hung low towards the road while I was still riding. WE HAD TO EAT GREENS!

Internet ban and Iskus ko munta.

However, after the Internet was shut in the hills, people had no idea what to do to access their emails, book tickets or recharge phones or T.Vs but people who lived in the higher altitude of this town figured out Sikkim’s (Namthang, South Sikkim) signal blinking on their phone.  After receiving a couple of notification, they felt JIO as a saviour. That’s how the term Jio-dara (Jio-Cliff) became popular and Carmichael ground was one of those places that got internet reception. Carmichael Ground was soon renamed to Jio-Dara almost officially.

People told their friends and their friends told their other friends about the availability of network and soon Carmichael ground was flooded with people with their laptops and phones every single day.

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Carmichael ground is actually a place where kids play football. Above the ground is an elevated highland. It is above Mission Compound, Kalimpong. That’s it; we could just hear the notifications beep.
School students to lawyers, doctors, businessmen, and journalists, everyone was found there after 4 pm.

It was monsoon and the fogs used to swirl up exactly like today, the connection used to weaken to make us unable to attach emails. After staying there for hours in the piercing wind, emails finally used to get attached.

There were few more places like Carmichael ground that received the network.  Like Delo and Durpin hills. Networks were found because of the altitude.

Internet ban

(Though the Internet was stopped, the voices could never be stopped.)

And at the end of the day, getting home and looking at the ‘Sabzi-Stand’ or the refrigerator would matter the most. Because… what would you eat if there were no ‘iskus ko munta?’

Carmichael had a lot to offer us, there was a hideout where boys used to go to attend nature’s call, one similar evening, I too had to go for the same task, I saw squash tendrils and pumpkins, mazes and gingers getting matured there. The next day, after winding my story by 3 pm, we reached jio-dara to send our news. I went to the hideout to pee just to understand that somebody had already stolen squash tendrils and pumpkins.  I still wanted to eat ‘iskus ko munta’ for dinner.

I had always pestered my mother when she used to cook ‘Munta’ back home, but last year, for the first time in my life, I had a serious craving for munta. I wanted to eat munta, I had to eat munta, or else I would go round like the shape of potato but thanks to whoever that withdrew the agitation on the 105th day.

 

*ENDS*

Cinema Cafe~ For Filmy Conversations

Cafe, Conversations, and Tea-I

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I guess C.C.T sessions are one of the remedies to seize ones’ mind-block. With work-and-run, a session at a cafe was ’mandatorily required’ for me. This time without my prominent foodie companion, I experience Cinema Cafe (on its opening on 21st April) which is filled with creativity.

It’s been quite a while that I’ve been constantly visiting cafes, rather new cafes to taste vegetarian food with my almost-cannibal-food-partner. We’ve sat on many chairs and spilled conversations on many tables adjusting our elbows.

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The shimmering lights at the entrance and a transparent wall to see the road and the stories there. This Cinema-themed cafe gives us all we want and all that we had been missing.

I’m sure with time we started looking for something extraordinary other than music in cafes, that’s when Cinema Cafe happened. With the right food- above the cafe is the bistro where amazing Delhi Darwar Biryani is served. The taste is amazing as the term ’biryani’ convinces.

The menu is decent with 50 rupees for green tea and 70 for first-flush-tea. Minimum of 70 for French-fries and maximum of 180 rupees for Chicken Club Sandwich/Chicken burger in the café.

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Menu.

The arrangements are wonderfully engineered and the wall-painting, people really forgot about ’children’ and that’s how Kung-Fu-Panda is painted there by a talented chap, Subash Rana.

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~By Subash Rana

Anmol Gurung, the owner of the cafe, a filmmaker himself has given a wonderful thought about this very cafe. He wants the place to become a meeting point for all the producers and filmmakers. Anmol also wishes to reintroduce stand-up comedy here in the cafe.

‘It has all begun with stand-up comedy and conversations, so why not have them both here?’ He said.

The cafe has a DVD shelf at the corner from the right-hand-side of the entrance… (At such time when DVDs are on a verge of extinction.)

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DVDs

With a belief that every filmmaker has a way of inspiring, reputed filmmakers including Kapoors have an outlet as Prithvi Cafe in Prithvi Theater in Juhu, Mumbai.

Cinema-themed cafes are definitely a place where you can walk-in alone and find many people with a common interest. You can have a conversation with anyone there, literally!

We have also hard about other cinema-themed cafes like Indian Coffee House in Kolkata and Station-5 at Katmandu. Similarly, Cinema Cafe is here in Kalimpong now.

Cinema Café is no doubt a place with youthfulness, it is a must-visit not only for its lively but for the good vibe and good food.

Best wishes to the team!

More info- 

Indoor seating,
Alcohol available,
Table booking not available.

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Please Note.

Service-
Friendly staff,
Friendly service.

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Have a look

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel of the place- 

Good- looking cafe, half section facing towards the road.
Restaurant upstairs with dimmed-blue-lights

Artistic Decor and paintings
Amazing ambience.

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Cuisines-

Cafe- tea-first, flush
Restaurant- Delhi Darwar Biryani

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 Location-
Near David Gas.

How fond are you of Cinemas? 

Are you interested in the process of filmmaking or watching?
Are you nodding your head?
Then this is for you!

Anmol

Anmol Gurung.

dayahang-rai

Dayahang Rai

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain Pictures is coming up with a new project, ‘APPA’ where you will see Dayahang Rai in the lead and this is happening for the first time in the history of ‘Darjeeling-Hill based cinemas.’

APPA is a mixture of comedy and a sad story scripted by Anmol Gurung.

Anmol Gurung is a filmmaker who has created films like Anmol Chan, Chaya, and several other short films.

And as you know, Dayahang Rai, who is more than just an actor. He has not just received three National (Nepal) awards for fun. He has thrived on it. Breaking the stereotype that actors need six-packs, good looks, etc., he has been so real all these while in Nepali cinemas.

Meanwhile, gossips make things more interesting, here gossip says, Dayahang Rai has rejected other films in Nepal just to work on this particular project.

The preliminary work of the film has started, and sources say that the moorat shoot will kick off on 16th April in Darjeeling.

Before you think about APPA in theatres, Mountain Pictures is also giving an opportunity to the film enthusiasts to take a first leap towards the career of filmmaking…now looking for 2nd AD (Female), 3rd AD (Male) Assistant to the Director (Male) Assistant to the sound Team (Male) Dress Person (Female) Assistant to the Art Team (Female/Male) and two Spot Boys.

Opportunity

(Besides the aforementioned posts, interested actors willing to work with Dayahang Rai in this project can also come for the screening on 25th March)

Mountain Film

If you identify your talent fitting in the given posts you can dial 7384492622 or 9832318537 immediately as the team will be finalising the candidates on 25th March, 11 am at Cinema Café.

Give a shot…Now!

Please Note: Cinema Café is opening shortly, near David Gas, in the old T.K Apparel showroom.

Stay Tuned for more stories regarding this exciting themed Cafe and the film.
 

 

 

 

Mayel Lang- food paradise on earth.

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After cafes, I make a turn to restaurants with a very good foodie companion. And in news-less weeks like this, maybe time is giving me a chance to blog once again.

Food has always been the thing that can’t deceive us. Food gives us happiness and hunger is the feeling which is so damn real and we can’t judge food unless it reaches our taste buds.

So, Mayel Lang! The name tribal enough to understand-Ahh Lepchas!
It is located in the old ‘One-Cup’ i.e above Strawberry and below Leez.

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My woes were piling up for past few days and this food break gave me a real break from many hassles of my life.

Meanwhile, when I reached there, my super amazing foodie companion was waiting, already taking a look at the menu.  He is perhaps a very good listener.

‘Let’s try the food there’ he had said that morning and I was left with no space of denial, for food!

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Veg wanton, chicken wings in honey sauce, fried rice, noodles, (French) fries, Veg-Thai-Curry, were the food we tried there.

In another 20 minutes, food was ready on our table.

Quick service! We did not realize the time as we were engrossed in conversation.

Everything tasted good. But I don’t know why Thai-Curry could not impress my taste buds. Maybe I am not accustomed to Thai food? Whatever it is, what can beat Sag and Iskus ko Jara, bhat, with Dallay Khorsani and Daal? 

However, my companion too said, ‘Thai Curry was not up to the mark.’ (He knows Thai Curry and I trust him.) 😉

M.L has fruit beers too, but we were so full that we could not try. But you can go have a drink as summer is just around the corner.

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Besides food, the arrangements and new setting which they have made is really beautiful…From lights to the low-height table-bench.

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And bamboos! Lepchas are synonymous to bamboos. Spoon-Fork and tissue holder is crafted by bamboos there and it looks extraordinarily elegant.

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Food is not too expensive. One can enjoy a weekend brunch or lunch in Mayel Lyang with good companions like I did.

I liked the place, maybe because the conversations were topped like the cherry on the cake.

No- it’s rather because of the hospitality!

Mayal Lyang azom lee sa am am azom rem tonkchi fungu!
Thank you, Mayel Lyang for our wonderful experience with food!

Did you find the review useful?
Let me know. 🙂

TO BLEED OR NOT TO BLEED

Pad

Merab Wangchuk

The first time I had my period; it was my mother who showed me how to use a pad. Only it wasn’t any branded piece of cotton, it was a metre of a white piece of cloth. I remember her teaching me to fold it, first the left side and then the right, then you align both sides by patting it together. That was how the mechanism went for me, simple and easy but it was as if a huge slab of foreign material was stuck between my thighs. Obviously, I graduated to sanitary napkins in a few days but that was my mother’s way of teaching me to not take anything for granted, especially sanitary napkins.

While bleeding is celebrated in parts of the world, here, it is a calculated event. It is hushed and spoken of in undertones, we are taught to not mention it before boys and fathers, we are asked to hide our cramps and cravings, we ought to be ashamed, religion, social, cultural jargon all teaching us that it is dirty and filthy. I’ll break some sweat and say it isn’t. How is something that is an ocean of life, indicating prosperity and fertility unchaste? When did we associate something so warm, in the most perfect sense to an indication of obscenity? Who gave us the permission to conceal one of the most liberating attributes of womanhood behind locked doors and lowered eyes? But we do that for it is an old age tradition, we speak of modernity and giving women their independence and space while erasing the mention of periods and orgasms and postpartum depression. You see, we are humans and shallow and contradictory are our middle names.

Now, one of the major concerns that we need to combat is the cost of pads, especially in the hills, more so in our rural areas. While some countries have made sanitary napkins and tampons free of cost or even lowered prices to a maximum extent, India still has a long way to go. The new GST has definitely reduced taxes on such by 2.5% i.e. we have to pay 12% taxes on sanitary products, it, however, does not change the fact that condoms and contraceptives, bindis, bangles, etc. are exempt from taxes thus proving a point that a women’s wellbeing only refers to her outer wellbeing. While I as many of us have been fortunate enough to have been handed such luxury at our beck and call, such is not the condition everywhere. Our rural areas comprising mainly of labourers, the women and girls in our hills still resort to the method of using clothes. Sanitary pads are just an option and here, one would prefer the cheaper product. While using ash or wooden slabs have not been recorded in the hills, still, one must understand that the use of sanitary products, especially tampons are also almost null.

The consequences of not having proper sanitation facilities in such areas are the absence record of girls in schools in rural areas. Periods are still considered a social taboo and hence according to reports, girls frequently tend to miss school because of this lack of sanitation facilities and proper care. The social aspect here is the feeling of being an embarrassment before peers. One thing I’ve noticed and lived through is that here in the hills we do not have sex education classes nor do we have public health counselling for women. Whatever information we tend to gather is from wisdom gained from old school techniques, from seniors and friends. The first time I learnt about sex was from the mouth of my cousin and when I first started chumming, as the slang goes, another cousin of mine pointed it out to my mother. The point here is girls, as well as boys, are clueless about their bodies and its functioning. In such a case, how do we expect girls to marvel at this boon, a blessing that proclaims that she is finally a woman now?

Menstrual health is a matter of public health. It shouldn’t be considered as irrelevant and useless as the word of our politicians. It is a concern we need to look into, and by this, I say we need to set it as a priority. Women bleed, we all do and it is nothing to be ashamed of. There is so much to do on this aspect in our place so how about a start now? Nothing is ever too late!

(Stay tuned for more updates)

 

 

Cho’s Coffee Shop- New in Town.

Prayer flags and pots

‘TCS’

It was after writing an important story about Katherine Graham Memorial Chapel; I walked towards Kanchan with my team. Then the basement!

The Coffee Shop was finally inaugurated on the first day of February.

The owner, Chopel Bhutia, a young chap, who also owns ‘be-fabulous’ a clothing store has perfectly designed the cafe. The total space is perhaps-300 square feet or even lesser.

Book Rack

Help your Shelf.

The arrangement is neat, with tiny tables, fairy lights, and a perfect bookshelf. Good thing is-its semi-open. We can see who enters Be-Fab, who buys what! Everything is transparent, only from certain angles.

They don’t have an opaque door leading to the kitchen when cafes usually have a wooden block written ‘NO ADMISSION’ the coffee shop has a transparent sheet. We can see if they are messing around with our food.  Thanks, Chopel!

plastic transparent sheet

The Transparent Sheet.

But this guy has his own idea, someone has to keep wiping kitchen stains from the curtain. So to avoid stain and dirt in a curtain, plastic sheet it is-he can change the sheet weekly.

Kitchen

The Kitchen.

The first day: 

Chopel says- ‘The first day was amazing… I was nervous but as for a start I guess it went well. I opened the shop at 7 am and closed it around 8 pm. I had around 50 customers walking in within 13 hours and that was more than what I had expected. My first customer was the newspaper Daju from Denzong paper supplies. And the last was a group whom I met for the first time but I was not able to ask their names.’

Cakes

Muffins and Love.

Well, we all had our own story of experience there.

Blue and white balloons were kept on the floor to adorn the cafe, small flower pots and lights have enhanced the look of the cafe. It felt so warm there maybe because it was in the Basement.

flower pots

Loved the pots. 

While I was asking for a cup of tea, I saw my friend Priyanka V Lama, who was waiting for her friend Neha. Neha, Priyanka, so many others and I had studied together in St Joseph’s Convent and we met approximately after a decade or even more. I’d met Priyanka a few months back while Gyalchen Lha had organized Miss-Kalimpong. We’ve been in touch ever since.

Cho

Cho brewing coffee.  

The cafe has one ‘introvert’ sitting. I was happy to see that. My mind had started screaming ‘my type of place’ especially for valentine day because there will be a wall facing in front of you and keep staring you while you eat.

Technically it was like a small reunion where The Coffee Shop helped us reunite. I’m sure people have their own stories and their experience at ‘TCS’ who had offered ‘buy one- get one free’ treat to their customers in drinks, and here they have begun with a simple menu yet amazing takeaways. I carried the cup till home, sipping tea while I was a pillion rider.

TCS

The reunion. 

So TCS is new place to hang-out in town. And few more bistros will be inaugurated soon in Kalimpong.

Please visit THE COFFEE SHOP and Share your experience with us. 🙂

Love will always save you.

{Please note: This story is written by Kalimpong84 and not me.
The content idea purely belongs to the unrevealed author. }

Doctor-holding-patient-hand

Representative Picture.

Varinka’s health deteriorated every day but her zeal to live never died.

She always said “every day is a gift…. that’s why they call it PRESENT.” Now as she realized that waiting for death made her life more miserable, she decided to work. She knew her days were numbered and she wanted to do something that was worth the time she had on earth… so she decided to work in an Old Age Home with the hope that her journey would be little joyful living with people sailing on the same boat.

So with the help of her few contacts she managed to get a job including accommodation for herself in an Old Age Home run by an NGO.

Her new home was perfect for her… it was filled with positive energy and the love she got back from the elders was overwhelming. Every second she spent on caring for the elders was worth more than what she had lived before. She felt that she had found the purpose of her life, no matter how short it may be!

There were many girls like her caring for the elderly in the Home but non with a short life like hers. One fine day an elderly inmate was so sick that Dr Rohit had to be summoned to examine. He was the visiting doctor for the Home and was a renowned Oncologist (cancer specialist) with a heart of Gold. Dr Rohit was not only good clinicians but also a very good human being. It had been more than 5 years serving in the Old Age Home and he didn’t charge a penny.

Dr Rohit was very well known for his experimental drugs that had miraculously healed most of the cancer patients in the Home. His invention was on the verge of a breakthrough in the world of medicine.

When Varinka heard this from her friends she couldn’t stop herself from knowing more about this magical drug but on the flipside the drug did not work on all patients.

Varinka had nothing to lose; she decided she would go for it. One day she went to meet Dr Rohit in his chamber. Dr Rohit was a young, smart, 32 year old Bachelor. His achievements were a little too heavy for his age.

Varinka introduced herself and told him that she worked in the same Home that he was attached to.

When Dr Rohit saw her for the first time, he was awestricken by her beauty.. Everything went silent for some second. Varinka started talking but Dr Rohit’s jaw dropped as he was mesmerized by her beauty. Slowly Varinka’s voice started sounding louder and Dr Rohit gained back his consciousness.

Dr Rohit rebuilding his composure said,

“Sorry miss I was lost in thoughts for seconds, could you please tell me your problem from the beginning”

Varinka’s crease on her forehead indicated that her temper was not to be played with, but for sick people temper was unaffordable.

Dr Rohit sedately heard everything that Varinka had to say. He himself expressed his sadness for her sickness which was one of his virtues that separated him from all other doctors who treated patients like specimens.

Dr Rohit agreed to give her the treatment. He also explained that since the drug was experimental it would not cost much for her which was another boon for Varinka.

Varinka’s treatment started and her test results showed signs of healing. As her health progressed, so did their relationship. Both Dr Rohit and Varinka started seeing each other on a regular basis. They both liked each other.

But Dr Rohit was in love with her.

As days passed by, Dr Rohit was himself amazed at the rate in which Varinka was recovering, and deep down, he knew that she would one day be cancer free. He was patiently waiting for that very day because on that day he was going to propose her.

So the day of her final test results.

Varinka was looking more beautiful than ever. All the elderly inmates in the Old Age Home were praying together for her and anxiously awaiting the reports which Dr Rohit was bringing along with him.

You could literally hear the beats when 100 plus hearts were beating with the same excitement as Dr Rohit’s car entered the compound. Doctor enters the hall with a Poker face which he could not hold long as tears rolled down his eyes and with a smile he gives a nod. He then knelt and pulled out a ring and proposed to Varinka.

Yes, Varinka is now Cancer free but she had not at all expected this. She liked Dr Rohit but did not love him.

She was in trouble once again.

Back there in India, Varun was still missing Varinka. Varinka could not keep her secret for long and on hearing this Varun’s love for Varinka grew much stronger. Varun’s love compelled him to leave for Kathmandu in search of Varinka.

Here, Varinka did not want to embarrass Dr Rohit as he was one of the most respected and the most required person in the Old Age Home. So she said YES…thinking that she would clarify things later. Everyone clapped with tears of joy in their eyes.

Next day, Varinka decided that she would clear up everything and explain why she had to say Yes! When in reality she wanted to say No! She patiently waited for Dr. Rohit in his small chamber which was in the ‘Home’ itself. She heard the sound of his car. Her heart started racing as he walked closer to the chamber.

Gathering all the courage she opened the door for him and there in front of her stood… Varun.

Varun! Varinka! A moment of silence!!!

The situation was so intense that the whole chamber was burning in an invisible fire.

Without saying anything further, they hugged each other for as long as they could.

‘I’ve missed you every day and I’ve come to take you” said Varun.

 

Enters,
Dr Rohit with flowers in his hands, watching Varun in Varinka’s hands!

 

(ENDS)

 

“Sometimes choices are not easy to make.
And ‘everytime’ risk is what you CAN’T take.
The choice you make today,
Can make you suffer tomorrow.
And the risk you don’t take today,
May be of regret to you tomorrow.”
-Varinka 

 

 

Cafes and Conversations…till LOVE and UNLOVE.

-a short story (fiction)

cafe and conversations

Spring hadn’t sprung at all. It was already April and the thread in my whatsapp was overloaded with our conversations. This time, Varun had just come from America.

My excitement to see him, plus not to see him at the same time had me confused. I was afraid, as usual because my effort of understanding him would fail each time he would come back to Kalimpong. He is a different person in the virtual world and he is different in reality.

I would always think that there is no point for us to hang out often but Varun would eventually act that he has always been in love with me. And I’m sure I’ve always tried defending myself with the thought that Varun doesn’t actually love me.

So, I received a message one morning.

‘Good Morning sunshine… Rise and Shine’

‘And get ready, we have to go Munsung.’

….

‘Good morning.

Wait!

What?

Why?

I can’t go.

In fact, I can’t meet you.’ I replied in a row!

He has been obsessed with driving towards countryside, just to escape from reality and just to escape from civilisations.

I rather chose to stay on bed that day!

One message received!

‘Hey, what you doing?

You missed it.

This place is amazing.

And I’ve just ordered a dhungro!’

Why don’t you just come? He wrote.

‘No Varun, I’m not well’ I replied without giving a second thought.

‘What? What happened? Why didn’t you tell me in the morning?

I’m coming right away to see you!’ was Varun’s reply.
He always over-reacts. It’s been years but we both don’t know who we are to each other. When he introduces me to his friends, he says, ‘Meet my friend Varinka’ and when we chat, it seems we are more than ‘just friends.’ He knows my like and dislikes. He knows me inside out. He knows how much I hate drunk-drives and how much I love poetry. And after all these years, and all the conversations, yeah, we are just friends!


No Varun, you don’t have to come.

I’m fine.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

In café Kalimpong at 11 am. Done for the day!

And after that, he just didn’t reply.
I started working in some micro poems.


‘The paralyzed night, its shiver
Blurry stars, navy blue, and mist.
In the distance, yes, without you’

And just then I got to access some of his haikus, amazing poet he had become with time. But he always told me that he gets inspired by my words when in contrary, I got inspired by his, always!


Next day!

‘Morning!

Café Kalimpong is it?’

Shit! It was 9:45 am when I opened my eyes. And his message beeped around 7:15 am.

‘Yes, be there. Be punctual, time really exists for me’

I got off from bed.


14th Mile, Kalimpong…

Here it’s December, every day. You are enveloped by fog all the time till you reach Dr. Grahams Homes. Then the sun smiles your way till you reach Dambar Chowk- a ridge adjoining Delo and Durpin hills.

I reached Café Kalimpong by 10:55 am and asked masala tea for my own satisfaction.

This Café gives amazing masala tea which costs money and an amazing view of protruding Delo hill, for free!

While I was carelessly sipping tea for the sixth time, Varun entered the café. It left my heart skipping its rhythmic beats. I was meeting him after two years. I looked at him and smiled.

He approached towards me. We didn’t hug!

He sat in front of me. The café was suddenly filled with SPRING.  He smelled good like the fragrance of those sweet-peas that bloom in the onset of spring. I don’t know much about the café and people in it, but to my heart, he literally changed a season.

How are you feeling now? He asked breaking the silence.

I forgot that I had to speak. I was lost, lost in something so beautiful, so stunning and so amazing. I was just staring at him.

Better. I said

What would you like to eat? These guys make amazing burgers and blueberry cupcakes. I just wanted to suggest something of my choice.

Hmmm…burger and tea! He said.  

He loved tea as much as I did. And that was one thing how my attraction grew towards him.

So, how are things in the U.S of A?

Oh! You know what? I forgot to tell you that I am selected for an international course, I have to choose a university from five countries, and I think I’ll go for two year’s master degree course in Duke University or University of North Carolina at Chapel hill, U.S.A.  What do you think? There’s no full stop once I start speaking.

He was staring-a blank gaze in my eyes.

We will talk about it; let me do a background check about the universities. He said.

Meanwhile, our food arrived.

We started gobbling.

I ordered for the third round of masala tea.

He smiled.

He suddenly leaned forward, trying to reach my face with his hand, hurdled by a table in between us. Teenagers there were taking selfies around. My hair was blown by the wind, tangling it roughly. And an unexpected music started playing in the background, it was Elvis Presley. His hand did reach my face; his fingers slowly ran towards my upper lips and with this thumb, he wiped my mayonnaise moustache.

I smiled, only to see tissues right next to my hand.

We talked about other cafes and foods.

About paintings and books,

Seasons and moods,

Jobs, satisfactions, etcetera!

We had so many things to talk and we visited as many cafes that we could visit in few months. We shared as many conversations we could share in those times.

We would go to see a river and sometimes we would go to see the sunrise. We would stand and watch the rain drops fall and he would ask me to dance with him in the middle of the road.

We had shared endless stories, some stupid, some genuine. We often dropped one another home and talked for long hours as we dispersed.

We became each other’s unbreakable habit. And this time I really got to know and understand Varun better. I liked being with him.

I started bunking work just to meet him. And he stared walking in the rain, just to see me.

Many months passed!

One day, he didn’t write to me the whole day. I was still at work. In fact, I was overloaded with work that particular day. I was 3:30 pm.

Bling! I got a message.

‘Hey, I’m in Gangtok today, will be returning tomorrow, early!’

Then, I had this weird feeling. What? Where? Gangtok? Why?

The person who messaged me to tell that he is eating, sleeping, reading, writing, listening music, etc. goes to another state and I don’t even know? I was petrified for no appropriate reason.

‘Oh! Okay’ I replied, but only this heart was aware of the hurricane that I was withstanding.

I didn’t write to him further.

We didn’t exchange message for few days. And it was weird, I wanted to know, I wanted to ask him, I wanted to talk to him, I had to understand but I chose to kill myself silently without doing any of these.

He was online most of the time and it killed me more.

After two weeks of torture, I changed my job, so that I could be busy- learning new things.  I was being able to cope up with situations. I was slowly able to break my habits.

Things felt quite odd for few days but then it worked well with time!

Slowly, I started visiting cafes, alone. I started writing alone and tasting teas alone.

At times, some café owners would ask, ‘bhai ayena?’ and I wouldn’t know what to answer. I would just smile and ignore. And sometimes, I would bounce by his friends who would ask, ‘hey, where is Varun these days?’ and I would end up saying, ‘hey, I was about to ask you the same.’
I was tired of escaping questions and inquisitions of people. I was tired of pretending. Then, I started looking for a ticket to South-India for the fifth time in my life.

Was I in a mission to run away from a circumstance that life threw hard on me? Well, yeah!

Bling!

Hey! How and where are you?

Need to talk.

What? Do you think life is a joke? Or do you see me like a clown selling balloons?

But this heart gets enticed so easily. And without even realising I replied,

Hey, I’m still here. Then I cursed myself instantly.

Next moment we were trying to avoid eye-contacts in Aroma café. We had two large cups of Darjeeling milk tea in front of us.

We had looked out of the window for 18 minutes already and I was getting late for work.

Priority changes!

What is it that you had to talk about? I had to break the silence.

How have you been? I missed you! He said.

I was angry from within. He was the one to walk off from my life without saying anything.

I was fuming with anger. I had just taken two sips of my favorite cup of tea.

I walked off from the café.

‘Varinka, wait!’ he came running downstairs but I made sure that he wouldn’t reach me.

I reached home, I didn’t work, my peace was invaded. I was very angry.

He kept calling me but I didn’t receive. I instead chose to take shower and sleep. I was 3:26 pm and I started thinking about my work.

I’d received many messages by 6:30 pm and I didn’t read any of it.

My anger faded with time and I read his message one by one. His last message was,

Let me talk to you for one last time.

‘One last time? Why? Was he going back? Oh No! I can’t live without him.

I think I Love him!’ I talked to myself!

Okay, we have to talk then. I replied.

Paris Café, tomorrow 9:30 am, see you there Varinka!

What? Why so early? His timing seemed so odd and my curiosity rose higher.

Next day.

I had prepared what to say and what not to. I chose to wear a shirt with an Indian print; he used to say that I look good in it.

This time too, we were silent half of the time. The guy in the reception didn’t bother us only to realise that he is deaf and dumb. Varun doodled the order in a piece of paper. And the guy prepared Darjeeling tea without milk.

How much I hated tea without milk, he knew it better. Still, I somehow struggled with a milk-less cup of tea.

‘Varinka, There is something very important that I have to say.’ He said in a serious tone.

‘Go on, I too have to say something important’ I said.

Okay! He took a deep breath and said, ‘I’m getting married next week’

I froze with that statement. Or I don’t know if it was my heart that froze. I started sulking. I couldn’t react.

‘I wanted to tell you this the day I went to Gangtok but I couldn’t’ he went on.

I’m so sorry Varinka, I don’t know what happened.  I…

With that, I stood up, kept half price of the tea on the table.

‘My share’ I said and I walked off.

I don’t know why, but, that was the only thing I could do at that point of time.

I didn’t realise that I walked off from his life the same time I walked off from the café.

We stopped talking and meeting.

He got married in another week. I could just stay home and scroll his facebook profile to see many new pictures of his wedding…

He seemed happy in all the photographs taken by my very good photographer friend.

It’s been years now and I’d stopped visiting cafes, for, his memories haunt me when I have to suffer with a smile.

He is now expecting a kid. 🙂

ENDS!

Keep reading and supporting. 

Much love,

Nisha Varinka Chettri.

Scroll to the end, check this author’s other pages. (Facebook and Instagram; Like and follow for more stories) ☺️

I was Sabre Rattled by the police (A.S.P) while I was doing my duty.

This is what exactly happened on 15th September…   

before bursting tear gas shells

(POLICE- before bursting tear-gas-shells) 

Friday, 15th September. 

Fresh violence boiled the town when the news of arresting 14 approximate picketers by the police spread like a wildfire. The mob gathered in the motor stand by 11 am took my interest. I was accompanied by my Photographer friend, BishanTriva.

Out of curiosity, I asked one of the agitators about their assemblage. We got to know the reason. We got isolated from the crowd and stood in front of the last shops in the left hand (from Mijju) side of Motor Stand.

Soon, the police arrived.

SP leading the troupe

(SP-Ajeet Singh Yadav leading the troupe)

We got in action, with our cameras.

The troupe was led by the S.P, Ajeet Singh Yadav.

We started shooting, the shutter sound and the action.

They started blocking the road.

‘Jai Gorkha’

The bikes were able to escape.

The vehicle which had the picketers was blocked. Police got down in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

MOB stopping police van

(MOBs stopping police van)

They started lathicharging.

Their intention was just to shoo away the mobs.

They were dispersed and the motor stand was free for them to carry on with their duty.

When the mob dispersed.

(MOBS dispersed, Motor-Stand empty.)

Out of nowhere, the Assistant S.P, Amlan Gosh came and shoved me with a baton in a full swing, using force as much as he could. 

It got it at the back of my heart. I couldn’t breathe for five seconds. Bishan caught me. We both were in the state of shock. 

The ASP, didn’t intend to hit Bishan. 

(I still don’t know what grudge he had, with me)

 

Amlan Gosh after rattling baton on me

(Amlan Gosh after rattling baton on me.)

Then I got back to my senses and I ran towards him, shouting ‘ASP, wait!’ 

Bishan followed me. I kept running till I caught him. 

‘On what ground did you lathicharge me?’ I questioned. 

Who gave you the authority to lathicharge? Answer me!’ 

This is not the first time that you are manhandling a Journalist’ 

 Then, Bishan started shouting at the ASP, ‘on what ground did you hit her?

 ‘Don’t argue’ said Amlan Ghosh and walked off. 

MOB in the backdrop.

(MOB)

The mobs started pelting stones to the place that we were standing.

We had to escape from stones. My back was already injured.

Our eyes caught an old man, injured from the wrath of Amlan, he was looking for a place to sit. He was in pain. He got hit on his (right) shoulder.

Old man got injured- by ASP

(Innocents injured in lathicharge)

We had to protect him from stones too. We had to rescue him and take him along.

Boom*Tear Gas Shell burst.

Our nose and eyes started burning instantly and we were filled with tears.

A strong irritation got stuck in our throat.

I started feeling the burning sensation on my face, maybe because of the reaction of gas with moisture caused by tears on my cheeks.

We reached Baradhuray and asked water to wash our face and eyes. We walked toward Dambar Chowk and saw just one scooter in the parking and that was mine. We parked the scooter near District hospital.

We could still hear the sounds of firing (of non-lethal bullets.)

Firing-non-lethal bullets

(Tear gas and non-lethal bullets)

My wing bone was injured and it was hurting awfully. We had taken most of the photographs in sequence. We had evidence of whatever happened.

We later reached our low-roofed-office which was suffocating enough because of the heat and its absorption by the aluminium sheet.

I called my editor and he asked me to do the medicals as soon as possible.

Bishan and I then left towards the District Hospital where my doctor friend helped me with all the formalities. I got my x-ray done and my medication started, that’s how my pain was eased and I could carry on with shooting (the second incident that took place around 4 pm.)

Action and Chaos

(Action and Chaos)

Before that we met the District Magistrate and narrated him the incident, he just said that he will look on the matter and take necessary steps. Which in other words mean, ‘yeah, heard it, now get lost!’

When we thought of meeting the SP, he was in Dambar Chowk. The second violence was caused because the mob pelted stones to Army vehicle. Police started firing and bursting tear gas shells again.

Police in action

(Police in action)

The situation was not right and I left home with a quick lunch at the hospital canteen, arranged by my doc friend.

In the other hand, Bishan’s girlfriend had packed dinner for me. Got it and reached home.

Then, mixed emotions drove me. I missed mom, I seriously wished that I had a dog with me. I was lonely, I was cold. But the amount of calls I received faded my emotions and I got back to my form.

Then, I took medicines and slept…

those who are not in uniforms are Reporters, this is how we have to work.

(Those who are not in uniforms are Reporters, this is how we have to work!)

Saturday, 16th September 2017.

I was finally able to meet the SP.

I was backed by my fellow workers, I narrated him the incident. At first he tried defending ASP wondering that he might have been driven by the mob-pressure.

I clarified that motor stand was empty and the crowd was dispersed. I gave stress to it saying that I have photo-evidence (in sequence) of the place and incident.

I also told him that I’d come with FIR against ASP, to which, he said that FIR is not possible but General Diary could be done. He explained that judicial matter would eventually land up in, Gosh paying a fine of 100 rupees, that’s it!

When I constantly talked about taking action, he said he will ask Amlan to give an explanation in a written form stating why he manhandled me, which will be sent to the DGP as he is now aware of the incident.

That way, an action will be taken and it will hamper his career while trying to upgrade himself as SP in the future.

He will also have to pay fine of 10,000 rupees, it seems.

I asked him to set a timeline so that I can get back to them to enquire about the action. Yadav assured me to wait for 7 days till I take help from the judiciary.

I have also demanded a press conference where ASP has to explain his excuse regarding the lathicharge. ASP was not around while we were in the police station. I asked SP to call him but he came the time we left from Thana.

I have also consulted things with few lawyers who have suggested me to write to the judicial magistrate. But first, they have to reject my complaint (in a written form) giving reasons why can’t they entertain my FIR.

(The PS where I am complaining can’t arrest their own police. That’s why only G.D can be done.)

Then the judiciary can play their role.

My co-workers have been really supportive, also my friends, editors, readers, and my well-wishers. I can’t stay silent without thanking all of you.

I’ll get back to you guys with more information and photographs shortly.

Till then, take care and keep supporting this Author.

 

Love and regards!
Nisha Varinka Chettri