There are two distinct phases of growing up in a small town, like Gangtok.
First, when you want to move away.
Second, when you want to make the journey back home.
In school, I studied ‘Ulysses’. It was a poem about an old King, who had a gypsy soul. He’d dream of faraway worlds, always yearning to leave home. That was a chapter in the lives of many of us too. Like the intense dissatisfaction and boredom that the King felt in his own Kingdom, the small town local market, home cooked food and the howling of the backyard mongrels came in the list of things to escape.
Next, Moms in town packed pickles, clothes with a list of survival tactics for the big, bad world. Airport authorities of the departure terminals – like Bagdogra – forgave the extra baggage, because it smelt like hometown. And off, one flew over to another world, leaving friends, who were homeboys and girls to the bone.
Once the aeroplane’s exit doors open, home takes over the heart.
Everything is new and unfamiliar in the city. Surviving extreme or different weather conditions, finding an apartment or roommate, crowded commute modes, staying safe, to learning mannerisms of a new place: it’s daunting.
Only in a big city do we realise how much out hometowns have influenced us. Strangers from back home, become friends: a part of a little tribe, looking out for one another, delivering packages home and bringing back goodies too. Hometown people become families.
Simultaneously, the city opens up a world full of wonder too. The cafes and hangouts are stylish, people come from all around the world, taxis are branded and so are the cucumbers, apples and doughnuts. The big city can make you feel wonderfully small. Someone always understands your niche educational qualifications: and your bizarre taste in music too.
So slowly, those who accept the city get something in return. A sense of responsibility, freedom and identity.
But most of all, what the city gives back is something invaluable: it teaches us to value home. The things we once took for granted, become precious.
Ah, home! The place we remember for its small joys, childhood friends, cousins and comfort food. The place where we lost our first tooth and found our first love.
Gangtok, this little hometown to so many has little stories, worth remembering from miles away.
These seven nostalgic testimonials, tell us more.
The Grass is green, comfortable, familiar and strewn with the things we love, only at home.
Kikee D Bhutia | Estonia
When I think of home, I miss the crisp, chilly wind over my hair and skin, the sudden outbursts of rain followed by sunshine, the famous MG Marg with its different shades of colours, and where I spent most of my time while I was figuring out my life, after my masters with my best friend, to the extent that we called the market, our second home. The best thing about home is the good, warm food with Dallekoachaar, gundrukkojhol and saag. But what I especially miss are the evenings when all of us would gather together and listen to oral stories and folk tales about our past.
Deepika Verma | Kolkata
In the list of things that I miss about Gangtok, first comes the joy of shopping all sorts of things, right from vegetables for the kitchen to the latest fashion clothes, under one roof – that’s the famous lal bazaar.
I feel so happy when I walk right from Lal bazaar to Tibet road, and my watch shows that I have already burnt around 200 calories. Of course the cleanliness of Gangtok is already a hot topic.
Being a Marwari in Gangtok is not always easy because, there are other terms like ‘kaiyaa’ or ‘madeshi’ that come with it. Yet, most people consider us as their own and I feel at home, whenever I visit Gangtok. I miss the greenery of Gangtok and would encourage people of other cities to grow plants at home as they do in Gangtok. I wish planting trees could be compulsory. I miss everything about home.
Pooja Rai | Nepal
Sikkim, my birthplace, my home.
Born and brought up in this place, destiny and fate brought me to this neighbouring land of Nepal, a place quite near yet so far. Here, I am growing professionally and personally but how I miss my home.
I miss my parents, my friends whom I haven’t met for quite sometime now.
The other things I miss, are Momos – Momos in Nepal taste different -, Churpi (cottage cheese), Kinema, Sikkim tea, Phaleys (the ones we used to get in the school days), food from from bakery cafe, eating samosas with my gang in Manipal and the weather and clean air.
Recently looking at the pictures of TNA on Facebook made me want to go back. (Though I’d be a complete stranger there).
Dhondup Namgyal | Delhi – California
Fresh air, firstly. The twist turns of the drive back on the hills. I always choose the open jeep taxi for max air. The famous vajra pala ko shabhaley and sausage then Alu chewra. I miss the walk around the secretariat -white house. The morning prayers at enchey gompas. The noise levels at Lal bazaar then. I think it would be perfect to podcast only the sound effects only of Lal Bazaar, someday.
Debjeet Kundu | New Delhi
Once a Sikkimis, always one. Sikkim is like that.
For someone having lived a fair chunk of his life in Sikkim, it is straightaway difficult to adjust in any other place. You don’t get the sweet November-sun with Kanchenjunga providing the backdrop; you miss the steaming hot momos and pork-thalis in the back alleys; you miss the basic civility and obedience for traffic rules; you miss the little hikes to the river side; you don’t get to see the colourful flutter of the prayer-flags everywhere and you don’t get the regular supply of Dalle and Titaura too. The list can go on, but I guess that goes true with everyone – every person leaving their own backyard has a long list of things that they miss.
Not that this Himalayan hamlet has the best of every facility that the big-city dwellers have access to, but there’s one thing clearly that someone from Sikkim misses the most, and me in Delhi – some clean air to breath, simply.
Every breath I take – rather I choke on – reminds me that there’s a place where people still breathe ‘normal’ air and not smoke, literally. And that pretty much defines the quality of life in Sikkim. And that is what Sikkim-is. Sikkim is about clean, healthy and good living. And that’s what I miss, everyday.
Sangla Lama | Dubai
On a daily basis I think I miss Sikkim almost every day. Living in the middle of a desert, waking up and facing another high rise apartment, the first thing I miss about Sikkim is the morning view of the hills (sometimes the Kanchenjunga if I’m lucky) and the plush greenery outside the window. Then of course I miss my tea made with fresh cow’s milk, too pure to be true which comes all the way from Rumtek. Being a Buddhist from Sikkim it’s natural to miss the beautiful monasteries, the monks, the prayer wheels and the Tibetan incense. When I leave the house I wish the weather was as cool as Sikkim and I miss the rain and the aseena. When it’s lunch time I mostly miss House of Tibet and crave their beef momos and sha phaley. I also miss classic aloo Chura of the taxi stand and Vajras meatballs. On weekends I wish there was a Ray khola or Tashi view point to just go and chill and an evening walk in MG Marg with mouth filled with paan from oriental paanwala!
Yuhina Lachungpa | Bangalore
It’s been exactly a year and 3 months since I started my life as an independent working woman in the big city.
I’ve formulated a nice little daily routine for myself here. I’ve given it structure and it works alright for me.
But I miss going to the TNA swimming pool every morning for my workouts, miss walking to MG Marg and Echostream from Forest Colony, miss the trees on the way – the crisp, cool breeze and being able to see the Himalayas from pretty much anywhere. Walks in Gangtok are inspiring; walks in cities, less so. I miss the resultant reflections that occur, building castles in the air, and ideas that seems not so impossible at that moment.
Back home, things are just not as hectic I guess. Family, friends, food, all accessible within a 5km radius. Brings a certain sense of comfort and security to one’s mental well-being, knowing that the things you love are not so far away. I miss seeing fluffy stray dogs. Those in the rest of the country look gaunt and embittered, hardened by life’s harsh dealings; those back home just look fat and loved. I miss the effortless music scene. No pressure, just people coming together and playing it by ear, pun intended. Miss the peaceful, blissful silence and being able to hear my thoughts; something I’m really appreciating in this contrasting cityscape. I miss having the luxury to just stop and think about things other than work and daily mundanities; a luxury lost to fast paced living. To be poetic and speculate on the larger scheme of things. To look to the sky and actually see stars in the millions, not just those too bright to be drowned out by city lights. To hear the rustle of leaves on windy nights, and the calls of cornucopias of birds every morning. I really miss seeing other species of beings instead of just humans, humans, humans everywhere. And boy oh boy do I miss the cold.
On the days I think of home, I am filled with a wistful longing, a new-found appreciation for the life I’ve lived, nestled in that most beautiful part of the world, the part – I am all too fortunate to call home.
post contributed by Roshni Chettri
photograph contributed by Kunga Tashi