I came to Darjeeling knowing nothing about the city beyond the fact that they produce some world class tea. Originally I was meant to spend just a few days here before heading east to the border states of Assam and Nagaland, but Darjeeling has been such a captivating place that I haven’t managed to leave.
Perched on the top of a mountain 2 200 meters above sea level, Darjeeling is sometimes referred to as the “Queen of Mountains,” a moniker I think of bitterly whenever I am gasping for breath. Due to a mixture of thin air and the fact that I am terribly unfit, even a short walk is a minor ordeal.
Though technically part of West Bengal, the people of Darjeeling look nothing like their neighbours in Kolkata. They don’t really look Indian at all, at least in the way that I think of Indians. Considering that I can see across the valley to Nepal on a clear day, maybe this shouldn’t be surprising, but it is. In many ways Darjeeling feels like a country within a country. The differences are so clear that the locals have tried to separate from West Bengal and form their own state – Ghorkhaland.
Regardless of how the political situation plays out, the Ghorkas are fantastic people: quick to smile, wonderfully photogenic, and extremely welcoming.
These images are from my wandering around Darjeeling’s streets and villages and I wanted to share them before I shift the focus of my posts to my current project about Tibetans in exile.