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Lack of tourist inflow surprises Darjeeling no more

Posted by Ramesh Khati on November 3, 2009

SILIGURI, 2 NOV(The Statesman): Darjeeling, almost devoid of tourists at the peak of the tourism season, no longer occasions an element of surprise. As if it has become a rule rather than an exception over the past few years as the air remains loaded with an impalpable foreboding with volatility hovering all around. According to the locals, the number of tourists is significantly less this year than the past two years taken together. “We are growing accustomed to this, aware as we are of the fast drifting political trajectory. The advent of winter seems splashing the hill station with its multi-coloured splendour and yet, the wonderful transformation of the landscape remains unseen with no tourist left to ejaculate ecstasy,” lamented a veteran resident, Mr Bhusan Lama.
Roaming about the celebrated promenade called Mall, one cannot help feeling melancholy with no joyous tinkling being heard from the tourists.
Asked why the tourists are giving a short shrift to the ‘queen of hill stations’ a local Dipesh Thapa smiled pensively. “Perhaps they are steering clear of Darjeeling in apprehension of being strike-struck. The political mercury is as inscrutable as the mercy of the sun on the hills,” he added.
The ever-buzzing Chowk Bazar and those on the Gandhi Road and Nehru Road around the Mall are doing business as usual and the trading is brisk. Yet the bargaining expostulations, which the tourists indulge in, are conspicuously missing.
The story is more sombre for the eateries including the fashionable ones. These look almost deserted. The staffs of restaurants around the Mall look a dejected lot. “This is the time of penance for us. We are incurring loss in the hope that our next generation would see a happier life. But Gorkhaland or no Gorkhaland, Darjeeling would be reduced to its phantom if it rejects its composite core,” he mumbled under his breath.
However, contrastingly, Lava in Kalimpong sub-division has been drawing tourists from several states. A number of foreign tourists have also added to the grandeur. According to a local, Mr Joseph Tamang, the tourist turnout is good to moderate. “The inflow has waned since the festive days. Even now the tourists are seen jostling for accommodation. But they are coming principally through Gorubathan in the Dooars,” he said. “Come December and there would be no tourist left in the hills. The hills would hibernate, while the surface of life would bubble with statehood excitement,” Mr Tamang mused.


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