The clouds, they floated up
so amazingly slow:
They wrapped the pine trees
in their course;
The sun gleamed
through thickset groves
or was it the orange glow
of sizzling charcoal?
Amidst steep avenues
as I leisurely strolled:
the Kanchenjunga’s tips
white in the sunlight shone;
And though I felt the chill
for long in my bones –
it was at a glimpse of her face
I decidedly froze.
Squatting on the pavement
an iron brazier she fanned –
over which several cobs of corn baked;
Her fair face now a beet-red
glistened in its warm haze –
or was it the glaze of self-assuredness
she brazenly emanated?
It was as if a halo over her she wore –
in acceptance of her fight, of optimism.
As I walked towards her
drawn by her pretty warm smile –
I noticed over the wine-red lips
her sparkling brown eyes;
Then I viewed the thick red vermillion
on the parting of her head:
as in his school-uniform her little boy
at me playfully grimaced.
Even as I waited
for my ear of corn to roast
another bright face like the moon
rising over the hill came along:
She smiled at the squatting corn-woman –
both their eyes crinkling ravine deep;
The latter’s silver hair shone
brighter than the mountain peaks.
This approaching woman
was bent low to retain her balance
as strapped from her head
behind her, a band of coir rope tarried:
It held two black stroller suitcases
also a white tote baggage,
And behind her mountainous bulk
strode to a hill-hotel a young frisky couple.
In awed compassion I then rambled along
munching kernels of corn cob,
When through thick fog what do I see –
With jute basket’s hung behind them on coir ropes
two women clambering up towards me:
Both tea-pluckers, chatted animatedly
about their tough day’s work,
of abusive, rigid supervisors they reckoned.
A third grill-canopied hangout I came atop
after crossing two similar ones
on the L-shaped Kanchenjunga-view walk:
The youth here on their dates congregate
over tea, coffee, corn, peanuts, not much else –
But dressed as if on the ramp at a fashion show –
livening the often foggy Darjeeling landscape
with a fashion-sense par excellence.
As I walk on crunching roasted peanuts now –
the fog shrouds me, or is it clouds?
Shivering in the chill I dash for shelter
under the tin stall of a woollen garments seller:
She smiles, bids me to sit, her face is so bright –
not only from makeup, it’s amber of her warm heart.
Thunder rumbles, as large drops of rain descend:
I’m sheathed in awe – of poise, resilience of hill people.
(PS: The pictures here, are merely illustrative, though I’ve clicked them myself.)