I basically had nothing to all of my 3 month long summer vacations, and my parents were worried I would be freezing my ass. In front of my laptop. In my AC room. Watching Dr Who. So I applied for the Basic Mountaineering Course of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling. By a huge turn of luck or an enormous hand of fluke, my application got accepted. I got my acceptance letter on the 1st of April, for a course that began on 7th of April. And I had to report on the 6th of April. Well, there wasn’t much to think about was there? I booked a flight the very same day, shopped on 2nd and 3rd, celebrated my 18th birthday on the 4th, packed on the 5th and flew on the 6th. The flight went through Kolkata, on to Bagdogra; after which I took a taxi to Darjeeling (which is where my institute was… HMI, Darjeeling, see?).
I won’t bore you with the details of the month long training program I underwent. I won’t bore you with the details of how I froze my ass at the base camp, how I froze my ass sliding in snow, how I froze my ass crashing through ice glaciers, how I froze my ass peeing in minus degree temperature. But I pretty much saw all of Darjeeling. I walked through Darjeeling for two outing days that the institute allowed us, and two days after graduating from the institute. It’s a small place, Darjeeling. It takes a day to see it, another day to learn it by heart. In four days, we knew every street, every shop, every foreigner face that roamed the street. We knew the high end shops, the cheap shops. We knew where food was, where clothes were and where beds were. And we knew where booze was. We knew the prices of every piece of cloth, the cost of every food item, where we could bargain, and how much we could bring down the prices too. Which hotel cooked good food, and how much time they took to make every order. We helped everyone buy stuff for their family, whether it was a lady, or child, or man, or some long lost cousin. And one thing that we didn’t buy was tea. We just went shop to shop and tried them all. And we didn’t buy any of the famous Darjeeling tea before we flew back to Mumbai.