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Sikkim: Spirits of the Mountains

The Bhutia village of Lachen surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas
Photographer: VINOBHA NATHAN

Divine food that warms your body and soul, dramatic celebrations, and a landscape transformed – Sikkim takes on a wholly new character under a blanket of snow

Photographs: VINOBHA NADIG

I pile into the jeep, but it’s no good. We’re stuck in the ice, and the tyres won’t budge, instead chafing and roaring in agony on the quiet mountain road. A couple of army jawans smirk impishly as their sturdy 4WD Indian Army jeep passes us and rolls on with success. I’m a few kilometres away from Thangu, a little town at 13,000ft in the extreme north of Sikkim. My fabric-covered sneakers are bravely plunged into calf-deep snow and there’s no way I’m going to reach my destination – but it’s hard to feel dejected.

It’s hard to feel anything except total awe on this frosty precipice hugging the Himalayas; in a land of spiritual peace, in a state where these mountains are your constant friends as you travel from the urban east to the fertile west and on to the rugged north.

I’ll make more friends here. Hot water bottles and electric heaters are going to be my best buddies on this wintery trip, so are the thick, woollen, dragon-motifed carpets that warm up every hotel room I check into. Cloves procured from local grocers will be my stomach’s
saviour on the winding, giddying, nausea-inducing roads.

I’ll notice things on these long road journeys. How trucks and taxi-vans flaunt placards supporting European football clubs because football is a Big Deal here. How Buddhist prayer flags are always, unfailingly strung across rivers and valleys, as it’s said
the wind carries prayers to heaven. How young women supervise roadside resto-bars and run for their lipstick when asked for a photo. And how the hills start out a fresh green with rice terraces and waterfalls before becoming giant poster boys of chocolate and vanilla ice cream.

Take in all of Kruttika’s rambles through Sikkim… Get yourself the whole story in LPMI’s October 2015 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.