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An Old Love Story in the Dow Hill Forest of Kurseong, Darjeeling

The story begins about 23 years ago, when I started my life as a student in Kurseong. I was a student in one of the numerous schools in Kurseong. Kurseong is a beautiful place, in the hill district of Darjeeling. Kurseong was famous for its school. And students from distant places came to study there. Bangladeshi and Nepali students came in large numbers.
And my girl, Udita, studied in Dow Hill School, one of the best schools in Kurseong. The Dow Hill School, is situated in the forest region near the summit of the hill in Kurseong. Dow Hill, and Victoria Boys School are the twin government schools. There are 45 seats in each class in Dow hill School. From class 1 to class 3, both boys and girls study there. After class 3, it is a purely girls school. The boys are shifted to Victoria Boys School. In LKG, the students are selected on the basis of lottery. The cost of living was very less (during my time), being a government school. On the same road near it, is Glen Hill School and Kurseong School.
Dow Hill is a beautiful place with lush green vegetation. The pine trees are straight and tall, standing like a magnificent guard, guarding the secrets of the hilly forest. Dow Hill is mysterious, as it is beautiful. And the weather is dismal. There is excessive peace and quietness that makes it frightening. It is very cold out there in the winter. And surviving the cold is difficult. So students are given a long winter holiday. The natives loves doing nothing. Rather the hill people were busy with themselves and their own life.
Dow Hill School was a bit far (about 8 km) from my school. As kids, we used to hear ghost stories of the Dow Hill School and were terribly scared. Little did we know those stories could have been concocted by some devilish mind to scare young children away from private places! We needed privacy even to kiss that time. I loved the Dow Hill School. We all loved those pretty girls who spoke so eloquently like some charming princess dictating order. During one of the elocution inter-school competitions, I met a beautiful girl. Well others called her beautiful, for then puberty hadn’t hit me, and girls meant more of a nuisance to me, then.
It was an inter-school elocution contest. When I saw her first. She recited a beautiful poem, about some dad, the poetess was proud of. All I can recollect is her dad mended all the holes on the road. He was her hero. We all cheered, as she said with such expression like it was her own dad!
It was unusual that I loved her. The beautiful girl with some Mongoloid feature. She understood me from my eyes. Girls can read behaviour better. She knew I loved her. I had the courage to slip a paper with my name, class and school phone number into her hand, after we had dined together. And she had smiled at me!
She did call me, during one of her outings to the town. We didn’t have a mobile phone, then. But we could call on the landline number from a PCO. And that was the best part of it. It was usually Sunday when we would call each other; and when I called, I would tell the guard, that her brother wanted to talk to her. It was really strange that we found our own ways of excuse to communicate with each other.
It was 14 years and 5 months exact down the lane when I returned back to pay homage to my old school. I had frequent dreams of my school. The weird part was that, I would return and study again. It looked I hadn’t left my school. Something was wrong, and my old school was calling me back. I used to frequently dream of Udita. She was in my dreams, she was in my blood. Udita, my sweetheart! The life I had spent there, was simply wonderful!
 I wept when I saw my old school and one of my old teacher. I hugged my teacher, and then touched his feet. It was a moment that I couldn’t express wholly.
Kurseong hadn’t much changed. I was there, and the memories were still there. 14 years had passed. But it looked like I had been gone just 14 days ago. I miss you Kurseong. You breathed the soul into my life. The leaves of the pine trees are still as green. And sometimes, on a clear morning or evening, the Kanchenjunga is visible. Kurseong you are a dear. It was a land of Gurkhas. It was a land of white orchids. It will forever be. Kurseong, is so lonely. Even in the month of August, it gets dark after 6:30 p.m. Half of the shops are closed by 7:30 p.m. and almost 90 percent are closed by 8:00 p.m. By 9:00 p.m. the town seems deserted and anyone walking on the street would be more of a spectre than human.
Having seen everything of my old school, I went back to where I was staying. Something called in me to go to Dow Hill. That was my old haunt, with my love. Dow Hill was the place for my repose. Dow Hill was my heart and soul. Dow Hill was in my blood and dreams.
It was drizzling when I set for Dow hill. Surprisingly, the weather had been fine all day. But when I set for the old school, the weather changed abruptly. The weather is quite unpredictable in these area. One moment there is sunshine and everything is clear. You can view the distant mountain. The next moment, a dense fog comes gushing out of nowhere and you can see hardly anything beyond 10 feet distance. And that makes a whole lot of thing confusing. Especially, for those who trek out in the mountains. The forest is so creepy and silent that it sends a chill down your spine, especially when you are alone. And many a times, people would get lost and be found dead in the forest.
I loved my own company, and frequently travelled alone. Though it is quite difficult for me to sleep well at night in a hotel. I am especially afraid of ghosts in some specific hotel room. And my wild author imagination also plays some wild tricks on me. So, during the day I do lot of exertion to get myself tired and some sleep. I have anxiety disorder for some reason.
Before I went to Dow Hill School, I had to go to Victoria Boys’ school. I had given an exam and I wanted to see the results. Something was odd about the exam. I had waited for the result for 22 years. And I wanted to talk about my results. Victoria Boys School was covered in fog. It was misty, and I clicked some pictures of the school and classroom. It looked lifeless. The national anthem was being played in some distance. But I didn’t stop. It was queer place. It was as if life had been sucked from the place. Now the school looked small, and lacked the spirit of education, power and charm.
There had been agitation. Frequent strikes broke the back bone of Kurseong. While below in the plains, Siliguri developed massively. Kurseong had its setback. The 105 days of strike killed the trade and commerce of the town. I felt the pain of my old town. There had been no development since the last 14 years and 5 months I had left. It was 19th March 2004, I had left Kurseong after giving my matriculation exam and it was 18th August 2018, I was at Kurseong after such a long time, I couldn’t see a fragment of change. Like all my memories had been kept carefully; when I would return, I would see them preserved as a specimen!
During the agitation, the junior section of Dow Hill School was burnt. The fire was supposed to have broken out accidently as the students were on leave during the winter vacation. Some however pointed out, it may have been deliberately been set by the agitators and some who believed in the headless ghost story of the Dow Hill forest said it must have been a work of the ghosts.
Whatever it was, I decided to walk all around Kurseong, and finally to the Dow Hill, my favourite haunt. But as it was drizzling, so I decided to book a cab to go to Dow Hill. The forest was wide, dark and deep. It was foggy, and I couldn’t much observe the distant picturesque. However I managed to click some nice pictures of the Dow hill school on my cell phone. Now it was turn for me to go into the forest. It was alluring me, but it was frightening too. I had heard of the ghost stories of the haunted forest.
There were weird ghost stories about it. Some headless ghost roaming the forest in the quest for his love. Maybe someone had betrayed him, and severed his head. And the poor ghost was since then in search for his lost head. Many were killed if they crossed his path. Some even went in the quest for finding the ghost only to be disappointed in their search or life. During the holidays, people could hear the laughter of children at night in the school. Some said there was the spirit of a headless child roaming in the school.
I went into the forest, hoping to click some beautiful images. And a feeling of nostalgia struck me. Those were my favourite haunts. I was here with my love. She couldn’t leave me alone. Nope. I remembered the poem she had recited during the elocution.
The forest was growing misty. And my sight began to dim. And suddenly, the scene whirled before my eyes. I was back into my old times. There were lot of boys and girls in the hall. The inter-school elocution contest was going on. And she was on stage, saying the poem aloud, in perfect rhythm. And I stood listening in awe, staring at her beautiful face. She was the loveliest creature God had ever made. She emanated love and only love. I didn’t know, but what I did next was an embarrassment for my school. I went up to her and stood on my knees. I proposed her. Her face was flushed. She was unable to say anything for some moments. But when she spoke, it was what sounded music to my ears.  She accepted, and the whole hall clapped.
We went hand in hand together. A perfect love story, that hadn’t happened. But it was happening now. The Universe had conspired to make our love story true. The forest played everything of the scene perfectly. I was completely lost in my own world. I didn’t know where I was going. Memories and emotions were too strong, that my conscious level was blocked. I was controlled by some invisible power that would quench my old lost love.
And then, I saw her. Yes, she looked the same. She was beautiful as ever, the first time I had seen her. It would be the best thing in my life to be united to her. I went towards her. And there, I was awakened from my half-conscious self. She was calling me not to move ahead. The scene before my eyes had disappeared. I was standing at the edge of a cliff. Maybe if she wouldn’t have called, I would have fallen over the cliff in my dreamy state and would have been lost forever.
I had a choice. The melancholy of loneliness lingered in me. Here I was alone. All my friends gone, my love gone, though the surrounding stayed the same. That added to my sorrow of bereavement. I looked at the vast wilderness of the mountain vale that stretched before me. Rain drops were gently falling on my head, and I wanted to end my loneliness. I could jump off the cliff and end my life. I would be a part of the soul that had nourished me. Or I would walk back and create a new destiny for me…
It was difficult for me to decide. So many schools, so many of my contemporaries, all gone in a puff of smoke. The students had been life of Kurseong. Now the buzz of the mountains were gone. Kurseong was lonely and sad. Just like me. I sat on a rock and wept. I don’t know, why I live. But there will be a new future, even though the history will stay the same. There will be many who will see the pictures and say, they studied in Kurseong, and lived during those happy times I lived. 
A promised love that could never be realised. Now I feel the pain. I had gone my way, and she went hers. We never contacted. People would say it was calf love. But there, that moment, I realised my love for her. I could never love any other human being, as much I did love her. Should I die, and end all my sufferings?
You were sweet when you smiled. You were lovely, when I saw you. You were my life. What wrong did I do, that you disappeared from my life?
“You need someone to love you dearly, that will save you from killing yourself. Find a girl, for I don’t want you to accompany me to my grave!” she said.
I thought of my present woman friends; I had spent a lot of time with them. Maybe someone would love me dearly, to say they would make me their own. Can people kill their own memories? We try to forget by replacing some old memories with new memories. The emotion that had excited us in the beginning, we try to seek the same; something that will give a similar kick to our mind.
Do I live? Should I live? I should have a reason to exist. Love. Someone’s love that ought to be more powerful, to give me some hope, a reason to live in this world. Maybe a snowy girl, or a shadowy girl or some rainy girl could help. The woods are lovely dark and deep, and I have forgotten all my promises to survive. Let me die embracing you my love.
It was an accident that she had died. I didn’t kill her. She fell down and died, because of me. I didn’t do it deliberately. Ever since I had nightmares. The school was calling me back. It seemed, I hadn’t completed my education. It was her spirit that wanted me. I knew, and asked her my forgiveness. I was a coward, I wanted to die so many times. But something stopped me. Maybe the thought of my parents, or her eyes, asking me to live on, for her sake. I was guilty, and the inner me was burdened with her death.
I walked up the steep hill. There was her grave, in the clearing. It was overgrown with bushes and moss. Did I need to lie beside her?
There she was dead, and lying alone among the dead. Why should I live alone and leave her? No, my Udita couldn’t die. She was in my blood. She was in my breath. She was in my soul…
I had called her by the graveyard. She was buried there. And I never cared. I thought, she had betrayed me by dying alone. She never received my call. And that is how we parted. Without a good bye, without any knowing where the other was!
It was raining hard. And I was wet. I went into the wild woods collecting flowers. And when I had made a bunch, I kept them at her grave.  
I can feel her spirit hoovering over me. I am lost in the woods. The fog has descended, and it is already dark. There is no network in my mobile. Now as I record this on my mobile, and put it for uploading… maybe I will be found unconscious or dead, by the villagers…but the story I hope will find its way into the world…

Picture: View of Kurseong town from near the railway station. [TV tower and Eagle Craig]

Picture: Sunshine School on way up to Eagle Craig

Picture: Ram Krishna HS School for Girls Near TV tower

Picture: A view of the Eagle Craig

Picture: The mountains and vales with tea garden, seen from the Eagle Craig.

Picture: The sunrise view from Tiger Hill, Darjeeling (not relevant to the story)
Picture: You can read that for yourself

Picture: The famous toy train of Darjeeling at Batasia Loop.

Picture: A close view of the still running steam engine, Darjeeling.

Picture: A view below the roadside, near Kurseong. It's covered with fog.

Picture: View of the evening sky in Kurseong. Note the time and date. It gets dark early.
Picture: Victoria Boys School, Kurseong. The boys were going to their class after morning assembly.

Picture: The Dow Hill School, resting quietly. The junior section is missing.

Picture: Playground of Dow Hill School. Note the date and time, and weather.

Picture: The Forest near Dow Hill School

Picture: Tall pine trees near Dow Hill School in the Dow Hill forest.

Picture: Dow Hill School from outside. 

Picture: Glenhill Public School, on the road to Dow Hill School

Picture: Kurseong College, on the road to the Dow Hill School.

Picture: Kurseong Railway Station

Picture: An August morning in Kurseong market. 

Picture: A graveyard in Kurseong. This is on Pankhabari road.
Picture: The Belle Vue Boarding Shool, in Pankhabari road, Kurseong.
An Old Love Story in the Dow Hill Forest of Kurseong, Darjeeling Reviewed by Polymath on 2:56 pm Rating: 5

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