Nehru spoke of a tryst with destiny in 1947. We all have our moment of arrival and a moment of departure in terms of the tryst with destiny called life: one, beginning with birth and ending or transitioning in death; and the other, in the shorter or longer sojourns in between. I came to Darjeeling in 1979 as a tourist/visitor for a couple of days and then on have come to ‘stay and leave’ a couple of times more: 1981-84; 1987-88; 1991-96; 2000-2009; 2016-2020 without really fully letting go, even while away, at least in terms of a reference point for one’s academic and administrative tasks entrusted or taken on. Darjeeling, therefore, features as part of those latter trysts with destiny that needs to unwind and merge with the former.
In the background of the destiny tied with Darjeeling ‘fare-well’ messages have had an intended pun – the double meaning of faring well and wishing fare well. One has to leave – as one’s calling and vocation demands – as we are all people on the move in a way to be ready to serve anyone, anywhere, anytime even as are civil servants. In our circles (of religious commitment) its rare to get such a prolonged access to one place and one people. I am immensely lucky and am happy I had this chance of getting to know and be with a ‘people’ as to make ‘people of Darjeeling’ – ‘my people’, and that in turn becoming eventually ‘we the people’; and for this long.1
Leave taking is painful. Especially at times when the circumstances in which it happens connects uniquely to the real meaning of fare-well. The aspiration behind the word ‘fare-well’ goes to say that Darjeeling hopefully can do better, ought to do better. When I arrived here first time I saw one type of situation in 1980s. Thereabout the winds of change began. Aspirations for something different, something better, perceptions of neglect, of being discounted gave rise to an uprising. Twenty years or two decades and more down the line, it seems to be withering away into insignificance yet again. People are duped as before – leaders become powerful over the weak and powerless before the strong. But this trend of a miniscule of the powerful, by way of weaponry, knowledge or wealth, leading the herd, as it were of a people, is a global phenomenon, and not necessarily only a contemporary phenomenon either.
The decisions of the elite, whether political, economic, religious or cultural, at any given point in time, is usually lived down or condoned and accepted tacitly, by the masses. However, a critique and an awareness of the pitfalls of such a situation, surfaces and finds its way to the recurrence of new and revised modes of political engagement in the society. However, one cannot but be optimistic and not see the incremental progress or positive outcome, not always in terms of external, material aspects, nor to the extent one would have wished, but nonetheless a change of affairs, resulting from the trust and acceptance of the political establishment and its state of affairs.
About the Author
George Thadathil SDB is Principal of Salesian College Sonada/Siliguri Campus, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India. His area of specialization is Cross Cultural Social Philosophy. He has organized various research seminars engaging local scholarship with contemporary concerns of identity, language and ethnicity.
He is the author of Vision from the Margin: Study of the Sri Narayana Guru Movement in the Literature of Nitya Chaitanya Yati (SNGM) (2007) and Darjeeling and Democracy (2023).