Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Q is for Quaffing beer at a Quaint bar #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the fourth week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I've put together a collage of such moments which can be seen as chance occurrences, coincidences, pre-destined or random (depending on who you ask) for this month's challenge. 

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Under the subheading , 'A tool for Conscious Magic', 
the authors of The book of Ichigo Ichie write:

 Some people experience many meaningful coincidences while others seem immune to them. Why? This depends essentially on attention.

The subtle messages sent to us by chance are a tool for conscious magic that we can develop in various ways:
 Paying more attention to what happens around us: 
Meetings with others, conversations, books, movies... synchronicity is often hidden in everyday details.

Continued from yesterday's post: Planters' Club

According to The Telegraph India Online, Planters' Club was originally called Darjeeling Club and it "used to function from a place called Thorn Cottage. In 1097, it became Darjeeling Club Ltd. and shifted to the building from where it runs now."

After relishing a couple of cups of fragrant Darjeeling tea while admiring the silver and gold peaks of Kanchenjunga from the balcony, we set out to explore Darjeeling. Of course, we'd made our dinner choices known to the staff at breakfast. Sadly, bread and butter pudding wasn't on the menu that night.

Wherever the British (during colonial days) made homes in India, bakeries emerged. My hometown, Dehradun, is famous for its rusks and sticky jaw toffee. Darjeeling has many famous bakeries, too. 

On our way to town, we passed a beautiful bakery near the club which had mouth-watering cakes and bakes on display in the window. We had just eaten breakfast, so, we carried on without indulging. 

After dinner that night, our second night at the club, we ventured into the bar.

I remember stepping inside a quaint room sprinkled with old world memorabilia. Its exact details fail me but the feeling of being surrounded by history and dark drapes emerges as I try to go back in time to write this post. 

I was a fresh lime soda girl back then. The husband loved his beer. He still does. He quaffed a few that evening.

The only other people at the bar were a group of four Europeans. 

Somehow, we all got talking. They were Tim (English) and his wife, Erica (Dutch) and Erica's parents who were visiting them. Tim and Erica were based in Calcutta.

The husband and I  had a super early start the next morning as we had decided to go to Tiger Hill to watch the sun rise over the peaks. So, after a couple of drinks, we bid our new friends good night and left.

Next afternoon, we bumped into Tim and Erica again.

Like us, they were headed to Gangtok the following morning.

'Why don't we share the jeep?" Tim suggested.

Super! we thought. By now we'd become very fond of them. And they seem to like our company, too.

The fact that Erica kept referring to her father as a mountain goat endeared him to me. And her father's prowess with beer chasers at the bar had impressed the husband no end.

Early next morning, packed and loaded, the six of us settled into the jeep we had hired with a driver to take us all to Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim.

The drive through lush green tea gardens was what dreams are made of. Acre after acre of tea plantations looked like a giant's bonsai collection spread out on either side of the curvy road.

Someone decided it was time to stop for a break.

I was at the back of the jeep. So, I wasn't privy to plans being hatched among the others up in front. When a suitable spot was spotted, we stopped, got off the jeep, stretched our legs and claimed a spot to spread out a picnic by the roadside.

From a magical world, Erica's mother conjured up a white cardboard box which was filled with all the baked goodies we'd been admiring in the bakery the previous morning. Yes, if you're reading this and drooling and wondering about our luck. Trust me, I'm with you as I recall that wonderful picnic in the middle of nowhere. Without our knowledge, they had packed generous portions of deliciousness for us. The gods of full bellies and tasty treats were on our side, for sure.

We sat there for a long time, by the roadside, enjoying our picnic among tea bushes, munching apples, exchanging life stories and clicking photos.  

Erica used the phrase 'our children' a couple of times that day.  She mentioned how they'd gone camping with 'their children' once and how they'd love to explore these hills with 'their children' next time they come to Darjeeling.

I was taken by surprise as I didn't think they had any children. They looked too young to have children old enough to be left home alone  while they enjoyed a holiday! I was confused. 

"How many children do you have?" I asked.

"Nine." Erica smiled.

And then she told me about 'her children'. Erica and Tim were referring to street children they were working with in Calcutta. 

You can find out more about their work here: Future Hope 

We've lost touch with them. We moved cities and then countries. And only now, when I was reminded of our trip (for the sake of this challenge) did I find out just how big and wonderful Tim and Erica's family has become. 

I'll be sharing this post with them. Will keep you posted if I hear back from them.

In the meantime, here are two photos taken at the picnic on 29th February, 1996.
From left: Erica, her parents, Ashish (aka the husband) and me.
Tim joined the group in this one and Ashish clicked.
Our  paths will cross once more  in Gangtok. That story is for another day:)
What's your favourite picnic memory, or a favourite picnic spot?
You know I'd love to hear, if you'd like to share.

Last year, I wrote about my fond childhood memories and musical nostalgia: Q is for Qawwali 

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 


  1. Nice to know about Erica and Tim and your chance meeting with them.

  2. Life is so beautiful na..we come across so many lovely people! I love reading your posts.

    1. Thank you Arti. Yes, life is beautiful:)

  3. Oh wow, what a lovely meeting! Good people are everywhere, it's just pure happiness to meet them!
    Would love to share your yummy cakes too ;))

    1. One of these days, we'll do a cake/quilt swap;)

  4. Such a lovely meeting and what a wonderful couple. I hope you guys can get back in touch again. :)
    Cakes, anytime. You don't even have to ask!

  5. My favourite picnic/ hiking spot is Malshej Ghat, Maharashtra. Have gone there few times during Monsoon. Multiple water falls to choose and the worlds best desi foodcart " Thellas" selling garama garam chai & spicy Vadapav by the roadside.
    Friendship blooms anywhere and everywhere, we just have to be present there! Tim, Erica & their lovely family. What a wonderful thing to do taking care of street kids! So touching that part of your post was! In 1984, Jayanti Janta Express,my family had met a group of boys who were going to Tirupati as their yearly ritual and we were sharing the train compartment with them. We played cards, sang songs, bhajans and ofcourse FOOD! Cheenu (Srinivasan) & Subbu (Subramanian) from the boys group have now become our family friends since then.

    1. Wow! What a lovely train story Vidya. Thank you for sharing and that spicy vadapav--when Can I have my share? Will wait patiently...

  6. Hari OM
    Oooooohhhhh... I can't help but think you will reconnect at a very different level now; there is meaning in the cycle of this memory I sense...

    At any given chance I love to pack a picnic. Since childhood it has been a love of mine, be it simple salad sandwiches and flask of tea, or a more elaborate, carely packed celebration spread. I've had so many wonderful al fresco basketed meals but I can tell you that one of the funniest picnics I ever had was up in the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney. My parents, an elderly relative "N", and a pal of my own age. It was winter, a bad start anyway. Then there was a gale-force wind. But we were determined to have that salad and birthday cake picnic (it was N's 80th b'day). Holding down the lettuce on the plates and spearing the sliced cucumber cost us way more energy than was replaced by the food!!! It became a game and no one minded at all because a memory to last us was formed. YAM xx

    1. Thank you for sharing your picnic memory here Yamini. I can picture it all. Will be keeping this image with me for sometime.
      And, like you, I'm a natural and compulsive picnicker:)

  7. Erica and Jim are praiseworthy exceptions in today's world. Nice to know about such people.

  8. It was wonderful knowing about Erica and Tim. Thank you for sharing these beautiful memories!

    1. I'm glad you were here to read them Purba.

  9. How fun to have a surprise picnic with special treats and new friends. And what a lovely mission of Future Hope - this is so heart-warming. I love to picnic in meadows where I can watch the flowers and the bees, and by the lake where I can watch the waves and the people.

    1. Love your picnic spots Deborah... Ah! dreamlike.

  10. Another wonderful memory and story. Looking forward to summer picnics this summer, Scotland has many good places, we used to have them when I was younger, and now I take my kids for them to the same places.

    1. So lovely to be able to take your children to the same spots. Scotland is beautiful. I've been twice but would love to visit again once travel opens up.

  11. A divine experience with the added benefit of picnic treats! Summer picnics were a staple in our family when I was growing up. If we took a road trip to visit relatives, we would stop along the way to eat our picnic lunch. Warm weather holidays were always celebrated with a picnic; and my aunt's poppy seed cake was always a welcome dessert. Your post brings back pleasant memories.

    1. Thank you for sharing your warm memories Gail. They bring me joy. Nostalgia and cakes are a good combo:)

  12. I love meeting new people when we travel. It makes the trip even sweeter.

    When we went to Ireland we took a small group tour so there were just a few other families with us for most of the trip. One of our outings was a picnic in the ruins of an old castle. It was a lot of fun although we didn't get to enjoy tasty treats like you did on your picnic.

    Weekends In Maine

    1. To be able to picnic in the ruins of an old castle! WoW! I'd trade my cakes with you any day Karen:)

  13. Wow that was an amazing story.. I love travel stories.. they give memories of lifetime.

  14. OK so it is 1-35 am here while I read this post and I am now drooling for some cookies... God help me!

    Just before we left India our plan for the next trip was to Sikkim via Darjeeling... But that has to now wait for another day. Picnic only reminds me of school picnics somehow. That was the time when chaddar was bichoed and savouries were laid and everyone fought for the bites :)!

    1. School picnics were the best.
      Lots of happy memories--for another year's challenge;)

      Hope your Sikkim via Darjeeling plans come to fruition once things settle down


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