Meeting the Founder

800px-Tomb_of_General_Llyod.jpg

Tomb of Lieut. Gen. George Will. Alymer Llyod, Founder of Darjeeling

 Image Courtesy:-Google Images

 

When Raman finally completed the salary statement, which he had been preparing for the last few days, he felt a sense of relief. He sighed and told himself, ‘thank God, finally it’s completed, I can now enjoy the Sunday at ease.’ Quickly he headed towards his senior’s table and handed him over the statement and headed straight towards the Kurseong-Darjeeling taxi-stand.

Three years ago Raman had joined the Kurseong Municipality after the death of his father, an employee of Darjiling Municipality. Due to no vacant seat available in Darjeeling Municipality, Raman was left with no option but to join Kurseong Municipality, where a vacancy lay. Initially he did not welcome this opportunity with much interest but after little contemplation he joined. Thereafter, he rented a small room in Kurseong, stayed there the whole weekdays and on weekends returned to his mother, in Darjeeling.

‘What’s the matter, the shop lights have gone out quickly today?’ ‘It’s hardly 6:30, and not a single soul can be seen in the streets,’ he told himself. He could now sense a pinch of eeriness that had engulfed this bustling town. The only thing that held its usual charm was the radio tower, standing tall on the hill in the distance.

When Raman reached the taxi-stand he found no taxis there. Even the panwallas on the opposite side of the road had shut down their shops and had made home early that day. He paced up and down the length of the taxi-stand impatiently. Growing tired he sat on one of the parapets that lined the road and at intervals glanced on his wrist watch.

The watch hands were now showing 9:15. His possibility of getting a taxi now looked like a distant dream. ‘I have to look for another alternative ’, he thought. He again made a brief look at his watch and murmured to himself, ‘I can try my luck at the railway station, I might be lucky enough to board one of the toy-trains scheduled to leave for Darjiling at this time of the night.’

When he reached the railway station he found it deserted. Across the far length of the platform no passengers could be seen. But, it didn’t seem to bother him a bit. He knew that the locals preferred taxis over the toy-trains, because the former took lesser time. Without wasting any time further Raman quickly bought his ticket for the 9:40 train and jumped in the coach named Kanchenjunga which was empty and took the window seat

Slowly the wheels began to rattle on the cold iron rails and the cold, old building of the railway station was left behind. The chugging noise of the toy train engine held the crickets in alert which chirped incessantly as it snailed on the meandering rails. Every time the steam engine coughed a trail of smoke in majestic fashion, Raman was filled with awe. He couldn’t move his eyes for a second but watched until it melted into the thin air from the coaches’ window. It made him recollect memories from his boyhood days when as a little boy he sat admiringly, watching his grandfather smoking tobacco in the verandah and how foolishly he jumped up his heels to catch the smoke in his little hands, as it escaped from his grandfather’s lips. But, his musings did not last long.

A humming noise from behind his seat brought him back to his senses. At once he started, and then eased a little and then he took a deep breath. He then stood up from his seat and turned around to see from where the sound was coming. Until now he was under the impression that he was the only occupant of the carriage. But, now he was not alone. Someone other than he was also there.

 

A man in his late fifties had occupied a seat two paces behind Raman’s. He wore a grey tweed suit and ill-fitting trousers and thick rimmed spectacles. His complexion and built suggested that he was not native to the place. He looked like an Englishman, with golden brown hair and fair skin. But, unlike other Englishmen, he had jet black eyes.

‘Hello Sir ‘greeted Raman.  ‘All this while, I was thinking I was the only occupant of the carriage Sir, but I am happy to have another soul to give me company,’ said Raman as if he was mocking himself. Deep down he knew he would have been happy if he had been left alone reminiscing old days and faded memories. Office work and household duties had occupied him to such an extent that he hardly managed time for himself.

‘I am Raman. I work with the Kurseong Municipality,’ Raman introduced himself, while holding the man’s hand in his over the seats and quickly went round and sat beside the gentleman. He didn’t want to miss this opportunity. When in school, Raman always enjoyed talking to strangers. And moreover, now he had someone to give him company.

‘My name is Lt.Gen. George W. Aylmer Lloyd. Well you can call me Gen. Lloyd,’ said the man affirmingly, and started looking out of the window.

‘Sir, why are you travelling so late at night? You should have returned to your hotel by evening?’ questioned Raman, trying to get into conversation with the stranger.

‘Are you on a vacation Sir?’ Raman implored again.

This time the old man turned his attention towards Raman and in a deep, low, husky voice said, ‘No son, I am local to this place. These hills are my home. I belong to this place.’

‘Where do you live Sir in Darjeeling? And why is it that I have never seen you in the town?’ Raman questioned again.

‘My home is situated on the Richmond Hill, a mile from the Darjeeling Town on Lebong Cart Road, son. And yes, I know hardly people get to see me in the daytime. Son, it’s the evenings, I prefer to take stroll around the hills. In the evenings, the hills look much prettier and quieter, with less people on the streets and with less noise,’ answered Gen. Lloyd to which Raman agreed with a nod. Then the old man began talking of his old days in the Darjeeling Hills.

Raman was so bewitched with the old man’s stories, he felt sad, when the train pulled in at the Darjeeling Railway Station. He wanted to listen more but it was past midnight and he had to head home. His mother must be waiting for him.

Before heading home, Raman bade goodbye to the old gentleman and thanked him for all the stories, the old man shared with him that day  and wished to hear more of his stories, if they ever meet again.

Few months later Raman happened to visit the Old Cemetery with his girlfriend Ritu. He preferred the old graveyard to cafes and restaurants, which hardly offered any sense of privacy. While lying on the cool grass and enjoying the winter sun, Raman began narrating about the night, meeting some Gen. Llyod, who happened to stay near the Old Cemetery.

When he had finished with his story, he turned towards Ritu. He could sense fear in her eyes. Something was amiss. On asking, what had happened, she asked him to walk down the hill. When they reached the lower side of the hill, she pointed at a grave, in the shape of an obelisk and neatly fenced and told Raman, that the man was no ordinary man, he was the ghost of Gen. Llyod, the Founder of Darjeeling. When Raman closely looked at the pedestal, at the bottom of the obelisk, it read the words…

 

SACRED

To the memory of

George Will. Alymer Llyod, C.B.

A Lieut. General in H.M.

Bengal Army

Who died in Darjeeling

On 4th June 1865

Rests here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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