By Mike Van Buskirk
The fist time I ascended the winding mountain roads en route to Gangtok, I remember I kept thinking to myself, “Are we there yet?” Though the scenic beauty was at times distracting, the grueling journey didn’t end quick enough. With each turn anticipation mounted until at last…finally, we had arrived.
Ten years later, with I’m sure close to a hundred trips under my belt, it certainly doesn’t seem as long and hard as those first couple of times. Journeying into these wonderful Himalayan foothills is still a highlight of my life, though I often dream of smoother and less dizzying passes. I suppose, in time, that too will come. After all, so much has already changed.
It’s humorous, though, the things that change and those that remain the same. We do have ATM’s now, a luxury even tourists had to live without at the beginning of 21st century Sikkim. Yes, there are plenty of private banks here now, scores of car dealerships with brand new vehicles galore. The streets are fuller, traffic is worse, parking space is an ever present qualm, yes much has changed. One things hasn’t though, the roads.
So, for now, I stay put. Navigating through Gangtok; avoiding potholes and on-going road maintenance. Soon enough I will again venture back down the mountains, only to ascend once more. This is home, and I wouldn’t rather be any place on earth. My reasons for being and staying are special, and equally special is this place. Special to me, special to my family, and sometimes I’m not even completely sure I understand why, which makes for a very exciting journey.
Mike Van Buskirk is an American native married to a Sikkimese girl. Mike runs ‘Embassy of Hope’, an NGO in Gangtok.
Read interview with Mike Van Buskirk in the interview section.