Adolescents INN: The Old age Home

(Reading Time: 15 min Approx)

I visited Drippity a few years back, a small village in Kurseong. Enclosed by the mountains, Drippity took shelter from the entire Bengal. Being an unexplored and a barely noticeable place; Drippity was a world on its own. There were no hotels or home-stays. I kept heading up in search of a place to spend the night. Once you get down at Kurseong, you can take a car till “Sherpa Village” Located at an altitude of 3,783 ft, approximately. And from there you have to walk till Drippity which is another 30 minutes of a journey. In one word Drippity was ‘Secluded Serenity’ for solo travellers like me.

I was walking while cherishing the exquisite views of mountains and valleys around me suddenly I saw a shelter. The signboard read- “Adolescents INN: The Old age Home.”

Funny, huh?

I laughed too. The home had a very different structural design. It’s mostly built with grey stones and old logs but when you go inside every wall of its rooms possesses different and vibrant colours. There was a gum-ball machine tied up with balloons. Instead of chairs, there were big teddy bears. Instead of tables, they had study boards; featuring colourful cartoons.

I walked towards the reception counter and rang the bell hoping they’ll let me stay. An old man wearing real funky clothes appeared from the back, smiling at me.

I asked him- ‘What is this place?’

He said- ‘It is what it is’ and again started smiling.

I smirked a bit and asked- ‘I’m looking for a hotel or home-stays here. Can you help me with some info?’

‘You mean I-n-f-o-r-m-a-t-i-o-n, right? I thought you are on a vacation but your speech depicts you can’t even spare time for yourself’, he said.

Anyway, I tried to ignore that and decided to get back to the point.

‘I’m looking for accommodation. Is there any nearby hotel or anything else?’ I asked.

‘Well, you can stay here. As this is the only roof in the whole Drippity’, he said.

‘Very well! Get me a room then. How much is for one night?’ I asked.

‘Pay at the time, you leave. Not going to be anything, you can’t afford!’ He smiled and pressed the hand bell.

An old woman dressed as a house-keeper came to the counter.

‘Take her to room no. 5 Trinka! Also, lunch is after 1 hour and I hope you like Pizza’.

I was shocked! What?! Pizza! Okay, that’s a cool start. Without wasting much time I started to follow Trinka. She was wearing heels which I can wear only if I’m sitting.

We walked past the corridor and entered an area, which seemed like a dining hall. I saw other old people sitting there and they didn’t appear at all like my grandparents. Every one of them was wearing miss-matched coloured clothes. They were playing board games that I used to play when I was young with my cousins. One guy was eating a large bowl of ‘Strawberry Sunday’. When he saw me staring, he tried to cover the bowl weirdly as if, I was going to ask for shares. I wouldn’t have anyways. I don’t like strawberries. Everything here is so weird! After the dining hall, we came under a wooden stair where every step lights up the moment you keep your feet on them. We crossed the 1st floor and reached the 2nd floor. A long corridor with rooms side by side stood in front of me. Every room has a different coloured door.

Trinka was not much of a talker, so I thought ‘Thank God, at last, some sensible adults here!’ But as she opened the door for me and about to leave she did something unexpected.

As I offered her a little tip but she surprised me by saying- ‘Can you buy me some gum from the gum-ball machine?’

In a moment of surprise and uneasiness, I said- ‘Wha…! Yeah…sure. Why not!’

She laughed like a 5-year-old little girl and walked towards the stairs.

I shut the door and sat on the bed.

Image Courtesy: The Tico Times

Everything is so weird here, I uttered to myself. The room was just like a kids’ room. Puffy bed, Micky mouse stickers all over the ceiling but what else could be done. I decided not to think much because it’s only for one night. Tomorrow I’ll leave from here so there’s no point in messing my head after a tiresome journey.

When the clock turned two in the afternoon, the cuckoo bird from the hanging wall-clock started twitting. I got ready and headed downstairs for lunch. I was really hungry. When I reached the dining hall I saw around 10 old people having pizzas with chips and drinks. They all welcomed me in a cheerful yet chaotic voice.

I grabbed a seat and Trinka gave me a plate with two slices and one big cup of orange juice. I watched each one of them carefully while eating. They were talking in a very rash dialect which I could hardly understand. Some of the words seemed familiar but most of it was unfinished and sounded like giggles, like a bunch of kids talking to each other. After finishing my lunch, I went to reception again. The old man was still there with that same smile.

I told him- “See, I’ll be living early tomorrow so what time can I clear out for check out?”

This time he didn’t smile; rather with a disturbing grin, he said- “Anytime you like but our guests often find this place too amazing to leave.”

‘What do you mean?’ I asked with a doubtful tone.

‘I meant, spend the night first. You are young! Too young to worry about the future. Seize the day!’

He started laughing again. I was really annoyed this time.

“Look, sir, I will leave tomorrow at 6 am. I’ll pack my things up and hope to see you here to clear out my bills.” I said with a bold tone.

Image Courtesy: Atlas Obscura

He seemed a bit expressionless this time and without saying much, he nodded his head and got busy with some paper works. I ignored and headed back to my room. I don’t remember how long I slept but when I woke up it was almost dark. I looked at the clock, it was almost eight. I couldn’t believe I slept that long but anyway I got up. I went to the washroom and switched on the lights. There was no mirror in there. The entire wall was covered with shelves full of toys and candy bars. I didn’t pay much attention as I already got used to the weirdness of this place. I started washing my face. The moment I splashed the water on my cheeks I felt a difference. As if, my skin is a bit wrinkled and cracked. I thought maybe it’s because of the cold.

After freshening up, I decided to go for a cup of tea. It was strange that I saw so many people at the dining hall while having lunch but here near the rooms, there is pin-drop silence.

As if,

I’m the only one living here.

Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

When I got downstairs I saw there’s no one in the counter or the dining hall. There was no coffee machine rather I came across a machine that only serves milk and cookies. I poured myself a warm glass of milk just to get comfortable with the cold. During the day, it wasn’t so cold and now this place is frizzing.

As I was having the milk, I expected to see someone but no one came down. I thought to look for Trinka so that I can hand over the empty glass to her.

I called her twice- “Trinka! Trinka”, but she didn’t reply.

Suddenly, I saw a slim ray of light coming behind the gum-ball machine. I went close and discovered there’s a wooden door behind it. Maybe, for the working staff here, I thought even though I didn’t see anyone else than Trinka and the old man at the reception; to identify as working staff. I twisted the doorknob and entered in. long passage with very little light stood in front of me.

As I was going to take a step ahead I saw Trinka standing at the end of the passage. She was standing at the wall facing her back towards me and chanting a few lines-

“From down they come,

And up they go.

They stay or they leave,

They never know…”

She kept reiterating these lines. In that dark passage, I could feel a rush of cold wind running down my spine.

I fumbled and said- “ Hey… I wanted to hand this empty glass to you…I had some milk from the machine. Would you mind? I thought it wasn’t polite to leave that glass on the table like that so…”.

She didn’t let me finish. She turned slowly towards me; her eyes were glowing in the dark. She said in a creepy voice- “Did you bring gum-balls for me?” and giggled.

Her cackling frightened me to the core. I couldn’t say anything. I felt my legs are grounded. I can’t move them.

Just then Trinka got down on her knees. My breathing became heavier and faster.

She said in that same funny tone- “Do you know how a frog hops?”

I said-“No…What!” Drops of sweat appeared on my forehead.

“Don’t worry I’ll show you”, she posed like a frog and cackled for the last time.

And then started hopping towards me; one hop at a time. I managed to wake up from the numbness and tried to move towards the exit. The more I ran, the more I heard Trinka’s laugh coming from behind. As I reached the reception, I saw that old man smirking at me standing in the counter.

I was panting in fear and shouted- “Let me go! Please! Let me…” My head was spinning, I realized I’m going to faint!

Just then I heard him saying- “It’s time to clear out your bills” and he started laughing again. Many other voices joined his laugh too. As if, the whole place started laughing at me. I covered my ears but their laugh started piercing my head, my heart, my whole body…

I couldn’t tell what time I fainted. When I woke up…well! Don’t worry. Everything is fine now. I am not scared anymore. I saw myself lying on the floor, face all pale and just then all my fear washed away.

I guess, there’s no point in leaving this place now. Each day is exciting here. We welcome distant traveller, whoever comes here for shelter; And we include them in our family. I make sure everyone buys gums for Trinka though. She’s really sweet when she’s not hopping if you know what I mean!

Tonight, we have a couple as our guest.

They asked me- “Why is there no mirror around here?”

In a polite tone, I replied- “In Adolescent INN we believe, it’s important to decorate your inner soul because the body is anyway temporary.

Just like Trinka says-

“From down they come,

And up they go.

They stay or they leave,

They never know…”

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Aritri is currently working as the Content Director of The Creative Post. Aritri Chatterjee is a writer and poet with a keen interest in literature and life. She has done her Bachelor's degree in English Literature from Calcutta University and her Master's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Visva Bharati. She tells her stories being the one in the crowd yet chooses to stand alone. To her, where there is life, there's always literature and where there isn't; that's literature itself.

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