(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.”
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.
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.
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.
I’m the only one living here.
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…”