That Darjeeling hides in its folds a town called ‘Ghoom’ came as a revelation to me as a kid growing up in a small town in UP in the late eighties.
I don’t know what Ghoom means in Nepali, the language largely spoken in Bengal’s hill district, but in Bengali it means sleep.
For a boy who could sleep all day and still not get enough of it, this was the ‘Promised Land’. My mind wandered off to a cloud-covered place surrounded by hills, where I imagined everyone must sleep to their heart’s content!
I wondered if kids there were spared the ordeal of waking up early in the morning for studies. The place is called Ghoom, right? They wouldn’t have given the name unless it had something to do with sleep, my little self reasoned hopefully as I promised myself to build a house there when I grow up.
Years later, a friend who was from the hills had a hearty laugh when I told her this childhood dream of buying a house in Ghoom. She broke my heart saying it’s not the sleepy town of my imagination anymore. It’s apparently an unplanned concrete jungle now.
So that was that. But it is said that childhood dreams don’t die they just morph into something more fantastic. OK, I just made that up in case you’re wondering if that’s a Freudian quote, but that fascination with Ghoom did take a little more complex turn than just buying a house and sleeping there all day.
As years went by, my fascination with the hills grew with my many trips across the country. During one such visit to Shimla, I stood rooted to a spot not far from the Mall Road. Unable to move.
I was told it was a shortcut back to the mall as I walked around in the evening, kind of lost. And there it was right before my eyes, a bend in the wooded walking trail hanging over a valley. Even in the twilight haze, the panoramic sprawl was breathtaking. The twinkling lights far away looked like floating Chinese lanterns being chased by wayward clouds.
That was about the spot, and now for the dream that one hopes will unfold there some day.
I have a thing for books, like most people do, and I have a thing for the hills, like any sane person should (those who prefer sea to hills are crazy). And I am a compulsive buyer of books, with a reading backlog that may stretch into my next life.
Mash that and what you get is what I dream about — a quaint little bookshop in the hills. It obviously cannot be at that spot in Shimla. Somebody would have stolen it by now selling god knows what but not books one hopes.
It can be anywhere in the world, the shop just has to be on a winding hill track bend overlooking a valley. The wood-and-glass structure would have a transparent rear wall with a sweeping view and a hanging balcony with a couple of tables. Dreams don’t cost a thing!
I have even thought of a corny name for it: The BooTea Shop! I didn’t tell you did I that there’ll be a tea corner as well. A selection of leaves (nothing too expensive) and a few pots, customers will have to brew themselves. No milk or cream, mind you.
Pay if you like for the tea, it will be voluntary, but there will be one strong rider: You will be expected to buy a book if you have spent 45 minutes in my store. I’ll know if you try to cheat and then I’ll let you go, but you will never be allowed in, again!
The mezzanine floor will have a section of second-hand books and music collections with special emphasis on ghazals and country music.
The top floor will be my home. I’ll need an assistant to run the shop if you’re interested. Let me know!
PS: The Ghoom memory was triggered by this beautiful peace by author Anuradha Roy: A Shop of One’s Own