September 30, 2023

Bend it like Baichung

I am chatting with Nancy, the local school teacher at Lachung village at North Sikkim about her school and students. She tells me that Hindi is one of the languages taught in her school, as in all other schools in Sikkim now. She suddenly leans over to me and says in a confidential tone, “it is for the Indian children, you know, Sikkimese children really do not need Hindi”.

I am slightly taken aback but do not give it too much thought. Till a few days later, when back in Gangtok, Norgay, the owner of the guesthouse I am staying in, tells me breezily, “oh, but there is not much shopping here, we do all our shopping from India”.

India truly feels far far away. For one, there is no cricket on the streets. It is football out here in Sikkim. The only other state I have seen such dedicated football fever in is Goa (those from West Bengal, yes, yes, but I have not traveled much in that state).

Team at play

Baichung Bhutia smiles from posters and hoardings all over the place, kicking a careless ball and seeking votes for the ‘Jhalak Dikhla Ja’ competition – ‘from soccer king to dancing king’.

The dancing king

And the quiet roads – no blaring horns, no reckless overtaking, no careless parking. More on that here soon…

Related reading: Football fever in Goa

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