A travel blog to Sikkim has just concluded with a special focus on the Lepcha. It includes some good photos and a few interesting observations about the people and Himalayan landscape.
Dubbing herself as “The Seeker,” the author of the blog is a 55 year old woman known as “Babs” to her friends, several of whom leave personal comments about her blog posts during her trip. She left for Sikkim, in Northeast India, as part of a study abroad program at the beginning of September and returned to her home in Washington State at the end of December.
Several of the posts, collectively titled “My Himalayan Pilgrimage—My Asian Journal,” make interesting observations about Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, where her study abroad program was focused. The eleventh and last post concludes her stay in India with a trip to the Dzongu Reserve, a remote Lepcha area that is hard for foreigners to enter.
Before she left for the Dzongu Reserve, she visited the Lepcha Museum in Kalimpong—a city near Sikkim in West Bengal State—which helps preserve the Lepcha culture. It appears from her posts as if she is able to meet local people effectively and get invited to visit and interview them in their homes.
Though many of her observations are of the tourist variety, the blog is still worth checking out because of her inquiring and respectful attitude toward the people and land she was visiting. She admitted in one of her posts her feelings of homesickness, but she goes on with the program. Fortunately, the author includes a photo of herself with some prayer wheels as part of an early post, which gives the reader a better feeling for her.
Her trip to the Dzongu Reserve is clearly the highlight of her trip and the best of the entries. She stayed in the village of Thingvong, where she noted “a very cooperative spirit.” She described briefly the terrace farming and crops the people grow, then visited Lingthem, a nearby village. In these villages she attended a couple rituals, and while she provides only sketchy details, there is no question that these are not tourist traps.
The reader is frustrated that she does not go into greater detail about what she witnessed, particularly the rituals she attended. Perhaps she wasn’t sure of the details. Even so, she was privileged to be part of a few rituals, so her comments are worth reading.
Unfortunately, her interesting observations are marred by some overly romanticized statements about the Lepcha people: “It is a place as pure as the snow, where tribal life still functions according to [sic] natural world,” she says in her last post. “The Lepchas are peaceful environmentalists that have great good sense and act with the simplicity and grace of children,” she concludes. Gorer’s excellent 1967 book on the Lepchas is far more nuanced than that, and if The Seeker had adopted a similar, more careful style, her comments could have gained credibility.
These problems aside, the author includes a series of fine photos, particularly the 25 that she posted with the last entry. Spectacular mountain scenery, village buildings, landscape shots, and people preparing for rituals: if a picture is worth a thousand words, her last post, of 967 words, has 25 times that value because of the photos that accompany it.