BANGALORE: Eleven kilometres away from Darjeeling through the forests of Senchal, lies the majestic Tiger Hills that offers the most beautiful sunrise one can imagine. The early morning sun, peeping out on a clear day shines its first rays on peak Kanchenjunga (which is the third highest peak in the world at 28,169 ft). The golden peak visible from Tiger Hills (that stands at 8,500 ft) satisfies the many photographers clicking away to glory with their fancy cameras.
Tiger Hill is the summit of Ghoom, which is the highest railway station on the Darjeeling-Himalayan railway. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the highest hill in the immediate surroundings. Darjeeling is a well-planned town for tourists and offers a lot of opportunities for its inhabitants to earn a livelihood. Women carrying 4 to 5 flasks on their shoulders, dressed in their traditional attire on dark mornings (at about 3 am) are seen asking tourist vehicles for a lift up to the Hill. Due to the lack of other available conveyance, they walk 3 km up-hill. These women, who work at tea estates for the rest of their day, double as tea sellers at the peak. They sell the best Darjeeling tea at cheap rates (`5 for a cuppa). Ask them why the men don’t accompany them; they explain that some of them are involved in the Gorkhaland movement which compels the women to earn money for the maintenance of their families. Some men drive tourist vehicles, some work at tea estates and some own small-time businesses.
These women earn up to `200 a day (during seasons) by selling tea. Since it is one of their means of livelihood, these women plead and coax tourists to buy at least one cup of tea. They try to woo their customers by displaying their language skills by speaking in many languages including Hindi and English.
The sun rises completely by around 5.30, which marks the end of their business. The peak wears a deserted look as tourists vacate the place after experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With plastic cups strewn everywhere, it is the same sunrise every day for these women.