Kalimpong in West Bengal was once an important trading hub. It was the closest urban centre to Jelep La, the mountain pass that allowed trade with neighbouring Tibet. Kalimpong flourished during this era, although its fortunes began to decline after the 1962 Sino-Indian war.
Incidentally, Jelep La is higher in altitude than Nathu La, which is located in Sikkim. It was, however, easier to cross Jelep La and traders, therefore, preferred this route. Kalimpong also acquired notoriety as being a hot bed for spies. The town was keenly observed by the CIA — the US intelligence agency in the years leading up to China’s annexation of Tibet. The Chinese government, it turns out, suspected the Indian government of training ‘Tibetan separatist elements’ in this otherwise tranquil town.
But its interesting geo-political connections aside, Kalimpong is today a quiet town that often features in tours of North Bengal. It is located at an elevation of 3933 feet, making it considerably lower than most other popular hill stations in the region. Kalimpong is also an educational hub, with many well known schools based in this historic town. Incidentally, it is also renowned for its expertise in horticulture. There are several age-old nurseries in Kalimpong, many of which export their prized flowers overseas. And one such nursery–that also doubles as a quaint resort–is Windsongs.
Simple yet eclectic taste
Windsongs is located a fair distance ahead of Kalimpong’s main urban centre. The property is right beside the highway and it is easy to miss the place if one isn’t looking intently to the left as you inch closer. However, when you do spot the pretty signboard that simply reads Windsongs, you immediately know its hosts are people with eclectic taste.
As with most locations in the hills, parking was not an easy task. Nonetheless, we were shown an ample enough spot that comfortably accommodated our vehicle on a steep driveway. A pretty pathway, flanked by neatly trimmed hedges, then took us towards our cottages. The owner was known to us and we, therefore, had the privilege of Mr Karan Pradhan showing us around his beautiful estate.
I must also highlight the company I was among. A dear classmate of mine was visiting from Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was accompanied by his wife, Nusrat, and his business partner, Hassan. They are all architects. And they all marveled at the simple, yet elegant environs of Windsongs.
It so happened that Karan’s father had also wanted to be an architect growing up. He was, however, unable to fulfil his desire but this was no impediment to following through on his passion. In fact, the cottages and the landscaping, were entirely designed by the senior Mr Pradhan. The outcome, as my architect companions agreed, was beyond superlatives. The concrete structures, the landscaping, the layout of gardens and even the seven decade old cactus — it all seemed to come together in perfect harmony. There was not one facet that felt out of place.
What was also interesting to observe was the fact that the cottages were built at varying levels. This way, the occupants, irrespective of their cottage’s location, were assured an uninterrupted view of the Teesta valley below. It also helped that Karan’s family owned the bulk of the hillside below Windsongs. This meant no concrete eyesore can come in the way and ruin the views.
A visit here is an absolute must
Besides the superb accommodation we were offered, Karan’s family treated us to elaborate meals. While this was a definite highlight, we were awestruck by the view that greeted us from the entrance to their home. To think that he and his family were able to soak in such vistas each morning, was beyond belief for my Dhaka residing friends. Eventually, we only stepped out for maybe two hours over the two nights we spent at Windsongs.
The four of us spent most of our time seated in their beautiful garden. Breakfast would soon give way to lunch, and so sooner did we have lunch than it would be time for tea. I am not entirely sure whether it was the great company or the picture perfect location, but I really felt as though I had it all.
It was the perfect getaway — a union of fulfilling conversations, idyllic surroundings and gourmet food. If you are considering a quick weekend dash once pandemic led restrictions have been lifted, Windsongs must definitely feature high on your priority list.