Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Happy Hours and Parsi Entrepreneurship in Sikkim

Teesta RiverThrough the centuries, Sikkim has evolved a unique and colorful lifestyle where celebrations never stop. With myriad festivals of going on all round the year, it is almost impossible for one to remain unaffected by the idyllic atmosphere. The secret behind the tranquil life in this veritable Shangrila might well be their rich tradition of brewing the potent, traditional beer of Sikkim, drunk both warm and chilled, and an indispensable item at all religious and social occasions.
Teesta RiverThe modern version of the tradition is a brewery named after the ancient capital of Sikkim ‘Yuksom’ set up on the banks of river ‘Teesta’ in a most scenic setting by the family of Bollywood baddy ‘Danny Denzongpa’. I have memories of a couple of evenings spent sipping beer and watching the ‘Teesta’ in all its monsoonic glory at this idyllic setting
Sikkim WhiskyPerhaps as a throw back to a reference to Scottish highlands, the English during colonial times inspired setting up of distilleries in the hills. One of the reasons for this inspiration was primarily the availability of clear cool spring water in these places. While the Scottish whiskey tradition is primarily based around grain (malt) derived alcohol, in India most alcohol is distilled from molasses. Possibly that is the reason that the tradition of setting up distilleries in the hills has now largely been diluted.
Rangpo in SikkimNevertheless the story is, that the spirit of the times found reflection in distilleries coming up in places such as Solan, Muree (now in Pakistan) and Rangpo in Sikkim. Sikkim Distilleries Limited was founded almost half a century back in 1954 when Sikkim was a Himalayan kingdom and had not merged with India. The legend has it that the then king of Sikkim ‘Chogyal ‘ invited tenders for setting up a distillery in the state. There were no respondents but just one Parsi gentleman ‘Jimmy R. Contractor’ who after many days of travel on mule and on foot managed to reach the capital. The Chogyal was said to be so pleased with his grit and enterprise that he not only invited Jimmy Contractor to come to Sikkim and set up Sikkim Distilleries Limited but also provided him a most friendly tax regime. Over the years the organization earned a reputation of manufacturing quality products due to the persistent and honest efforts of the entrepreneur. The organization grew and continues to do so, and manufactures some quality spirits including fancy liquors such as cheery liquor, pan liquor etc., which a tourist may find a good souvenir of Sikkim on his travel to this land which can justifiably lay its claim to perhaps be one of the last of  the accessible Shangrilas, tucked away amidst the icy crown of India (eastern Himalayas) and under the benign shadow of its protective deity, Mount Khangchendzonga, the third highest mountain peak in the world that is also stated one of the most difficult to scale.
The-Shire-Guest-House-Gangtok‘The Other Home’ offers you a number of options to discover Sikkim through its wonderful Homestays The shire and Sudhi’s Service Apartments or if you have a bit of explorer’s in you through its adventure partner, Indian Himalayan Adventure Club organised treks.
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