Mahatma Gandhi Marg, most commonly known as M.G. Marg is the face of Gangtok. Carved among buildings and roads in the hill, this is a pavement filled with flora, all groomed with lights that make the place look prettier. By the day, under the blue sky and yellow sun, it almost feels like heaven, with only people and their warm smiles. It is the melting pot of the Sikkimese culture, as we see the place embrace modernity while still holding onto the roots of our distinct culture.
People in pretty outfits strut around the place (literally), to shop across different stores scattered through M.G. Marg and its close brother New Market, to meet old friends or make new acquaintances, to sit down in a local Coffee Shop and watch others strut while sipping on their own coffee or to sit by the bench and watch the people-the sky- the oozing breath of the warm new current. By night, against the cold wind it is still warm, with lights from the streets, the stores and the smiles of the people themselves. It smells of coffee mixed with chang, momo, gyathuk and the fried chicken burgers and pizza from Oasis cafe and amalgamation the beautiful scents.
Many may think M.G. Marg is overrated and they are not entirely wrong in saying so, the rent of the stores in this area is huge, ranging from at least a lakh to a couple more. But here’s one way of looking at the place, as the hint of urbanisation in the state. The differences in our ethnicities dissolve as we stretch our arms towards a hint of urbanisation and modernity. It is not my place to decide if this is progressive or digressive, it is however true. Perhaps the dissolving of our differences in terms of ethnicity can be seen as problematic, or as the loss of culture, but it surely is a sign of harmony among the ethnicities in Sikkim. Surely, M.G. Marg may literally not be the headquarters of the administrative authorities and budding entrepreneurs of Sikkim, but it is most definitely a mirror.
The empirical evidences can be seen when important tourism fests like the Red Panda Fests are held in the place and the dramatic increase in the number of cafes and restaurants in Gangtok especially in the main M.G. Marg, we see the increasing commercialization in this place. The number of clothing stores has increased even more. The fact that such a huge number of people are seen in the place walking, going about their daily duties and/or sitting in cafes engaged in conversations is reflective of our culture as well. A new culture among young adults which is a result of this particular place, things would not be the same if this literal/physical element i.e., the M.G. Marg was not present in Gangtok. This place provides people with proximity, physical as well as intellectual, to be able to engage with each other.
Perhaps, the place is overrated, but it is also the face – a symbol- of modernity in Gangtok as well as Sikkim. As corny as it sounds, it is also our collective achievement, it has changed our lives in ways we cannot yet fathom, it is subtle but it is true. It is the mirror of the Sikkimese culture which is deeply rooted in the idea of harmony among the many ethnicities of Sikkim, protected by the mighty Kanchendzonga.