An Open Letter To Mr. B. M. Garg About Hotel Mount Everest

Adwiti Subba Haffner is an entrepreneur, social worker, writer, freelance journalist, world traveler, mother, wife, meditation teacher and a Darjeelingey who loves Darjeeling writes an open letter to Mr. B. M. Garg, also a Darjeelingey, who recently bought Hotel Mount Everest.

 Mr. B. M. Garg who bought  Hotel Mount Everest
Mr. B. M. Garg who bought  Hotel Mount Everest

Dear Mr. Garg,

Please preserve and save Hotel Mount Everest.

On the morning of August 7th, I woke up to the startling news that the epochal Hotel Mount Everest in Darjeeling was sold! Instantly fond memories of the iconic historical structure flooded my mind –the road that lead to the beautiful garden, and the grand dining room with orange and saffron carpets where guests were introduced to high teas in the plush surroundings. A place that has played a substantial part in shaping our memories growing up in the Queen of hill-stations.

I was immediately relieved to read that you were the buyer, a local resident, our very own Darjeelingey, and not some uninformed out of town commercial corporation that would never appreciate or understand the significance of its priceless legacy.

I am appalled and extremely disappointed to learn that you actually plan to raze Hotel Mount Everest to the ground to make way for a high-end housing complex and hotel.

In circumstances where information is decentralized, the vox populi or shared wisdom, is demonstrably greater to the judgment of experts alone and in this case I humbly suggest you listen; for the public expects your business to operate in a manner that enhances the image of the community as a whole. It is indeed a good business practice to build or operate around resident’s well wishes and popular sentiment.

1. Please know that heritage structures such as this which is also a landmark building in our community is vital to the identity and cultural integrity of our unique home town. I urge you and your group to preserve the façade and the roofline while perhaps modernizing the structure behind it so that it compliments the existing historical register.

2. Business is important. We understand that. It fundamentally deals with the allocation of resources and often businesses are key players in averting economies from being sluggish or inert. Architectural monuments and buildings are main attractors of tourists. Everyone likes to experience eras and the “spirit” of the place. Again I invite you and your group to not demolish the structure. The Hotel has weathered fire, nature, landslides, storms, political unrest and now this very structure should not be facing a bull dozer.

3. Darjeeling is a tourism-dependent city and if you preserve the historical structure and the architecture of the building then the Darjeeling diaspora, along with the foreign and national tourists are more likely to take advantage of this place than what you are planning to build which is perhaps like any other concrete structure with no personality or character.

4. Why preserve? Why keep the old and decaying? Why save historical structures when instead a shiny skyscraper or mall can be erected? Because you, sir will be resurrecting and rehabilitating something that everyone in Darjeeling and lovers of Darjeeling treasures. Without some tangible prompt of the past, history is difficult to understand, particularly heritage buildings that remind us of what, where and how we were. This is part of national history. Buildings can be among the most valuable living structure that defines a community’s architectural profile. We cannot request you to keep the building as is, we are again encouraging you and the group not raze or demolish the basic architectural structure of this beauty.

5. You may ask where the people were when the Hotel was decaying, putrefying and crumbling for three decades. For thirty five years we had hope that when the economy and the political climate improved the hotel would be restored to its former glory. It was not threatened like it is now. Now a slice of history is endangered. The collective memories and the history of the Darjeelingeys are vulnerable and in your hands. Here is a petition to Stop Demolition of the Hotel :

In life there comes a time where one is at a crossroads. You have an immediate choice right now to completely erase a portion of history of Darjeeling or you have the power to preserve it, to nurture it and to give yourself the opportunity to be celebrated as someone who stood on the right side of history. The very reason that the public is protesting is because they have hope. We strongly believe you will not disappoint us and yourself. And, you will do the right thing!
Thanking you in anticipation,
Adwiti Subba Haffner

Footnote: Here is an excerpt about Hotel Mount Everest from my father, Late Mr Nayan Subba’s much awaited book “Heritage Buildings of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong” due to be published this Autumn 2015.

“ Hotel Mount Everest was built on the land where once stood the Rutland House and the Newstead House. On the 14th March 1914, a deed was delivered in favour of Mr. Arratoon Stephen by Mr.N. C. Bose, the solicitor who owned the place along with Encee Cottage that became the Manager’s bungalow. Encee Cottage is a heritage building more than a hundred years old. The hotel was completed on the 12th October, 1915. It was built on principles of continental hotels by Mr. Arratoon Stephen. It was designed by Mr. Stephan Wilkinson, the architect.”

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Via – DT

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