Darjeeling, Aug. 27: If you live in Darjeeling, you can never afford to miss the Wall.
In the age of instant communications, the 15ft X 30ft wall at Chowk Bazar, bang opposite Sumeroo Manch that is the podium for all public meetings in Darjeeling, stands as the most trusted source of information for the people of the hill town.
Whether it is an announcement of a meeting, congratulatory messages, information on the venues of board exams or simply an observation that is to be shared, the Poster Wall has obliged the residents of Darjeeling for long.
“It used to be a place where cinema posters of Rink and Capital Hall used to be plastered. I think it was the ABGL that started putting up political posters on the wall in the early 1950s. And since then, the cinema posters have been forced to make way for other the posters,” said Nayan Prakash Subba, a retired police officer.
Even before the ABGL started putting up political posters, the wall was used by the managements of the two cinema halls to communicate information on items left behind by the viewers in the halls.
Perhaps the success in communicating the messages pushed the political parties to start using the wall to serve their end.
The importance of the Wall has been accepted even by the government. Two years ago when there was a spate of house burglaries in town during winter — a time when many shift to the warmer climes of the plains — Darjeeling police had put up posters informing the people to be vigilant of their surroundings.
“We have been so used to the Wall that unless we see any announcement put up there, we don’t believe them,” said Neetu Rai, a resident of the town.
In fact, the success of political programmes at times depends on the Wall.
“For the people of Darjeeling, the Wall is most important. None can deny its importance,” said Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. Communication on instant political programmes, which need to be put into place within a span of a couple of hours — like the recent flash strike called by the Morcha — owe its success to the Wall.
The entire town may be deserted during political strikes but this is the one place in Darjeeling that always has a crowd in front. Even on normal days, the Wall makes every resident stop for a while.
Many have tried to find an alternative to the Wall and had started using a small wall next to the Darjeeling municipality building, as the Chowk Bazar one is always crowded with posters.
But the new place could not compete with the more illustrious space.
The Wall has had its share of stardom too.
It figured as one of the “stars of Darjeeling” in a documentary film fest organised by the mass communication department of St Joseph’s College (North Point) in 2008.
“The film The Silent Informer featured in Montage08, a documentary film festival organised by our college, was made on the Wall. The theme of the festival was ‘stars of Darjeeling’ and our students felt that the Wall was definitely a star for the people of Darjeeling,” said Vikram Rai, the head of department of the college.
Sanjay Biswas, a writer from Darjeeling, has also written a poem on the Wall in one of his books Aaakhabhari (eyeful).