The Death of a Place: Infrastructure, Ruins and Memory of Kalimpong

Authors: Anisa Bhutia*, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Topics: Asia, Economic Geography
Keywords: infrastructure, loss, death, ruins, memory
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


‘Kalimpong is dead, there is nothing left here,’ says Tenzing. It was the early days of my fieldwork, he was having a conversation with an old Tibetan lady in the shop in 10th Mile. It is one of the few remaining shops that sell Tibetan traditional shoes. The shop was old, there were some shoes lined neatly in the top storage shelf. They were sipping a hot cup of tea. The cup lay on top of a glass counter from where you could see khatag (Tibetan ceremonial scarves). It was a chance encounter. I never saw him again. But what he said about Kalimpong has always stayed with me.

What did he mean by Kalimpong being dead? What happens when people say that a place is dead? Can a place die? Any living form has a life cycle. Humans are believed to be mortal beings who follow a cycle of birth, life and death. Further, many different religions like Hinduism and Buddhism believe in the idea of rebirth and reincarnations. But what about a place? Does a place also reincarnate? Can a place live and die in the memory? A place is, after all, an idea (Orvell 2012). What happens when this idea slowly shifts or dies over a period of time. This paper delves deeper into this question of what exactly Tenzing meant by the death of this town. What idea was he referring to as dead?

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