Darjeeling is a small city in the northern Indian state of West Bengal which shares a border with Nepal and Bangladesh. The meaning of the word “Darjeeling” originates from the Tibetan language. The prefix comes from the Tibetan word "dorje" which means thunderbolt and the suffix, '-ling', translates to “a place or land”. When combined into the phrase “darjeeling” the definition is interpreted as 'the land of the thunderbolt'. The logic behind this name comes from the large amount of rain and thunderstorms that this region typically has.
The Himalayan Mountains run through this region and create an abundant habitat for countless tropical plants and animals. Aside from the tea plants, the mountains are densely covered with oaks, evergreens, and rare orchids. In these large forests, there lives a plethora of wildlife. The deeper one ventures into the thicket, the larger the animals become. Himalayan black bears, one-horned rhinoceros, elephants, Siberian tigers, Tibetan wolves, Goral mountain goats, spotted leopards and snow leopards thrive in this mountainous habitat. Many waterfowl, such as such as ducks, herons, and gulls, make the waterways their home. There are also small mammals like mongooses, monkeys, and badgers. The most famous animal in the area is the red panda. In 2009, a conservation center was set up to protect them from extinction.
The weather in Darjeeling varies greatly throughout the year. Monsoon season begins in June and starts to wane at the end of August. During this season there is dense fog and abundant rainfall. This rainfall often causes mudslides. The temperature at this time of year averages at 77 °F. Because the city has a high altitude, it is often humid and cloudy. These conditions are necessary for growing the tea that the region is famous for. Autumn in Darjeeling begins in September and lasts until November. This is the best time for tourists to visit. The winters here are short, cold, and span from December to February. Like other mountainous regions, it snows heavily here in the wintertime. In the winter the temperature falls to 26 °F. The spring is pleasant and a welcome change after the tough winter. The temperature average in the spring typically falls between 59 and 68 °F.
The Learning Tea has operated out of Darjeeling for the past five years. Despite its diverse flora and fauna, the region is often disturbed by economic, political, and social strife and women are often adversely affected by this rough social and economic climate. We are working to equip our scholars in Darjeeling by providing them with the opportunity to pursue higher education. The Learning Tea scholarship covers all costs related to the scholars' tuition, food, clothing, medical needs, life necessities, tutoring, computer classes, extracurricular activities, and housing. The scholarship program is funded in part by the proceeds from Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party, generous donations, and our monthly Indian Dinners. By providing these scholarships to these young women, we are equipping them with the knowledge and opportunity to expand their futures.
Mariam Hanna, for The Learning Tea