Part –I - Holiday begins
13.08.2010 - 16.08.2010 30 °C
We as a state celebrate our day of independence shutting ourselves at home. A whole generation has been conditioned this way. But this time I knew things would be different. I was so looking forward to breathe some fresh mountain air, get away from dust and grime and do away with the mugginess that swallows us every summer, especially post monsoons.
As planned we decided to start as early as possible. We knew we had to cover a long stretch of the National Highway which we mostly cross by other means of transport other than a car.
So on Friday the thirteenth exactly at 8.00 a.m we left home. A few stopovers and an hour later we reached the outer edges of the city. The route we initially decided during our rounds of “idea-ting while guzzling down gallons of beer” to Siliguri from Guwahati was via Goalpara – crossing the Naranarayan Setu – Bongaigaon – Srirampur and finally enter North Bengal.
But like they say “Man proposes & God disposes”; a major chunk of the route we wanted to traverse was reeling under the influence of “Assam Bandh”. A few phone calls here & there made us change our route. We would still be traveling via Goalpara, crossing the Naranarayan Setu and then take a different path through the sleepy town of Jogihopa, by pass Dhubri, tread through Boxirhat and then enter North Bengal.
The drive till Paikan (the junction from where you can go to Tura from one side of the highway & the other was the one we were traversing) was an amazing one. The highway was more was like a runway with dense teak plantations on both sides. Greenery makes everyone poetic, well maybe. The two men I was traveling with never sounded so poetically correct until now!
Somewhere around Dhubri we halted at a roadside shack for a quick lunch. The place look deserted. As we parked the car and got down around five men came to greet us. We looked at each other and thought maybe we took a wrong decision in opting to have lunch here. The place looked abandoned and maybe it was so devoid of customers that the entire army which consisted of the chef, the helper, the “manager” (most probably) and two more aides came out to give us a warm reception!
Post lunch as we nearing Boxirhat the roads started deteriorating. We thought a little stretch of the broken highway was okay… but I was wrong. Traveling on that rough patch for some uncountable kilometers had an anti gravitational effect on my system and as we halted for a tea break all I could do was throw up! Upon asking a truck driver how long would be this stretch of road he casually said “120 kms”!
As we accelerated again I put my eye pads on and tried chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, lest I throw up again!
By sundown we assumed we had covered at least half of the 120 kms “bad patch highway” and Nirav on the driver’s seat finally had reasons to release smile. We’d soon be on a better road where instead on traveling on the 2nd gear we’d be zooming on overdrive. But somehow the road did not look like a National Highway. There were no signs of any mile stones, no trucks or busses or lorries plying. We three guessed it but no one dared to speak it out loud & clear that we somehow took a wrong turn. So every crossing we reached we’d slow down and ask a passer by how long it would take us to reach Siliguri. And we got a bevy of replies. Sometimes it was “2 hours”; sometimes “20 kms” and sometimes a vague and blank stare as if the person was either possessed by an unseen spirit or maybe it was the effect of weed, smoked beyond the permissible limits!
We realized our folly when after about driving for 150 -200 odd kms we reached a crossing and saw some signs of civilization and a milestone too where it was written “Siliguri 120 kms”! Still??????
By the time we checked in at the hotel it was 10.00 p.m. A good shower and the most unappetizing food later we all crashed into a deep slumber.