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Friday, February 19, 2016

Sudden trip, two glorious days

Just back from a  two-day, 550-km,  almost entirely unplanned road trip. And did I enjoy it!

Yesterday I rose at dawn, scrambled a breakfast, then Firoz and I topped up the fuel tank and set off westwards along NH2 at about eight in the morning. Off the highway at Asansol, and we decided to explore Garhpanchkot first. Nice place, but the Forest Rest House wouldn't let us in without prior booking, which we didn't have, and it was far too early to settle for the day anyway, so we drove away towards Panchet Dam. Funny I saw it for the first time at this age! Lunch off the NH2 again at Dhanbad, and since it was barely past midday, we decided to head for Giridih. Arrived there at about two, and checked into a very nice hotel. A wash, then off sightseeing. First the Usri waterfalls: the same where my grandfather's little sister nearly drowned almost eighty years ago (there must have been much more water then - neither falls nor river seemed very menacing to me), and where Professor Shonku used to take his morning walks (that must have been at least fifty years ago, too, in Satyajit Ray's mind - the forests would have been much denser). Then off 30 km or so in the opposite direction towards Khandoli lake: a very dusty ride, but well rewarded with an azure blue expanse of water and a mellow gold sunset. Luxurious bath, and dinner with tadka and tandoori roti at a roadside dhaba.Lazed in the evening listening to Hindi classic film songs on TV - something I rarely get to do  - and turned in very early. The afternoon had been hot, but at night there was a nip in the air.

This morning the day started early again. Drove to Madhupur to see the place so many of the Bengali gentry and not a few Englishmen used to go to once upon a time for 'a change of air'. Some of the old crumbling palaces deserve to be preserved.  Another two hours took us to Deoghar. Lacking piety and hating crowds, I gave the old Baba Mandir (Baidyanath Dham) a miss (visited it 42 years ago: enough for one lifetime) and went straight off to Trikoot Hill, of the Tapovan on top of which I still have vague but nice memories. There is a ropeway now, but strangely it wasn't working because of a high wind (first time I heard the excuse). We could have waited, but Firoz is scared of cable cars, and I have ridden enough not to be excited anyway. Climbing a mile of stairs was out of the question, so we drove away. Another lovely ride through beautiful countryside, the sal forests blazing, palash and krishnachura in full bloom, and the rich, sweet, heavy smell of mohua in the air: no one who hasn't taken in a lungful of it will ever know what wickedly-delicious languor means. Lunch just outside Chittaranjan, then we were on the highway again, and it was hardly four p.m. by the time we were back home, after having given the dear car a well-deserved wash on the way. 

This was the first time I have travelled without a plan and all by myself in my own car, though I have had a car for sixteen years - can you believe it? It could have gone horribly wrong in a dozen different ways, but the point is it didn't. The roads almost all along were smooth as glass (kudos to the Jharkhand government); also, my car drove like a dream. And if you can shell out the money, you can get good food and fine hotels almost anywhere you like. I really must do this more often. Is Firoz likely to evolve into something like Sudhirda? One thing I have discovered: one good friend is all one needs. And unless it's someone like Pupu, I'd much rather have a man with me.

This is also the first time that someone wished me well for the trip before I made it and wrote about it. Thanks a ton, Tanmoy.

For photos, click here. Videos, only face to face.

There is something else that I must mention here. The grinding poverty so painfully described in Bibhutibhushan's Aranyak is gone, or at least hardly visible. I saw hundreds of even girls going to school in very remote villages. But the forests are nearly gone, too. We must do something about it while there is still time. Other countries have managed, even some with dense populations, like Germany and Japan. Couldn't we stop aping the Americans before disaster strikes?... and even if it has to be America, can't we remember, no matter what our monkeys think, that America is also about the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson (who signed the National Parks into existence), and not just folks as trivial as Steve Jobs?

Whoever looks after me from Up There, thank you for the treat.

P.S., March 14: The US National Park Service is celebrating its centenary this year. In this context, read this essay. As I have observed, America was not always technology drunk, and I firmly believe she was a greater America then...


siddhartha pal said...

Sir,I am Siddhatha pal.I saw the photos and I liked it.I hope you are in a good health

Saikat Chakraborty said...

Dear Sir,

It is so refreshing to read this post and see the photographs. I have been to none of these places. Some day, I would like to cover the same route as you have described.

I will keep my hopes high about reading more such sudden trips from your side. And perhaps even higher hopes that one day Firoz-da might become someone like Sudhirda to you.

Take care Sir.

With regards,

Rajdeep said...

Cheers! Welcome back from another wonderful trip. I enjoyed reading your blog and looking at the photographs. I'm a bit envious too because you went to Madhupur, a place where I spent a part of my childhood (vacations) when my grandparents lived there. Hope you are doing well. I'm really happy to know you had a satisfying trip. Take care.

Tanmoy said...

Brilliant Suvroda. That was quite a bit it two days or so but well worth it.

Unknown said...

Its good to see you up and about with spirit anew. The photographs of your trip are lovely. They do bespeak the enriching experience that you've garnered. Take care.

Soumallya Chattopadhyay

Subhadip Dutta said...

Dear Sir,

The fact that you went on such a trip was actually what made me feel good. It is always good to go on trips like this with only 1 or 2 people as company. I have done too many of these kinds of trips, but mine were all on a small 150 cc motorcycle - far less efficient than a car as well as far from comfortable. My journeys are always tiresome and backbreaking, and one will always want rest at the end of the day. However, I have never shied away from these kinds of trips. I have even ridden 300 kms to Coorg in the hot summer of April 2015 (in Bangalore March and April are really really hot, and the weather starts to become cooler in the middle of May) on that same 150 cc air-cooled engine.

Just last week I went with Madhumita to a place called Bheemeshwari. The sun was blazing, and I was carrying a pillion rider in the hills. The roads were too bad and narrow, and the jerks gave me a pain in my bums. We had only 3 liters of water with us, and it was hot and dusty. After crossing 3 hills when we finally reached the place, we were disappointed to see very little water in the river Kaveri. There were lots of trees, and there were quite a few species of monkeys, who either playing or sleeping. At the root of a huge tree I found a male monkey caressing his pregnant female, getting her food, cleaning the louses of her body. Other monkeys were playing in the branches, dropping fruits from the trees, and some were fighting. We also saw many kinds of birds. We could have enjoyed it much more, had the weather been a bit more forgiving. It finally became so tough that we had to abandon our plan of going to Mekedatu, and returned from midway. Even with such a huge population of trees, the place could not give us relief from the heat.

While we were returning, we had South Indian meals at a roadside dhaba. The curd-rice was such a relief. I noticed one very interesting thing – the moment we leave Bangalore, things become so cheap. Food is no more as costly as it is in Bangalore.

The sad part is I forgot to take photographs because I was not in a mood to take photographs in the heat. I have plans of going there again in August, and then I think I can take plenty of photographs.

When I will be there in Durgapur, I will try to plan a full day trip with you to some place. We will leave in the morning and return by night.


Shameek M said...

Dear Sir,

This was indeed a pleasant read. I enjoyed reading the post & viewing the photographs. I have been to none of the places, but after reading this post, someday, I shall certainly like to visit these. In this context, I have a small wish, which I would like to convey to you in person.

Also I would to wish the same, and hope as Saikat did, that one day Firoz-da might evolve into someone like Sudhirda to you.

May you be in good health,
With warm regards,

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thank you for commenting after ages, Shameek. Seeing that you have neither visited nor called nor messaged nor emailed for several years, I had assumed that you, like so many hundred others, had quite dropped out of my life!

Good to see that you liked reading this little travelogue. And I shall look forward to being told 'in person' what your small wish is.


Shameek M said...

Dear Sir,
I would like to apologize for my behavior. The last two years have been tough, a lot has happened, but then I shall not give any lame excuse for not being in touch with you. It is my mistake, I accept and I apologize. I shall tell you all that has transpired, when I visit you soon.

I have learnt a lot from you,and there is still a lot that I look forward to learning from you. You have opened my mind to various things that I did not know about, you have time and again given me a boost when my spirits were low. Even when I say that the past two years have been tough, you were there to help me through your writings - I would often read your book "To my daughter" and it did help me regain strength. I also read your blogs from time to time, though the frequency was irregular & here again, apologies for not commenting for long.

One thing I have realized, enduring this tough time, is that life rarely offers us a second chance. I hope & I shall earnestly strive not to repeat my mistake of not keeping in touch with you again.

With regards,