Saturday, November 27, 2010

DAY 58 – Dergaon to Kohima

The Police Training College in Dergaon is home to nearly 600 trainees from all over the North East. Direct recruit SIs and DySPs undergo a full year of training at the PTC, when they are moulded from a civilian into a police officer. In addition, in service training is also done at the PTC. The campus boasts of 4 training institutions and is likely to become an Academy in the near future. The surroundings are well maintained and disciple, naturally, is the watchword. The stay in the PTC Officers’ Mess, Dergaon was most comfortable in a homely environment. The sincere hospitality of Surinder Kumar, the Principal of the PTC, made the last two days doubly enjoyable. This morning, we met for a brief while before ‘marching’ for Kohima. He suggested that I travel to Dimapur via Golaghat, Garampani and Deogarh.
Very close to the Garampani River is a pond where there are Hot Springs. Bathing is not permitted in the pond and hence people fetch water from the pond and bathe outside. It would have been a good idea to pipe the water from the Hot Spring into bathing cubicles so that people could bathe in relative privacy. The drive on the road through the thick jungles of the Deogarh Forest Reserve is an exhilarating experience. The air is quite refreshing and invigorating. Khatkati is the border town of Assam with Nagaland. For a good 5 kms wine shops line either side of the road; an indication that you will die of thirst for the ‘madira’ due to prohibition in Nagaland. I was stopped by the Assam Police before entering Nagaland wanting to know the history of the vehicle. I mouthed some connections and slipped by. Nagaland is considered to be the haven for stolen vehicles. I had a similar experience while entering Assam from Koch Behar at Boxirhat. All along the way, on the Assam side, there are prominent sign boards warning road users of possible vehicle thefts using ingenious means. Dimapur is a busy and congested town; understand the Hong Kong market in Dimapur is a good place for good bargains of Chinese made footwear, blankets, clothes, watches and electrical items. The Inner Line Permit is checked in Chaukidema, which is also the centre for Mithun breeding. The hill road begins from this point.
The NH39 is quite good and I did the 120 km Dergaon to Dimapur stretch within 2 hours. In patches the road is bad as it nears Kohima. About 8 kms from the capital city there is a location where a huge landslide happened last year. Work is still going on and I got delayed there for about 45 minutes. I came directly to the Circuit House, where I am booked for two days. There was some confusion about the availability of room; later I found that I am the only occupant of the entire Circuit House, which offers fabulous views of the city and its neighborhood. As I entered the Circuit House I thought that some high level meeting is on since there were more than 25 Maruti Gypsy vehicles belonging to the Government of Nagaland lined up in front of the building. When I neared them I realized that they are all in various stages of repair and breakdown; gathered from the Circuit House staff that the vehicles have been ‘parked’ here for auction.
After parking the luggage in the Circuit House I set out to see the ‘Kohima War Cemetery’. I decided on hiring cabs to go to the various tourist locations, instead of wasting energy driving through maddening traffic hold ups, and I discovered that they are ‘bloody’ expensive. A three km ride to the War Cemetery cost me Rs.60 and I almost became part of the cemetery landscape when the cabbie told me the fare! The War Cemetery is at a critical junction of the Dimapur and Imphal roads and this location saw intense fighting for 64 days between the Japanese and British troops in April/May 1944. It is a poignant reminder of the sacrifice of young men of the day for us to live a better tomorrow. The maintenance of the cemetery is impeccable and some messages engraved on the plaques that mark out the graves are very moving. The highlight of the War Cemetery is a monument overlooking the crucial fighting zone, with these immortal words engraved on it:
From the War Cemetery I took another cab to the State Museum and discovered that it is on an unscheduled holiday! I chatted up the Nepali cabbie hoping that he would be soft on the fare; it was just wishful thinking. The Central Market was busy; there are bargain hunters in footwear and textile shops. After a lunch of Chicken Curry and rice in the Circuit House I went to the Catholic Cathedral, which is quite close to the Circuit House. I was amazed by the structure. The Cathedral is at a height of nearly 7000 feet above MSL and offers magnificent views of the city. It was built between May 1985 and April 1991 on a 9 acre plot. The Cathedral has a covered area of 25000 sqft and can seat 3000 with standing space for 15000.  The wooden crucifix is massive with a 16 feet by 8 feet figure of Christ on it. Rs. 3 crores was spent in building the Cathedral – 98% of it was foreign funds with some of it coming from Japan. Some parts of the inscription on the plaque at the entrance to the Cathedral are worth reproducing here:
“…Since then the world has grown smaller, and world peace is essential. We believe that we must all do our utmost to live and prosper together, regardless of national frontiers. It was with thankfulness that we heard that a Catholic cathedral was being built at Kohima, where mass would be offered every morning in memory of the fallen. If the people of Kohima, along with priests, keep the thoughts of the dead soldiers in their hearts for all the long years to come, and pray for the peace and prosperity they desired, there could be no better prayer for the souls of the departed.
As Japanese survivors of the battle, and bereaved families who lost their dear ones, we have given much thought to this and have collected contributions to this end : we herewith offer these towards the building of the cathedral.
Our hands are clasped in prayer.”

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