I could not meet the Superintendent of Police, Itanagar yesterday as he had taken ill in the evening and retired to his residence early, but I thought it necessary to meet him in person and thank him for the hospitality. En route to the Holangi, the border town of Assam, I dropped in to meet Mr. Appa in his house. The warmth with which he received me made me feel as if I had known him for years. The first question he put to me was, “Did you meet any Dadas on the way yesterday?” I was told yesterday that I would be harassed by Dadas on the way and hence should request for an escort from the SP on the Arunachal side of the border. When I voiced this concern to him he said, “There is only one Dada in Itanagar and he goes by the name of C. Appa”. He has built a house close to the Police HQ and furnished it quite elegantly. The cane furniture set in the living room is a masterpiece. His wife, who is a teacher in the local government school, made a cup of ‘lal chai’ when she returned from her driving lesson. I regret having had to prune my Arunachal itinerary due to paucity of time, even more so after hearing further from Appa about the beauty of the State. I have a standing invitation from him to use his house as the base to move around the State. As a parting gift he gave me a calendar showcasing the beauty of Menchuku. Another dream is taking shape.
The drive from Itanagar to Halongi is quite scenic with the roads carved out from the hills. Saikia, the SDPO of Gohpur accompanied me from Halongi and I had breakfast at his residence, the historic police station. He has built a raised, enclosed platform overlooking the pond in front of his house and an office with indigenous material, including waterproof thatching. I hit the road after a half hour break and a few pictures of the Saikia family.
My next destination was the house of the Commandant of the Armed Forces Battalion at Jamuguri. En route to Jamuguri is Biswanath Chariali, where 21 innocent bus passengers were gunned down last month by the Bodo militants. Mr. BB Chetry, the Commandant, had arranged an early lunch. Prior to the lunch he explained vividly the great beauty of the North Cachar Hills, where he was SP a few years back. The mystery of the ‘bird suicide’ in Jatinga was discussed too; the birds are lured to their doom for their meat.
Balipara is the junction point to visit Tawang. As I neared Balipara I felt miserable at having to leave these places out of the visit this time. But Mother Nature put on a show that eased the pain somewhat and held up a promise of a visit in the near future. On the approach to Balipara I saw what looked like a giant painting hung out over the village for all passersby to appreciate. It took some time to accept that I was indeed seeing the snowcapped peaks of Arunachal that I would have seen close up if I had visited Tawang. It looked like the backdrop on a stage for a play. The sky was so clear that the view was brilliant. Arunachal and Upper Assam definitely needs to be done on a separate itinerary.
The rest of the journey to Guwahati was fairly uneventful – it was a long drive. As soon as I reached the ORH in Maligaon I took a short nap and freshened up before meeting the Nerwals over dinner at their house. 100 Pipers played the right music for a peaceful night’s rest in the ORH.