I had planned to halt today at New Jalpaiguri, even though I had done this stretch in two days while going to Guwahati in early November. The halt in Dhubri had helped me recover from the aches brought on by the bone rattling journey over the Siliguri-Boxirhat road. Even though I had planned to leave Maligaon well before 6 am, the late night at the Nerwals delayed my start till 7 am. I reached Dhubri at 10.30 for the appointed brunch with Deepak and Bhavana. Even though the halt was declared to last only 25 minutes, two hours went by in double quick time. Bhavana, as is her own style, packed a few goodies for the long journey still ahead. Deepak had arranged for a pilot near the border to take me through a village road and avoid the hold up at the border posts.
With nearly 200 kms still to go at 1.45 pm I was a bit apprehensive about making it to New Jalpaiguri before sunset. Just a few kms short of Toofanganj – nearly 35 kms short of Cooch Behar – I hit a massive pot hole. I immediately felt the steering getting tough. I parked to one side and surveyed the damage. The front right rim had bent and the damage to the tyre could not be assessed. I was ill equipped to deal with this emergency. The only alternative was to wave down a vehicle and request for help. After many vehicles passed by without stopping a truck stopped and five chaps got out to help. They improvised the use of the truck jack and changed the tyre soon. I thanked them and suitably compensated them for the effort and the help. A cursory inspection did not reveal any damage to the tyre. The bent rim had to be repaired. Therefore, I could not proceed further than Cooch Behar for the day - “Man proposes, God disposes”. I rang up Sundar Ram and requested for some accommodation in Cooch Behar for the night. Promptly, he got back with the message that I should meet the Station Superintendent New Cooch Behar Railway Station, who has been instructed to do the needful.
My immediate worry was to get the rim repaired and possibly the tyre too. On the way to the railway station I found a Maruti Service Station. I drove in and asked the first guy I met there if he could repair a damaged rim. His response was an unambiguous, “Kar denge, saab” (Will do it, Sir). He gave some hefty blows to the bent rim and straightened it out. He then filled air and checked for leaks. As he did not detect any leak he said that air had leaked only due to the bent rim and the tyre was not damaged. That was a huge relief. After the repair I went in search of the New Cooch Behar RS. It was not too difficult to find. The Station Superintendent, Mr Roy, got me a retiring room and ensured that my car is parked in a place in the parking lot where there is vigil.
Having crossed over into West Bengal my BB went live and ploughed in a few hundred mails that were in storage in the server. The connectivity issue I faced in the North East is hopefully behind me now. It is a matter of comfort to be able to access the net on the move so that the blog posts can be done regularly and mails responded to. With the unscheduled halt at Cooch Behar, I have planned to halt at Katihar tomorrow and reach Patna the day after, a delay of one day.
The longish journey today and the early break at Cooch Behar gave me the perfect opportunity to reflect on the 5 amazing weeks I had spent in the North East. It is time for a précis of the observations of the North East. Some of the observations may seem overly generalized and simplified. This is not a product of research, but that of observation and communication. To this extent it will suffer in accuracy; I may be pardoned for it. But, as they say in the TV shows: “Yeh sab, ek choti si break ke bad” (All this, after a short break). See you tomorrow.