The next destination was Maligaon, Guwahati. The drive was only 450 kms. However, the challenge, I discerned, would be the West Bengal-Assam border. My experience at the Boxirhat border crossing in 2010 was not that pleasant. Hence, I had got in touch with Chandranathan, IPS, who was now ADGP. He put me in touch with Surendra Kumar, IPS, who was the DIG in Bongaigaon. Surendra Kumar had been my host in the Police Training College in Dergaon, when I visited Assam in 2010. I had planned to travel to Guwahati via Bongaigaon instead of via Goalpara. There was a view that the latter route was ‘safer’ than the chosen one. But, I was keen to check out the route stipulated by LBR. Surendra Kumar soon settled all doubts; he said that the route was alright to travel and gave me extensive directions with timing to negotiate the points along the route.
I was ready to leave the New Jalpaiguri ORH by 6 am. I looked around for the caretaker to make the payment. No one, in fact, was in sight. Hence, I left the ORH meaning to make the payment in Guwahati. The road from New Jalpaiguri to Dhupguri was awful. At times I doubted if I would be able to get to Guwahati without a breakdown. The 75 km was excruciating. Fortunately, at Dhupguri a traffic constable suggested the Falakatta route to Alipurduar. It turned out to be a better choice. It took me exactly 4 hours to reach the Srirampur border, as indicated by Surendra Kumar. The inspector in charge of the check post was constantly in touch with me and got me piloted through the post without any hold up. The check post was not very crowded either. Bhutanese use the roads via Assam to transit from one district to another. It was intriguing to notice Bodo registration in the area.
In the next three hours I was with the Kumars for lunch at their residence in Bongaigaon. It was a feast. His son identified me as the “Swift Yatra”! I had to leave soon as I had fixed up a meeting with the GM in Maligaon. Mrs Kumar gave me a carry bag full of Bhutanese sweet oranges. I missed the turning to Nalbari and transited to Maligaon via Rangia. Though the route was slightly longer, it was quite good. The Saraighat Bridge is an architectural marvel. It is crowded now. Work is on to build a new bridge. By 6 pm I was comfortably lodged in the special room reserved by the GM. After reaching Maligaon I learnt that the GM had to leave for Delhi for a meeting.
Since I was scheduled to be in Guwahati for another day I turned in early after a light meal of rotis and dal.