Normally I am very careful about packing and ensure that I do not leave things behind. However, when I reached New Jalpaiguri I realized that I had left behind a small lot of clothes in the Garden Reach ORH room. Naturally, I spoke to Gopal and he assured that it would reach me in Guwahati by the earliest train. As promised, the ‘consignment’ arrived in Guwahati last evening. I got a message from Gopal that my ‘file’ could be collected from the Secretary of the Chief Operations Manager, NF Railway. I, therefore, reached the NF Railway headquarter office with the idea of meeting railway officials and collecting my ‘file’ that had arrived from Kolkata. The officers I wanted to meet were either in Delhi with the GM for meetings in the Railway Board or were yet to reach the office. Since I had some more things to be done I collected my ‘file’ and left for the Police Headquarters.
When I reached the Police HQ, I found the place unusually quiet. I got to the Control Room and was told that it was a holiday, commemorating the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. I had an appointment to meet Chandranathan, IPS. I spoke to him from the Control Room. He apologized for having missed informing me of the holiday. However, he insisted that I visit his house, for which he arranged an escort. He was in occupation of a house within the premises of a battalion. His wife, Maya who hails from Quilon, a professional architect and designer had taken special care to aesthetically ‘fit out’ the house. The furniture and many utilities in the house were specially designed by her. She prefers mature teak wood and has trained up a couple of carpenters who work for her. She lamented that she had run out of wood and hence, many of her designs were awaiting ‘execution’. The centerpiece of her ‘creations’ is the three dimensional Ganesha, which she got done from an abandoned root of a tree felled for road construction. It was a wonderfully informative interaction, after which Chandranathan provided another escort to seek out a shop to check the Nitrogen levels in the car tyres.
I reached the Maligaon ORH for lunch and met up with a few railway officials who were there for lunch too. One of them, as soon as he saw me, asked if I was who I was. He introduced himself as Mohorail, Chief Mechanical Engineer (Planning) and said that he had met me in Raipur, Chhattisgarh in October 2010. I apologized for not having placed him. Thereafter, the conversation for the rest of the time taken for lunch involved my travel. After the heavy lunch, it had to be rest in bed.
I woke up in time to watch the 4th One Day International between India and England. To follow the Indian chase Mohorail joined me a copy of my book, which he wanted autographed for his son! During the time we egged the Indian team on to a good win I also caught up on the happenings in the railways. We went to the dining hall for dinner, where I met an IRSE probationer who had his previous employment with GREF, who were engaged in the maintenance of the roads (BRO) in border areas. He was posted in Rohtang area, near Manali in Himachal Pradesh, and was quite aware of the challenges posed in travel to these places.
Before I turned in for the night I paid up the ORH and meal charges. I also got a call from the Superintendent of Police, Lohit District, Arunachal Pradesh, Seju Kuruvila who was based in Tezu and to where I was traveling to start the East-West Expedition. He told me that he had dispatched a constable to Tinsukia to accompany me to Tezu with the Inner Line Permit. He also advised me to check if it was alright to travel in Assam on the 26th, when I had planned to start for Koteswar from Tezu. My enquiries revealed that it would be better if I avoided travel in Assam on 26th January, for the ULFA observed that day as an ‘informal bandh’. I was being forced to reschedule my program. I decided to think about it on a cool head in the morning on the drive to Tinsukia.
As I was turning in for the night and mulling the possibility of meeting a new friend, Seju Kuruvila in Tezu I recollected the circumstances of getting to know Seju. When I had finalized the plans for Mission Fast Track by the 20th of December and Tezu as the start point of the second leg of it I was keen to find out a contact in Tezu. The railway contacts would serve me only till Tinsukia and those arrangements were already done. I had known the Superintendent of Police in Itanagar, Chukku Appa. I had got to know him in 2010 through a friend in the Assam Police, when I visited Itanagar as part of the All India drive. However, Appa had been posted to Delhi in the IB and I did not have his new contact number. I was in a quandary. Nevertheless, I connected the number of Chukku Appa, which I had on me. A young voice answered the call and politely told me what I already knew – that Appa was in Delhi. The person at the other end identified himself as the current incumbent in the post of SP, Itanagar. I proceeded to tell him of my plans to be in Tezu in January. He had caught on to the fact that I was a retired civil servant and that I was based in Cochin. He may have also discerned some concern in my voice, for he said that the SP of Lohit District, of which Tezu is the HQ, is a Keralite. In a short while I had the contact number in Tezu. I tried the number a few times, but it would either get disconnected or go unanswered. Later, I sent a sms to the number identifying myself and stating my requirement. I had the response in a few hours assuring me that the needful would be done and that he was on vacation in Kerala, where the signals did not permit cogent communication. The message was signed ‘Seju Kuruvila’. Contact established, I felt very much at ease. Over the next few days we spoke to each other. After Seju had returned to Tezu after the Christmas vacation he sent me the Inner Line Permit form and took details to get the permit issued. From these interactions a new relationship was getting forged.