It was cold when I woke up in the morning. I brought up some luggage that needed to be ‘set up’ for the next leg of Mission Fast Track. The bag of soiled clothes was increasing in size and that of the fresh ones was slowly getting emptied. I had enough clothes to last me till the 5th of February – 30 days from start. Sharma, the caretaker of the CH, had agreed to get breakfast ready by 8 am because Rajesh and I had planned a 9 am getaway to Wakro. The breakfast of toast, butter, jam and omelet disappeared in no time and I asked for another omelet. Cold has a way of stimulating hunger.
Power supply is poor. The generator gets switched off at 4.30 am. However, I had kept the geyser on overnight. This gave me enough hot water for the morning rituals. We left at 9.30 am. Just after we passed the ‘town’ jurisdiction the woods took over. Despite the clearing of trees – major source of income for the rich and powerful – the forest cover is impressive (maybe for those who come from metros and commercial cities). The route to Parasuram Kund and Wakro falls on the alternative route to Tezu from Tinsukia – the path via the hills. The road snaked all along the hills and formed seesaws and roller coasters. At one point of it I found a GREF detachment where a board proclaiming Ground Zero mentioned distances to Beijing (2740 kms), Islamabad (3736 kms), Kanyakumari (4445 kms), Srinagar (3771 kms), etc. The roads were quite well maintained and work was going on at many places to re-surface them. The views of the River Brahmaputra (in winter) and that of the river bed are awesome. I stopped at many places to capture its grace and the power that lay within. The view of the new bridge across the River at Parasuram Kund is itself good for a few photographs. I stopped on the bridge for fascinating views of the Kund and the River. Load music emanated from a camping site where pilgrims and tourists were getting ready for lunch. Children could be seen enjoying the music and indulging in fun and games.
Seju had arranged for lunch at the GH of a company executing a hydro power project at Parasuram Kund. Hence, we decided to visit Wakro for oranges first. We drove another 20 kms and found that the orchards were mostly bare. I was told that oranges sell for as low as Re 1 per piece during the season! They are mostly consumed within the district, for access to markets is poor and there are no processing units in the vicinity. We saw a person, attending to a cycle tyre, within striking distance to Wakro. In a small ‘retail outlet’ a few polythene bags of oranges could also be seen. This was beside an orange orchard. The person told us that we would not be able to find oranges on trees even if we proceeded to Wakro. That settled it. I walked around the orchard and found some late bloomers, small ones, still on the trees; the trees were mostly bare. We started bargaining – started at Rs. 50 for a bag containing 25 oranges. The deal was finally struck for Rs. 35 per bag; about Rs. 1.50 per orange. The oranges were quite sweet. I bought all the bags he had – 9 of them, 220 oranges. I paid for the oranges, stacked them in the car wherever I found space and drove back to Parasuram Kund.
I had brought extra clothes to take a dip in the Kund, hopeful that it would cleanse me of my accumulated sins (as is the belief steeped in the legend of the place)! Pilgrims throng the holy place on January 14th (Makar Sankranthi day) to bathe in the Kund. It is believed that the Sage Parasuram was ordered by his father Jamadagni to kill his mother, for Jamadagni disapproved of Renuka being enticed by the King Chitraratha. The brothers of Parasuram refused their father’s order. Only Parasuram heeded it and killed his mother with an axe. It is said that the axe started vibrating in his hand after the deed was done. Jamadagni ordered him to use the vibrating axe to release the dammed up Brahmaputra by cutting through the hills and bathe in the pristine waters. The place is called Parasuram Kund today. It is from here that he flung the axe as far away from him as he could. This act created the small state of Kerala. Thus, I had linked the created state to its place of creation.
The walk to the Kund was not so easy. It was a steep climb down. It was a severe strain on the knees. I knew that I would struggle even more coming back. The water was cold and biting. I still ventured a dip and came out feeling like a block of ice, but happy that the River had taken over the expiation of my sins! Rajesh showed me a small opening in the rocks from where a small stream of water poured out to meet the River. A sage was also settled at its base and people were offering prayers at this place. The water flowing from the crevice in the rocks was warm. I picked up a round stone and decided to carry it back as a memento. It was quite heavy. I thought that I would be stopped from carting it away. No one stopped me. People only looked on in mirth. I deposited it in my bag and started the long and steep climb back. After a while Rajesh offered to carry my back pack. I handed it to him only because I was convinced that I would not get back into the car with it. I also told Rajesh not to wait for me. My strength was waning and I started gasping for large doses of air. I stopped and rested at many places en route. A family that passed by offered water and oranges, for they saw that I was in a completely fused out state. At one stage I thought I would pass out. This was on account of both the steep steps as well as the ‘abused’ health condition. Many years of smoking and sedentary life take their toll.
I finally made it to the car and Rajesh was waiting beside it with the heavy bag. As soon as I reached the car I became ‘normal’. However, hunger had started gnawing strongly for it to be noticed. The GH of the power company, fortunately, was not too far away. The manager announced that he had kept a room ready for our overnight stay in case we wished to spend more time in the salubrious environment. While having lunch we met up with two persons who had their business in Tinsukia and were known to Rajesh. One of them was in the Insurance business and had gone to locate the remains of an accident involved truck and its contents. Apparently, at the time of the accident about three months ago, the truck was carrying 10 tonnes of aluminum. They found only a few Rexene covers of the truck seat! The rest had been systematically cut up, carted away and sold by the locals!! So much for local enterprise.
When we got back to Tezu Rajesh took me to the local market. People were all over. The weeks from Sankranthi see a Mela in the market. Clothes, blankets, leather goods, Chinese electrical goods, footwear, food, living room upholstery, and many such were on display. Bargaining was rife but deals were closed with a smile. I walked around, basically to compare prices. Blankets and leather goods were really worth the prices. I met a few Keralite families when doing the round of the market. A lady among them told me that “Tezu is the best place in India”. I came to know that there are more than 60 families in Tezu, mostly engaged in government jobs. There is an active Kerala Samajam which celebrates Keralite festivals. Rajesh told me that one could buy liquor cheap in Tezu. I bought 6 bottles of Bacardi breezer and settled it in the car.
I dropped Rajesh at his house and got back to the CH. When I left in the morning I had told Sharma that I would return for a lunch of fish curry and rice. He did not think that I would return for lunch, but agreed to keep the meal ready. I sure did not return for lunch, but I wanted to have the fish curry and rice for dinner. Sharma promised to get it on the table in half hour and he did. The fish curry was delicious. It was the right note to sign off for peaceful sleep.