Tuesday, February 19, 2013

28 Jan 13 – Bongaigaon to Patna

I had put on the switch for the geyser last night. But, the tap yielded only COLD water. So I used the cold water only for the absolutely essential activities and decided to leave early. By 3.45 am I came out of my room and could not see my car – it was enveloped in thick fog. Nevertheless, I loaded the luggage and primed the car. For a few minutes I sat in the car wondering what to do. I decided to take to the road, for some progress is better than no progress at all. Getting to the highway was okay. After that the swirling, thick fog and deviations without warning boards were a definite hazard. Once, I even reached the precipice of an unfinished bridge. Reversing from there also had its problems for the fog impeded visibility in the rear. Poor road warnings and lack of signages for diversions made progress very tardy. Walking speed is all I could achieve – I was reminded of the drive from Jagatsinghapur to Paradip. I somehow managed to drive behind a police patrol jeep for a while and a couple of trucks for a fair distance and reach Kachugaon police station at 6.25 am, almost 2 hours behind schedule. The drive through the Srirampur check post presented no problems and I was in the New Alipurduar railway station by 8 am for attestation. The delay was maintained because I went to the Alipurduar ORH to freshen up and rest a while.

I made up some time on the Falakatta–Malbazar route to Siliguri. Soon after passing Siliguri I was overcome by sleep. I pulled up on the side of the highway and slept for about an hour. I passed the West Bengal border at Dalkhola. I stopped at the integrated check post there and located the officer in charge. While the primary intention was attestation I was also interested in understanding how the integrated check post functioned. The officer was happy about it, but I did not think it was being operated in the manner in which it should be. The driver or attendant had to go to multiple counters for clearance – it defeats the purpose behind the integration. It should be a single counter clearance, which will free up time and reduce corruption.

I reached Purnia by 3.30 pm and Khagaria by 6.40 pm. The road condition was poor from Purnia right through to Patna. The saving grace is that one can safely travel in Bihar at any time of the day or night. The route I was traveling by was out of bounds in the night before Nitish Kumar decided to clean up the act. At some point on the route to Patna from Khagaria I was tailing a jeep. My headlights were on. A person suddenly emerged out of the running jeep in the rear, stood on the footboard, opened his fly and started letting go, either completely oblivious to the vehicle he was showering his waters with or in a deliberate act of exhibitionism. I slowed down to avoid the spray but filmed his act all through! Having done his bit, he nonchalantly zipped up and went back to sleep in the rear seat and closed the flap of the jeep. Stressful situations are made less so by such impromptu situations.

I reached Patna by 11 pm. JD was waiting at a vantage point on the highway to direct me to his house, where I was to spend the night. Mrs. Goswami had waited up to meet me on arrival. I felt bad having inconvenienced them. Hot soup and fresh salad were served, which is what I had ‘ordered’ during the day when I was driving. They attended to every detail and confirmed when I would leave in the morning. I insisted that they do not wake up before I leave. They would have none of it. JD even insisted on leading me on to the highway to Mughalsarai. What can you say of such people, whose hospitality is natural and not a bit forced? I was happy that I had not bypassed and driven on to Mughalsarai. Time went by in conversation and it was well past midnight when I hit the comfortable bed.

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