Sunday, April 10, 2016

31 August 2015 – Lucknow to Behaliya to Gorakhpur - Day 11

Every effort had been made to get regular updates of the situation prevailing in Nepal.The eleventh day of the Trans Himalayan Expedition was no exception. Mohan, previously of Container Corporation of India, had been giving me information regularly about the condition in Nepal. Unfortunately, there was nothing much to cheer about. I had already made major diversions based on the deteriorating law and order condition in that country. An entry into Nepal via Sonauli and Behaliya was my last hope of driving through Nepal. Accordingly, I set course from Lucknow in the morning.

During the day I covered over 450 km of which the 280 km between Lucknow and Gorakhpur was a beauty. It needed less than 4 hours of easy driving. The 100 km stretch from Gorakhpur to Sonauli, the Indian side of the border, is badly maintained, congested and misused by errant driving. One of the motorized carts veered close to the car and damaged the left side view mirror. Without the side view mirror driving became a nightmare on crowded roads.
Mohan had arranged for the Behaliya ICD in charge, Ravi, to meet me on the Indian side. I parked the car, met up with Ravi and went to the Customs post, where friendly customs officials chatted for a while and told me that I would not have to fill in any papers there. They also told me to get back to them for lunch in case I would not be going further into Nepal. The volatile situation inside Nepal had prevented smooth
movement of cargo into and out of the country. The huge pile up of trucks was a serious matter that didn’t look like getting resolved anytime soon. Ravi piloted me to the ICD office. He also gathered three senior officials of Customs and the Security. The person in charge of security clearly indicated the problems on the route that I intended to travel and said that he would not want me to risk that journey at all since even army patrols were being attacked viciously. The frank assessment of the ground conditions along the proposed route or even alternatives gave me enough inputs to decide on returning to Gorakhpur that day. There was no way in which they would allow me to travel in Nepal and there was absolutely no way in which any reasonable guarantees would be given by the authorities regarding safe travel.

After spending a lot of time getting to the ‘bottom of things’ I returned to the India border post. I decided to take up the offer for lunch. And what a lovely time I had with them and Ravi. Over lively conversation about the service and living conditions there I was made to feel absolutely at home. Most of those who were deputed to the outpost had their families in faraway places. Bonhomie amongst such persons is very different than in the ‘family stations’. After a leisurely lunch that almost stretched up to tea time I retraced my drive to Gorakhpur and sought refuge in the railway rest house at the station. Indeed I was disappointed that the Nepal leg of the expedition has been scuttled due to escalating political violence.

I was quite worried about the safety of the car in the parking lot at the Gorakhpur railway station. However, the person in charge of the parking lot showed me to a secure area and assured me that the car would be safe there. The ORH at the station is a far cry from the ORH near the railway headquarter office. But this was good enough for a short stay that was arranged at the eleventh hour, to say the least. Gorakhpur, on the banks of the River Rapti, is an administrative town. But it is also home to many historic temples like the Gorakhnath temple and has many important Hindu and Buddhist sites. Kabir, the 15th century mystic poet, is buried in Maghar, which is also near Gorakhpur.

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