The long road home...
…or rather, the long road to my sasural (in-laws place). The first time I had traversed through the 500-odd kilometers to Tinsukia from my home town Guwahati was in November 2009, just two months before my marriage. Till then, I had only met my husband-to-be once and spoken over phone with my soon-to-be in-laws. Thus, it was the first visit to my future home.
We had hired an Indigo as Deta could not be asked to drive our car for such a long stretch. Ma had become a bit jittery during the course of the long journey and frequently grumbled “Out of so many boys in the world, my daughters had to choose grooms staying so far away.” Sis and I were both engaged to be married at around the same time and a stop on the way was scheduled at her in-laws’ place as well. Ma would sigh every now and then and ask “Aru kiman dur?” (Loosely translated as – are we there yet?) I guess losing her daughters to these new places was getting on her nerves!
At that time, I was too busy updating the fiancé on where we had reached, what we had eaten, etc. through text messages and almost entirely ignored the natural beauty on display. I only remember parts of the food fiesta we had along various points during the 14-hour journey.
A rivers runs by...
The second time I made the same road trip to my sasural (although my in-laws actually stay with us in Bangalore) was this year (2013) in January, with our 15-month old tyke in tow. The husband had got super excited as this was going to be our first trip together to his home town and he wanted to show me all the sights on the way that he loved. In fact, he planned out an entire itinerary that covered things like visiting the revered Dhekiakhuwa Namghor (a 485-year old place of worship) as well as stopping by a highway dhaba famous for its silkworm delight!
We started out from my Guwahati home in Deta’s trusted old Maruti Alto very early without breakfast as the husband wanted to have a typical dhaba breakfast of lusi (puri) bhaji. We had some piping hot food at a dhaba in an interestingly named place called Amoni (in Assamese, it means ‘to be annoyed/bored’). Thereon, we went full speed ahead with satiated tummies. Sleepy little hamlets zipped by. It was a pleasure to note the changing landscapes every few hours. We would be gazing at fields of vibrant golden mustard flowers swaying in the breeze one moment and the next moment there would be vast stretches of vivid green paddy fields. It was almost as if children were asked to choose their favourite colours and given separate corners to fill up with colour.
An oil rig in the middle of paddy fields
Although I had been through the same route a few years back, it struck me how beautiful my own state was and that I had ignored it to go gallivanting in others. I had left it unexplored and unobserved. I wished our son would have been old enough to remember this road trip – the journey from his mom’s home town to his father’s. While I was ruminating over such thoughts, the husband announced that we had entered Kaziranga National Park. The state highway passed through the National Park, famed for its one-horned rhinos. I sat up with anticipation and sure enough, there they were – the gullible-looking rhinos, along with a big group of bar-headed geese as well as a few wild buffalo and capped langurs. We decided to spend the night in a resort in Kaziranga so that the long journey could be broken down with a shorter distance to tackle the next day. The baby was too young to be passed through a straight 14-15 hour journey ordeal.
At the resort, we went for a jungle safari in the evening and another one the next morning. Both the trips were quite eventful and we had our fill of wildlife, right from the rhinos, elephants, deer and buffalos to the amazing variety of birds. My only regret was that we missed seeing the tiger and had to be content with its pug-marks. Ah well, another time, maybe. I had written about our Kaziranga trip here.
Agoratoli Resort, Kaziranga
A herd of wild buffalo
The one-horned rhinoceros
We continued our journey onward towards Tinsukia and the story now took a gastronomic turn. We just had to enter a town for the husband to exalt about the food it was famed for. “Bokakhat!” he exclaimed. “It is famous for its pedas (sweets). You must try them!” And so on for a couple of more towns. It is a miracle that the car was able to ply on with the extra load that we had put on. Our lunch was at a wonderful dhaba called Numaligarh Dhaba where we ended up ordering so much food that the waiter had to look around if more people were joining us. There was an elaborate thali comprising various chutneys, pitika (mash) and khar (a traditional dish) which was further paired with chitol maas (clownknife fish), another fish curry and mutton fry. Sadly, we had to gobble our food at break-neck speed, keeping one eye on our rambling toddler. And remember that dhaba which served silkworm dishes? It turned out that there is a season for that and we just missed that. Ach.
While there were several hits and misses on the original itinerary, we still managed to visit Dhekiakhuwa Namghor. I had been there as a kid and it was nice to be there that time with my own kid. We paid our respects and somehow it brought a sense of peace to our minds – as if we had been blessed supremely. Another beautiful aspect of this road trip was the presence of deep, dark tea estates on both sides of the road. Unending stretches of tea gardens, broken at times by a little brook and sometimes by a hillock, kept us glad company for the most part of the journey. Both the husband and I traded tea garden related stories of our childhood. I remembered how foxes lurking about in the gardens used to catch hold of our goats and chicken, back in our Manas home. The husband had stories to tell about the tea garden workers. Our baby was lulled to sleep owing to the constant chatter between us. That was some nice ‘Us’ time we had since the baby was born and turned our lives upside down.
Dhekiakhuwa Namghor entrance
It was late in the evening when we reached Tinsukia and the husband honked happily at the gates of the house he had grown up. I did not even realize how the journey came to an end. It seemed so short, compared to the first time I had traversed the same distance. It seemed so much more beautiful, more meaningful and more filling, if you know what I mean. I am sure there would many more journeys along the same route. And yet, this would remain the favourite one, I am sure.
(This is an entry for Indiblogger and AmbiPur’s ‘The Perfect Road Trip’.)