The train was late again. I half expected it to be on time. Well, I cannot blame the railway authorities…it was August and most importantly it was monsoon. Great! Kaziranga National Park goes off my bucket list.
I was in the waiting room of New Jalpaiguri (NJP) railway station waiting for my saviour, Mr. Rajdhani Express to come and sweep me off my feet to my paradise. After two long hours, the red giant arrived and after many compromises with pleading aunties and families, I finally nestle on my favorite upper berth. My peace and tranquility was repeatedly destroyed by the waiters with their serves. Delays, delays and more delays..!!
I was tired now and claustrophobic. The giant finally dropped me off at the Mariani Junction near Jorhat, Assam after a 14 hours train ride. Mariani Junction is only a few kilometers away from my grand hotel and the tea estate. A friendly greet from the hotel driver who came to receive me, waited for me for almost 4 hours which made me realize how patient and polite Assamese people are. I finally reached my hotel and I immediately fell in love with this place. It was the most beautiful place I have ever laid my eyes upon!
Burra Saheb bungalow is the epitome of grandeur. Honestly, I never expected Jorhat as a place to be this sophisticated yet is tranquil. There it stood with its British panache with Assamese twist. Decorated with Jaapis (a traditional conical hat from Assam) and Xorai (a traditional symbol of Assam), welcomed me with a homely feel. The room was even better, with dim bulbs and I could see the Sun rising for its noon matinee.
I was kind of disappointed as I did not get to see any tea gardens on the way but my driver told me that he brought me through another driveway. This time headed out on a venture. Shower and the cereal gave me my required refreshment to start. The hotel driver took me to many places, Gar Ali Road, Dass and Co., etc. The weather was good and the atmosphere was even better. Finally, I reached a place which took my breath away. A Golf Course and the fact that it was India’s oldest. I was fortunate enough to meet retired Army officer who told me a lot about Jorhat and the British influence over it. He was a jolly, old man with snow white hair and a majestic handle-bar mustache.
“Say young lady, do you know how the name of Digboi originated?” I said, I don’t. “Well, Digboi is the centre of oil reserves and apparently the British found that. Now they need young and sturdy men to dig and so, Dig, Boy Dig.” We had a good laugh. I parted ways to settle back to my hotel.
Next day I got up early and headed to Tocklai Tea Estate which was 6-7 minutes drive from my stay. It was ethereal. Very different from Darjeeling tea estates that I have visited. Ladies quietly plucking the leaves and giggling when I took their photos.
Nestled between the ginormous tea estate lay a white bungalow, again a remnant of the British Raj. The people were really co-operative and gave me an insight about how the whole ordeal works. My next stop was Cinnamara Tea Estate, which was the head office of the Jorhat branch.
Only a few kilometers away I saw the residential quarters of the Ministry of Textiles – Central Silk Board and I thought to myself how rich as a state of Assam is. TEA and SILK which made China what it is now, is the pride of Assam and yet this state is only portrayed as a militancy and flood stricken area with no thing to offer.
It’s high time our nation recognizes Assam and the whole North-East India as a prime and influential area because Assam and the other NE states are much much more than a paradise…..