Thoughts & Ideas

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Kursela Days 11 – A Trip to Siliguri

One Saturday afternoon in Kursela after the branch had closed,  I was at a loose end as to what to do till Monday morning and, as usual, was sitting at a tea shop with some friends and chatting about the weather and the crops and the local politics and scandals. It was about 3.30 – 4 pm when my truck driver friend (who we have met in On Financial Inclusion) walked in to have some tea and participate in the discussions. We were busy with the usual small talk when I casually asked him where he planned to go on his next trip. He informed me with a big smile that he had got an assignment to take a load of frozen fish to Siliguri and he planned to leave late that evening. Having nothing better to do I asked him if he could take me along with him, to which he more than enthusiastically agreed. So I went home, rested a little and, by 10 pm, returned with a small bag containing my toiletries, ready to go to Siliguri.

Siliguri happened to be the biggest and brightest urban centre in that region and a place I had long desired to visit. The idea was to see the place, do some shopping, and have at least one good meal at a decent restaurant.  

We left Kursela by about 11 pm and traveled the 220 odd kms to Siliguri overnight arriving there next morning by 5 am. Imagine traveling for 6 hours in a ramshackle truck smelling strongly of fish, over some of the worst roads imaginable, cramped up in the driver’s cabin along with the driver, cleaner, and a helper. One of the learning experiences of the trip was that at a number of places on the route, guys in khaki flagged down the vehicles and their palms had to be greased before one could proceed. At one particular the policeman was drunk and his expectations were rather high. I wanted to get down and argue with him, but my friend restrained me with the words, “Hajoor, I have to deal with them daily. You will not be there with me all this time. Let me deal with him myself”. Time was of essence since the fish would have started rotting if it did not reach Siliguri by next morning and one could not afford to stop and reason out with anyone.

We reached Siliguri early next morning with my spirits soaring with the panorama of the tea plantations as we approached the place. I was dropped near the bus stand, while my friend went to drop his load of fish, with instructions to meet at a particular spot by 3 pm. I found a small hotel (Sevoke Hotel on Sevoke Road) where I rented a room with a toilet for Rs.25 a day. I had my bath, rested a little and then went wandering all over Siliguri market. Apart from having a very satisfying breakfast and lunch, I purchased a few cassettes (Beatles – I still have and treasure them) from a place called Burma Bazaar and then generally loitered around the market place before returning by 3 pm to be picked up. My friend also returned by that time but since the truck was smelling very strongly of fish, we drove down to a small rivulet just outside Siliguri, where the truck was washed thoroughly. Then my friend got lucky and got an assignment to carry a load of stone chips used used in making roads, back to Purnea. We went and got the truck loaded with stone chips and then left for Purnea, arriving there a little after midnight on Sunday night. Oh what a glorious adventurous weekend it had been!


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