Thursday, June 08, 2006



I had recently been to parts of W.Bengal and Sikkim for a two-week, backpacking, on-the-feet kind of vacation. It’s been a week since my return but the images don’t seem to fade. Some few days into my trip and I was certain I would be writing about it on return. However what I wasn’t certain of was the extent to which I’d need to write about it. To address all the places in a single shot would be to akin to fitting a once in a lifetime sale ad in a ten word space or trying to be content with a plateful in a buffet layout of a hundred dishes. Hence here is a glimpse into one part of the tour: The Doars Forests W.Bengal or one could say 'Doars to a brighter world'.

The base destinations for almost all the places covered is Siliguri and the nearest airport Bagdogra, with reasonably fared flights between Calcutta and Bagdogra. (Bagdogra-Siliguri=13 kms)

Siliguri to Jaldapara- the first destination- is a run of around 3-4 hours by road. Arriving at the Jaldapara Forest Lodge at night (as the more scenically located Hollong lodge wasn’t available for accommodation) was like a journey from the world of dark illusions into a jungle of illuminated realities. Since this lodge, as other forest lodges in this area, is an undertaking of the government, needless to say it isn’t kept very well. Settling to the new room, if taken in the right spirit, was like watching a discovery channel take on “our insect world”. Yes, they were there..in-sects and cults. I mean, what the heck, the government takes trouble to educate us regarding the miniscule (and the not so lesser) denizens of the forest, giving us “the complete jungle experience” as a package and we mock and scorn! How unfair. In any case these tiny sweethearts of the class insecta were gnawing at my peace before they could get a go at my clothes, which made me get up at 3 a.m. mid-sleep to shift my bags from near wood- paneled walls of the room to its centre, giving the bags the position of attention and esteem. No... I wasn’t worried about my clothes just about me in them on the days that were to follow. And my concerns weren’t entirely baseless either for on my heavy-lidded, droopy-eyed, 3.a.m. scrutiny of between wood panels, what seemed to transpire among our crawly friends, was something on the lines of my kindergarten game of “Fire In The Mountain….Run Run Run”.

Anyways, they got me crawling away from the subject, insects that they are! So this was the night impression by en large laced with the not-so-well- cooked- but-well-received- by-hungry-stomachs Bengali meal.

As they say, no gains without pains, or there is light at the end of the tunnel or whatever it is that they say, the morning arrived with a relief that not only swept over the discomforts of the night but overcompensated them to such an extent that I was ready to make friends with those bug-gers on the following night.

It was a beautiful dawn, of a colour that would put jealousy to shame. The morning started with an early morning elephant back safari, and amid much squeals of delight, to which I’m certain the elephant objected, did everyone manage to get seated; and the elephant with a damn-these-squealing-idiots gesture of the head got on his way. The ride was spectacular, once we got used to his (elephant’s) dish-tik tush--dish-tik-tush (with an emphasis on dish) and our respective head-waist-butt--head-waist-butt (with an emphasis on head) rhythm of movement. See what we were ‘dish’ed out. Utterly butt-erly delicious.

As a background score soft-Bengali banter did the honors ( as we were accompanied by some others on the back of this irritable animal), of which we could not make out much except few highish decibel screeches like “ peacock” or “deer”. Then we saw something that made us squeal too: a rhino. And so becoming a party to the bonhomie and verbalizations we too contributed our two bits by saying “ hey! rhino”. Well I still can’t fathom what’s the idea of doing a “Hey! Rhino” on encountering one, when neither we nor the rhino is in doubt of its existence. Well never mind this is one of those existential queries that never get sorted out.

This rhinos butt and tail were hurt and as such matters interest me most (and I don’t mean anal-matters, but animal health matters.. well it does 'matter' now, doesn’t it?), I enquired about the animal’s health, on which I learnt that the wound was a byproduct of two of these guys playing fighter-fighter. I also got a between the lines tip from the mahout that in case one desired to mess with rhinos, the ones with a hurt behind wouldn’t be the best choice. Something about their aching derrieres makes them prone to charging with their head. What shit-head logic!

Anyways after much acknowledgements of the rhino’s presence and reminding him gaily and loudly of ours, the party proceeded to a clearing where the suns rays seemed to filter through the clouds, giving a grayish-yellow tinge to the tall-grass blades and emitting an ‘oh-my-god-how-lovely’ from me, which again I admit was unnecessary. But its one of those things one says for one has to say something.

We concluded our safari and alighted from our elo-fellow’s back who seemed to appear a shade more benign now that we were off him. He even allowed people to touch his trunk after which I got a feeling he didn’t want them to test his tolerance any longer.

We exited the forest and ate a lunch similar to last night's dinner, which now didn’t seem as bad. I had probably risen above food and acquired an appetite for better things. We moved on to another destination, another story.........

See more of my photos of Jaldapara here

8 comments:

Zombie said...

lovethe pictures. and the descriptive account :)

The Illusionist said...

cheeku...:) or shall i call u zombie here:D

Zombie said...

what's in a name :P
call me cleopatra ;-)

Xeb said...

Wow! You must have had a great time!

The Illusionist said...

Yeah xeb had a great time. It was more about spirit rejuvenation. Theres more from that trip to be blogged about. Just not been having enough time to gather my thoughts:)

kumail said...

its a sunnier you...less morbid, more guarded...but the joi de vivre comes thru.....Hum bhi aye Iqbal hain garm-e-safar kis shaan se,...,ek kaanta paanv mein hai,ek kaanta dil mein hai.

The Illusionist said...

yeah kumail.. dint want sunny me to overtake the morbifd me fer the sake of being guarded:) and so accepting both. will add Intense link here too:)

Mahender said...

Hello Sadia,
Namaskar,
How are you? Last year I had posted comments on a poem of Josh posted by you and had hoped that you would reply in my email pooniams@gmail.com. Though you replied but only on blog, thanks for that. I still firmly believe that we may be very good friends becuse almost all of our interests ( about which I know) match.
Happy to hear about your tour of Duars. Your description is vivid and charming. I was there for more than 3 years and enjoyed so much that I can not explain. I used to spend atleast two nights in a month in forest guest houses.Once in Chapramari there were 54 elephants whole the night within 20 metres of my room . Though, I am not agood photographer yet I have many photogrphs of the area. Jaldapara and Gorumara are the only areas about which outsiders know but there are much more beautiful places in the area. Have you been to Chaparamari,Baxa,Jayanti,Neora, Rocky island and Samsing?
By the way in June I was also there in West Bengal, in Kolkata Siliguri and Chapramari. I shall again be in Duars from 23 to 30 October.
Hope that you will reply in my email and we can further grow our friendship.
I shall be leaving Mumbai in May 2010.
Thanks,
Yours,
MAHENDER