Saturday, March 8, 2008

India Moves in Slow Motion...Journey to Darbhanga by Railways

True that Mark Tully has described Gangetic Plains and its stories as “Heart of India”. And perhaps I would have missed the beats, had I not visited Darbhanga which according my boss is “Texas of India”. Reason being that in these parts of India, guns speak before mouth…true “Cow Boy ishhhhhhtyle”. Mark Tully is obsessed with the stories of these regions and is quite obvious from his three books “No Full Stops in India”, “Heart of India” and “India in Slow Motion”.

Our journey began with South Bihar Express from Rourkela to Tata Nagar passing through one of the largest forest patches of India called Saranda Forests. And, what a way to begin the journey—listening commentary of India’s win over Australia in the CB Series on cell phone. Our first stop was Chakradharpur, Divisional Railway Head quarters. As an avid Indian Railways fan, one gets overwhelmed to see shades of British Architecture in the main station building. Being the Divisional Headquarters, Chakradharpur proudly houses various Training Schools of railway Employees and all of them built under the sheds of huge old Banyan Trees. All these are the gifts that “Raj” has given to us in their stay in India. Chances are that in near future, the Headquarters may move to Tata since CKP (Chakradharpur) falls under the hardcore red corridor of Naxals. As a child one used to get excited when Utkal Express used to reach CKP on the way from Jajpur Kendujhar Road to Rourkela. Being the privileged grand child of one the Member of Parliaments, I used to travel free in Railways with my grand father. But I would fight with my grandfather to travel in First Class rather than in AC compartments as it gave me a chance to clearly see the green forests and hills of Saranda and not to forget the tiny Mofusill stations of Posita,Goilkera,Lotapahar,Jaraikela,Bisra,Bhalulata,Bondamunda,Manoharpur and the one off tunnel. Sitting in the cozy First Class Coupe of the Train with breakfast of Omlette Toast, fried finger chips, Coffee with morning Sun rays piercing through the window, one used to get a Royal feeling with a little kingdom of First Class Coupe. I am sad that Utkal Express does not have that type of carriage these days. Sometimes I used to feel that one day I will follow the foot steps of Bill Aitken ,the travelogue writer.

Deserted Posoita Railway Station

The Station Hut

Chakradharpur Station....look at the architecture

Main Platform at CKP

Coming back to present, we reached Tata around 7:30 in the evening and after having dinner left for Samastipur by Tata Chapra Express. Early morning we reached Barauni and had breakfast. One can literally smell the cool breeze blowing from Gangetic Plains and there is all together different aroma of air of UP and Bihar mixed in the breeze. As train left for Samastipur, suddenly the Express became “Sawari Gadi(Passenger Train)”.Train halted at a small station Teghra.

Scene around Teghra reminded me of Ramgarh Station in Sholay where there was market monopoly by Basanti’s Tanga. There was a small chai shop, Ram Saran’s Tanga and Avtar’s rickshaw. Gossip in the Chai shop was about local politics and corruption. On the Teghra station, I got the first glimpse of poverty of Bihar with kids suffering from malnutrition running here and there. There was filth all around and a sole hand pump on the platform was the thriving place for mosquitoes. Train started after half an hour’s halt. We reached Samastipur and the scene there was no different. I was told that Samastipur was bastion of some of political barons of Bihar . Then started the experience of life time. For reaching Darbhanga situated around 60 kms from Samastipur, it took us 4 and half hours. I have never seen a worst road than that. Even NH 215 from Rourkela to Kendujhar will loose out in this battle.

Discussion ...

Dhanno of Teghra....But where is Basanti ?

Landed up at the Ganga Residency Hotel situated inside the premises of Fortress of Darbhanga. I bet that had this place been in any other state, Darbhanga would have been sure shot hit amongst tourists. It’s a shame that such a big fortress of Maharaja of Darbhanga is in ruined state. To add to the woes, I saw a Cinema Hall inside the premises with a B Grade movie being screened. Horrible.

Fortress of Darbhanga..standing tall

World of Advertisements....

Inside the Fortress....last days

The Tower Chowk....back to 1940s

Tangas...Integral part of Darbhanga

Struggling to keep pace with time.....

Sweetness in the potholes....

Banwari's Chai Tapri outside Darbhanga's Railway Station...

After seeing the town, one gets a feeling that really India is moving in slow motion despite the soaring stock prices. Every where you see is poverty and the fortress standing in the center as a silent witness to all this. Next morning went on to see the markets of Darbhanga and especially the crowded one, near “Tower Chowk”. Market was over crowded with Tangas, Rickshaws, Bullock carts meandering every where. I felt as if I have gone back ages. Life is so different and as if cut off from the rest of the world. But had a smile on my face when I saw the following graffiti on a wall…………….


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