Wednesday, August 04, 2004

A Wet Experience


Time was ticking without interruption and people inside the bus started getting tensed about it. It was already dark and we were not even half way through our journey. At this pace it would take the whole night before we drive into Nagaon. The passengers were very unfriendly to the driver and kept screaming at him for bringing them down to this plight. They wanted him to overtake the trucks (because they are supposed to be the ones who is responsible for this huge jam) and move ahead as much as possible. It was beyond my understanding to comprehend how the driver could have driven past all those huge trucks in the midst of such a mess. Neither can one dare to block the incoming traffic from the other side nor is it safe to do so. Truck drivers are very rough with the wheel and its always better to keep distance from them.

The passengers also came with a variety. There was me and my Moha, a small scale business person, a Bengali lady with her two sons and her brother-in-law, a tribal guy with his sister, an Assamese guy from the Army, and a few others who rather stayed silent. The business man travels all around the north-east (Imphal, Agartala, Dimapur...) and delivers his small scale products, mostly decorative items, by himself. He had been to his uncle's place at Nalbari district, another flood affected district. He bought some raw materials in Guwahati and had plans of going to Dimapur after a quick visit to his parents in Nagaon. The Bengali lady was one show piece! She was one of those mothers who wants to be kept notified what her son is doing. Her younger son liked moving around, talk to people enquiring about the situation and once in a while disappeared into the crowd. She would keep calling him in an irritating and deplorable tone until he appears in front of her and rebuke her for creating a scene. She used to ignore it and it repeated everytime he went out of the bus. They were on their way to Tezpur district and the lady was excessively concerned about getting a connecting bus from Nagaon at that hour of the night. The tribal siblings were concerned as well. They were expecting to reach Nagaon by early evening and then take a bus to Difu (takes around 12 hours from Nagaon). All in all, everybody's travel plans were shattered and that frustrated even the coldest of the guys.

The traffic was halted by the Army, a few kilometres inside the Morigaon district border. It was around eight O' clock. Supposedly there's a check post at the district border. The Morigaon district Industrial Development Board guest house was just across the road. One of the employees of the IDB had taken shelter in the guest house after his own house was rampaged by flood waters. There was a nice cemented lawn in front of the house and all of us went there to catch some fresh air. The employee's family offered us chairs and drinking water, and told us more about the flood affected people. After about an hour, a local guy came in, bringing news about verbal confrontations between local police officials, and that it was the main reason why the traffic was not moving ahead. That rang the bells and all of us decided to take a look into the matter. Other passengers from other buses joined us too. The place of confrontation was about a kilometre ahead.

Dinner time was in and no one of us had lunch. We all were hungry. I noticed a few "dhabas" on our way and perhaps everyone of us made it a point to have some food there on the way back. When we reached the place, there was no one but an Additional Sub-Inspector having a cup of tea. We enquired what was going on and he willingly elaborated the whole matter.

This place we were in marks the border of the Morigan-Nagaon districts. A day back, two loaded trucks were allowed passage late at night into Morigaon by the Nagoan Police. However, fearing possible outbreaks of violence at the relief camps, the Morigaon OC didn't allow the trucks to move ahead and returned them. Nagaon Police authorities took the matter to their ego and have since then been creating problems with the traffic coming from the other side. The two OC's from both the districts have been verbally assaulting each other for more than an hour now and have not been able to reach any conclusion. Thereby, the Morigaon OC decided to call the SP, asking for help. While the phone calls took place, many of the passengers grabbed whatever they could find at the nearby dhabas; I grabbed a fag. Our Bengali aunty called up her husband as well. Our OC was having a tough time connecting to the SP, and, for a moment, all of us thought that we would have to spend the night there inside the bus. Dejected, all us returned back to the guest house and resumed our gossips. We got to know that moving through relief camp areas in heavy vehicles, specially at night, is not liked by the flood victims. There are kids, cattle and property they fear of getting injured or destroyed. Many a times they resort to violence to stop it altogether. No one was bothered to hear that except for one - the lady!!

Another hour passed by. We saw the OC coming our way, and grabbed the chance to enquire if the matter was resolved. The OC was furious at the behavior of the other OC. He also said that he finally got in touch with the SP and have notified him of the situation. That was some good news after a long time. It soon followed with another when we saw the trucks far ahead turning their lights on and moving ahead. All of us quickly boarded our bus and prayed for no more of these jams. We badly wanted to be home now. A few kilometers ahead, we came across the last of the relief camps on our way. The local guys did shout at the vehicles, but fortunately, nothing happened. Soon, we were on free roads once again and the driver didn't wait a single second but accelerated us straight to Nagaon. Finally, at around half past eleven we were at the Nagaon bus stand.

There was no bus available to transport us further. The only option we had was to stay there at the station till morning. We found a place to sit, a place to have tea and a place to buy mosquito repellent coils. That was everything we needed for the night. The rest of the passengers talked the night out; I just strolled around, occasionally taking a fag, carefully hiding out of sight of the others. Buses from Guwahati kept pouring in the whole night.

The sun was out by half past four and we didn't wait any longer. We walked down to the place where local buses start their day and waited for the first of the ones to arrive. By 5 O' clock, we were once again on a bus. My eyes refused to stay open and I dozed off for more than an hour until Moha woke me up saying that we were home. I checked my watch and it was just about seven. Thus, we completed a four hour journey in 18 hours, and I was supposed to return back in a day!!


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