Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Death is not an Art

Celebrated Assamese poet, Hiren Bhattacharyya (popularly known as Hiru da) had written ‘Mrityu Eti Silpo’, meaning ‘Death is an Art’. He had written it during a time when Assam was still a peaceful state with very few incidents of violence. But time changed. Violent insurgency took over this beautiful region and violence became a way of life. At this juncture, popular Assamese singer Zubeen Garg sang ‘Mrityu Jodi Eti Silpo Hoi, Mrityu Kidore Sahaj?’, meaning ‘If Death is an Art, how could it be so commonplace?’. It was a valid question. Artistic ability is a rare gift and it is not bestowed upon all. Artistic talent is not commonplace, and as such, death cannot be said to be an Art. That song by Zubeen brought home the truth about those violent days in Assam, when death had become commonplace.

The situation is still same now. Death is everywhere; whether it is in Paris or in Beirut or in Kenya or in Assam. It has become commonplace. Death is now just a number - 129 dead in Paris, 90 dead in Kokrajhar, 100 dead in Nigeria. It has all come down to statistics. The gravity of the situation is now determined on the basis of number of deaths. Deaths - which have cut short many promising lives – some of whom might have someday become an Einstein or a Picasso or a Mozart. Though there is grief at every death but people have now, more or less, got accustomed with violence and death. Death no longer is an Art.

Also, there is a bit of criticism in the social media nowadays that people only care about deaths in places like Paris but there is no media attention to deaths in places like Beirut or Kenya. But, here we need to understand the human psychology. People usually connect events to places they know and hear about and are familiar with. As such the outpouring of emotion is more when people are killed in Paris, a place which is world famous and a tourism hotspot. People cannot connect themselves much with a place in Africa or the Middle East. Same is true here also, where deaths in Mumbai would surely invoke greater emotions nationwide than deaths in a remote district in Northeast India. But that does not mean that people ate insensitive to deaths in those places. Death of innocents always hurts a fellow human. It is just that outpouring of emotion is not shown in all occasions.

The terror groups like Islamic State are carrying out their own selfish agenda in the name of religion. They are brainwashing poor kids from under developed regions. But it is a certainty that such organizations cannot last long. Those organizations would surely get destroyed and the people leading those groups would face justice. Humanity has endured such barbarism before and can endure this too. But at the end, I am sure peace and harmony would surely prevail in this world.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Fragrance of Durga Puja

There is a Tahitian proverb which says that “When the dew-laden breeze of the uplands creeps swiftly down, it brings with it the fragrance of the gardenia." Well, in my cases, I want to rephrase it as “when the dew-laden breeze brings in the scent of Sewali, it brings in the fragrance of Durga Puja.” 

Since my childhood, my mind has associated the scent of sewali flower (Night-flowering Jasmine) with the occasion of Durga Puja. I had spent my childhood in a tea garden in Upper Assam. While we were children, me and my sister used to collect dew-soaked sewali flowers from our garden during the Durga puja. I do not even remember collecting the flowers on any other occasion. That’s why whenever I sense the smell of sewali, my mind immediately links it with Durga puja. 


Nowadays it is very rare to get the smell of sewali in the city. So, yesterday evening when I whiffed the scent of the flower, my mind automatically indicated that Durga puja is about to arrive. And along with it, the fragrance brought back numerous memories associated with Durga puja.

During our childhood, the best thing we liked about Durga puja was that we were able to stay outside even at night. We were allowed outside at least till 9 pm, which was a big deal for us at that time. We spent most of the time in the tea garden puja pandal premises with out toy guns, playing some bizarre shooting games amongst ourselves or a shooting competition with the boys from another tea garden colony. The balloons were the added attraction and I remember that we used to play volleyball with bigger balloons in the field near the puja pandal at nights. Though we were mostly a gang of boys but when the girls also joined us, we would play antakshari with them, sometimes almost in the middle of the road!

 How I wish if I could play with this again......

There was, however, one aspect of the puja that deeply disturbed me. In our tea garden puja celebrations, animal sacrifice used to take place every year. Goat, pigeon and duck were sacrificed there. It was the only puja in that area where animal sacrifice used to take place and that day witnessed the highest footfall as people from all the surrounding areas came either to witness the sacrifice or to themselves offer an animal in sacrifice.

The first time we watched the animal sacrifice was when we were may be around thirteen years old. I still vividly remember how the legs of the duck were flapping after it was sacrificed and thrown to the side. On that day, me and my friends had decided that when we would be adults and will be members of the puja committee, we would stop the practise of animal sacrifice at our puja premises. Well, I certainly didn’t get to be part of the puja committee as we left the tea garden after a few years. Now, I do not even know whether the practise is still carried on or not.

Also, durga puja was incomplete without pandal hopping with family. Two-three families of our tea garden used to go together and visit pandals in the nearby areas. I remember on one such occasion after we came back from a long pandal hopping session, I opened my shoe and found a dead frog inside my shoe, crushed to its death under my feet. I had kept the shoe outside the house in the afternoon and it must have gone inside. In the evening when we went out, I had put on the shoe without checking. I was deeply hurt seeing the frog dead. Till today, I feel sorry for that frog and blame myself for its death!!

Another special thing that happened to me during Durga puja was that I proposed the girl I loved. She was a girl from my neighbourhood. After falling in love for the first time in the age of thirteen, I proposed to her three years later during Durga puja. And I was fortunate enough that she accepted my proposal. That was one of the most memorable nights of my life. And this made Durga puja more special for me.

After we left the tea garden, I gradually lost my interest in Durga puja. I never feel that charm of Durga puja anymore. The puja celebrations at the Tea garden remain the best memories for me. Nowadays, it is just a routine celebration for me where I meet my friends and go for a stroll around the various puja pandals. And since now I stay outside my home town, it is one of the best opportunities where I get to spend some time with my family.

But, every year, around this time of the year, I think about the old times and look back towards those golden days – the days which were much simpler, pure and beautiful. Alas! I can’t get back those days.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Islamic Fundamentalism Can Never Manage a Foothold in Assam

As the Islamic State (IS) or ISIS is spreading its empire in Iraq and Syria and making inroads into several other nations, there is an increasing fear over here in India that it can influence the Muslim population in India too. Such fears are being expressed in Northeast India also, especially in the state of Assam. There are already reports of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other Islamist fundamentalist groups eyeing this region for recruiting cadres and setting up sleeper cells. While it cannot be denied that such things are not happening, this can be said with surety that Islamic fundamentalism would never be able to set a foothold in Assam.

Muslims in Assam have been living peacefully with the other communities of the state for years. They are enriching Assam’s economy, language, literature and culture. Spiritual leaders like Srimanta Sankardeva and Azan Pir have had great roles in building up harmony between the Muslims and non-Muslims in Assam. The Muslims are an integral part of the social and cultural life of the state. Such an instance of co-existence and harmony is hard to find in any other part of the country.

However, the unabated illegal migration from Bangladesh has created a situation where even the indigenous Muslim population is also now being looked with suspicion. The line is specially getting blurred in those districts which share international boundary with Bangladesh, like Dhubri and Karimganj. These districts have a sizeable Muslim population and majority of them are indigenous Muslims. But illegal migration is so rampant through these districts that now any Muslim from these districts is looked with suspicion.

There were also reports that Muslim youths from different districts, including Barpeta, Dhubri and the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD), have been joining Islamist terror outfits, particularly after the clashes between the Bodos and the Bengali-speaking Muslim settlers in BTAD. After the Burdwan blasts in October 2014, 6 persons were arrested from Barpeta district of Assam for their alleged involvement in the blast. Investigations revealed that they were part of a module operating under the patronization of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

Though this shows that Islamic fundamentalist groups have been able to influence some people from the state, but this is also true that they have not been able to have an impact on the masses. One small incident may be mentioned here. Sahanur Alom, one of the arrested JMB operatives from Assam, had tried to organize a Namaz one day ahead of the scheduled Eid Namaz in his village in 2014. But the local Muslim population had not given any indulgence to him and had, in fact, chased him away and informed the police.

The Muslims in Assam practice moderate Islam. This has been a catalyst for the inclusive nature of Assamese identity. So even if fundamentalist organizations try to spread their ideology among the Muslim population in Assam, they are going to find very few takers. The security agencies too are on their full alert and already a series of arrests have been made. Interrogations of these arrested persons have given vital information and have broken the network of such groups in this region.

However, under development and lack of access to proper education and healthcare services in various parts of the state, especially in the Muslim-dominated Char areas, pose as a factor that can be used by fundamentalists to lure the people towards their fold. Along with security measures, therefore, it is imperative that the government also take steps for developing the poorly developed interior areas of the state. A dedicated development plan along with tough security measures would surely be able to curb the menace of Islamist fundamentalism at its bud in this region.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What’s in a Name – Well, it’s in the NRC!!!!

Juliet:  "What's in a name? That which we call a rose
             By any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

Well, indeed what’s in a name? But, the recent NRC updating process in Assam surely has brought up this question. With thousands of people scampering to find the names of their ancestors in the NRC 1951 and Voter List prior to March 25, 1971, the power and beauty of names has come to the forefront.

Few weeks ago, I collected the Legacy Data of my grandfather online from the NRC Assam website (www.nrcassam.nic.in). The legacy data is part of the requirement for filling up the forms for the NRC updating process. My grandfather’s data was taken from the Voter List of 1971. At that time, he was a resident of Hoogrijan Tea Estate in Upper Assam. Just out of curiosity, I also made a search for the names of the residents living at that place during that time. While going through the list, I found out a bevy of ‘interesting’ names. I call them interesting because we don’t get to hear these names anymore. Some such names in the list were Ghasi, Dhonga, Fatu, Longa, Konde and so on. These names belonged to the Tea Tribe community. I too have grown up in a Tea Estate but these names were no longer in circulation in our times. But then I found some names in the list, the namesakes of which grew up alongside me in the tea garden. Such names were Etwa, Sukurmoni, Budhu and many more.

The list of names came to my mind again today after reading an interesting article in the Telegraph newspaper. The article, titled “Names apart, 'fast' track way to NRC - And Gerela comes home, safe & dry” (http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150716/jsp/northeast/story_31813.jsp#.VaebobVBkj4), also speaks about names found in the NRC. The article speaks about the abundance of the name ‘Gerela’ in the NRC in villages in Jorhat, Golaghat, Sivasagar, Morigaon, Nagaon and many more. It speaks about Assamese names which have slowly gone ‘out of fashion’; names like Golapi, Podumi, which are no longer being given to the children.

Another paragraph of the article talks about some more fascinating names. It states, “…..there are also the registered Jolokias (chillies), Jaluk (pepper), Bogori (the berry), Paikari (wholesale), even Pokor (the fundament of the human anatomy), Kukurekhoa (one bitten by a dog) and Kekora (the crab), one belief then, it is said, being that in the days when cholera was an epidemic, a name that could test the limits of human nomenclature could ward off the evil eye…”

Names are indeed mystical. You may hear your name being called many times a day by various people, but hearing your name from the lips of the person you love is altogether a different experience. Also, you may hear numerous names in a day but hearing the name of some ‘special’ person, your mind may drift away for some time.

Also, there are certain names which get etched in your memory. Even if you have no connection with persons with them presently, you tend to still remember them just for their names. In my case, I still remember two boys from the tea garden, who used to play Cricket with us when we were children. These two were brothers, the elder’s name was Laal (meaning red colour), while the younger’s name was Boga (meaning white colour). There were many other boys who played intermittently with us during those times, but after all these years I only remember these two boys, mainly because of the uniqueness of their names. 

This NRC updating process has indeed taken the people here into looking for names long forgotten.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

'Bagan Show’, Mithun Chakraborty and the Tingling of First Love

Spending the formative years of one’s life in a Tea Estate gives you a set of memories which is as aromatic as the smell of tea leaves. The memories are as vivid as the shades of the tea leaves during its different stages of growth. While my mind is filled with numerous such memories, here I would like to mention about one of the most anticipated events in a tea garden during my childhood and how it had an impact on me falling in love for the first time. The event I am talking about is the ‘Bagan show' – the screening of movies in the open spaces of tea gardens during the festivals, especially during Durga Puja or Kali Puja. It was an event all the residents of the tea garden eagerly waited for, especially the garden labourers. The movies were screened for two or three days, with three movies screened per day (rather night), starting from around 7 pm up to early morning. A white screen was put up and a portable platform built to accommodate the projector. Sometimes it was projected directly from inside a mobile van. The screening venue would be filled up hours before the film began. People used to bring chair, stools, etc from their homes to sit and watch the movies. There were many people who also sat on the ground and watched the films. 

Here I would like to confine myself to the events of the Bagan show during the year 1998, as it turned out to be most memorable and eventful show during my 16 years of stay at the tea garden. That year the Bagan show was being held for two days during the Kali puja. I was in Class Eight that year. Me and my friends took chairs from our respective houses in the morning and placed them at a suitable place. We tied the chairs together with rope so that no one can alter our sitting arrangements. Then we eagerly waited for the night.

The first film began around 7 pm in the night. It was Mithun Chakraborty’s film ‘Mard’. Those days Mithun was a super hero among the tea garden labourers (and even for us). His action movies were very popular. There used to be at least three movies of Mithun during such shows. We too grew up on his movies and till day I watch his films whenever it comes on the television.  The film began with whistles and thunderous applause from the tea garden audience. The movie continued. During one of the numerous action scenes in the movie, Mithun in a ghastly display of prowess ripped out one hand of one of the villains. More whistles from the crowd followed. The hullabaloo began soon after.

The films were divided into several reels and as one finishes, the next one is put on the projector. Now, after the reel containing the above mentioned action scene was over, the next reel was put on the projector. It went fine for some time. Then came a scene where it was seen that the villain, whose one hand was ripped apart by Mithun, now had both of his hands in place. The realization dawned among the audience. The film reels have been put in a wrong order. Shouts started emerging among the audience and soon all hell broke loose. The labourers were furious at what had happened. They stalled the screening. We were thinking that this will be the end of our movie experience for that year. But finally the things came under control and the film screening resumed. We watched that movie and came back to our home as we were not allowed to watch the other movies till early morning. 

The next day, we were accompanied by the mother of one of our friends. I was sitting right next to her. To my other side sat the sister of one of my friends. The first film of the night began. Again, as expected, it was a Mithun Chakraborty starrer ‘Military Raj’. The film had ‘A’ certification, but I guess no one cared really back then. But it surely put me in embarrassing situations throughout its running time. There were numerous scenes of physical closeness among the actors and whenever those scenes used to come up, my friend’s mother used to lower her face. I too did the same as I was sitting next to her. My eyes, however, made the best efforts to look at the screen surreptitiously. The whistles and catcalls followed all such scenes. It happened many times during the movie. I still remember the reaction of my friend’s mother when such a scene came up for the first time. 

And while we were busy watching these movies, something else began in the inner chambers of my brain. The flow of Oxytocin and Testosterone increased inside me and I fell in LOVE for the first time. My heart had fallen prey to the girl who sat beside me during both these days. May be Mithun da’s action and romance onscreen had made my heart flutter and fall for the cute, beautiful girl of my neighbourhood. I still vividly remember that after that year’s Bagan show I began giving more attention towards her. She became my girl friend later and though Mithun da had no role in her accepting my proposal, I still think that he had a played an important role in our courtship.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

NRC Updating in Assam: Few Thoughts, Few Questions

The latest buzzword circulating in Assam is the NRC or the National Register of Citizens. The NRC is the register containing details of all Indian citizens. The NRC will now be updated in Assam as per the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. As per the two statutes, the citizenship status would be ascertained based on the NRC, 1951, Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of 24th March, 1971 and in their absence the list of admissible documents of Pre -1971 period

The updating of the NRC has been demanded by the people of Assam due to large scale immigration of Bangladeshi nationals to the region. The illegal influx had led to a six-year long movement (1979-1985), termed the Assam Movement, in the state. The movement led to the signing of the Assam Accord, which makes NRC updating mandatory for identification and deportation of illegal migrants. In the tripartite meeting held on 5 May, 2005, between AASU, the Centre and the state government to review the implementation of Assam Accord, the government agreed to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC), 1951. 

The updating process had started from June 1, 2010, when the Registrar General, Citizens' Registration, notified two pilot projects for updating the NRC of 1951 in Chaygaon revenue circle (Kamrup district) and Barpeta Sadar revenue circle (Barpeta district). But the pilot project had to be called off after four persons protesting the modalities of updating were killed in police firing in Barpeta on July 21, 2010.

But finally the process of updating the NRC has begun in the state, with the publication of legacy data and setting up of 2400 NRC Sewa Kendras around the state. The draft NRC is expected to be published by November 2015 and the final NRC to be published on or before January 31, 2016.

The NRC updating is indeed good news for the state as it would help identify the genuine citizens of Assam. But there are a few questions which have been raised from various quarters, the answers of which are still unclear.

One is the question regarding the citizenship status of children born to illegal migrants from Bangladesh, who entered Assam after 24 March, 1971. Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, applicable to Assam, grants citizenship only to those migrants who came before March 25, 1971 but Section 3(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 grants citizenship by birth unconditionally, that is regardless of the citizenship of the parents, to those born between January 26, 1950 and July 1, 1987, and grants citizenship by birth to those born between July 1, 1987 and December 3, 2004, when only one parent is required to be a citizen. Thus, if someone came to Assam after 25 March, 1971, he or she will be an illegal migrant, but their children will become a citizen of India. Thus, effectively, the children of illegal migrants can become a citizen of India, if he/she was born before December 3, 2004. It is only after December 3, 2004, that citizenship by birth is granted if both parents are citizens or one is a citizen and other is not an illegal migrant. This is a very complicated scenario. The Supreme Court has on May 13, 2015, directed additional solicitor general Neeraj Kishan Kaul and the Assam government to explain within four weeks how it intends to deal with this situation.

Another question is about those people who lived in areas which were earlier part of Assam but later on became part of separate states. For example, in 1951, Assam comprised of parts of present day Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland. Now, many people had their name registered in those districts during preparation of the NRC 1951, which are no longer part of Assam. Also, since Meghalaya and Mizoram states were created in 1972, many people of Assamese origin had their names registered in the districts of those states in the electoral rolls of 1971. Now the problem is that the uploaded legacy data do not contain data of those districts. As the updating process requires the applicants to establish links with their fathers or forefathers whose name appear in the NRC 1951 or electoral roll of 1971, many persons would not be able to establish links of their fathers or forefathers, if they lived in areas which are now no longer part of Assam. Including the data of those districts, which were earlier part of Assam, therefore is necessary for some people to establish their legacy.

In order to have an error-free updating of the NRC, these questions need to be answered. This is a very crucial document, a document on which depend the socio-political future of the state. Maximum awareness on the process, glitch-free updating and cooperation of public and government authorities is very much needed at this stage.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Best Plans Are Those Which Are Unplanned

I was watching the TV and waiting for an IPL match to start. The anchor asked a player about their plans for the match and while he was giving vague remarks about the plan, I remembered a saying, which I myself endorse; The Best Plans are those which are Unplanned. At that very moment I remembered two occasions in my life, one in College and one in University. Once we went for Picnic and in the other occasion, we went to visit Kaziranga National Park. Both can be said to be totally unplanned trips. I realized that I have not yet documented those two interesting trips and as such immediately sat down to write down those experiences.
Picnic to Hahim, December 2004

We were in the second year of our graduation studies at that time in Cotton College. It was the month of December and the picnic season had already begun. We did not go for picnic the year before and we were eager to go this time. But we were informed by our department that no picnic will be arranged from the department side, as apparently few years ago some students were involved in “inappropriate” behaviour during a departmental picnic and the teachers are in no mood to witness another one. 

So, one day while we were sitting in the class, we decided that we will arrange a picnic ourselves. One of our friends told she will arrange vehicle, one said he will arrange for cooking gas and suddenly we were all geared up for Picnic. We decided we will go after two days. Now the question was to decide a place. Two places were suggested and since we could not decide on one, we wrote the names on a piece of paper and picked one. The name that came out was Hahim, a quiet spot along Assam-Meghalaya border. We then decided that we will collect money and do the necessary marketing the next day. But at that time, we had no idea what circumstances were waiting for us the next day.

Even before the first class began the next day, the purse of one our friends were stolen from our class. She had kept her bag in the class and had gone outside. There was no one in the class at that time. When she came back, she found her purse and mobile missing. One of her friends said she saw a boy wearing a black jacket leaving the class. We immediately started our search for the boy with a black jacket. The search proved futile. We also called the mobile. The “thief” picked the mobile for the first time and then switched it off. We then went to the local Reliance office asking them for the call data record, just to see if the “thief” has called someone from the mobile. We were told that we would need to file a FIR with the police first. So, the next destination was the Panbazar police station. We filed the FIR, while listening to the lengthy “words of advice” of the office-in-charge of the police station on how to keep your purse safe and how such things are now happening in a prestigious institution like Cotton College. It was already late afternoon by then.

We then went back to our department, where our other friends were supposed to be involved in planning of the next day’s picnic. When we reached there we saw everyone was sitting with gloomy faces. As it happened, one of our classmates was the daughter of our Head of Department. As such, she asked her father for permission to go to the picnic. Her father refused to give her permission and then came to our class and asked us to call off the picnic. So, the picnic was on the verge of  collapse. We were unable to plan anything as our HoD’s daughter was also sitting with us that time. After some time, she left for her home. We immediately sprang into action. We decided to continue with the plan (however, sadly we had to leave out the HoD’s daughter). We collected the money and delegated the various jobs amongst ourselves. 

Now another issue cropped up.  Our friend, who had lost her purse, was afraid to go to her home fearing that she will be scolded by her parents. She also said that she will not be even allowed to go to the picnic now. So, we decided that we will all go to her home. We went to her home and told her parents that she had no fault in losing the items and she should be allowed to go to picnic. But looking at her father’s mood, we understood that there was not even a slim chance of making it to the picnic. Finally, we came from her home. It was already late evening. We then went to the tent house for renting utensils and simultaneously, others went for marketing. 

We went for Picnic the next day and thankfully, except for a few minor hiccups, nothing went wrong the next day. We had a wonderful day and that picnic is still the best memory of my college days.

Visit to Kaziranga National Park, April 2009

We were studying in the fourth semester of our MBA studies at Tezpur University. Six of us decided to go to visit Kaziranga. We picked up a Sunday and left the University by the first bus at 6 am. We were planning that we will have breakfast in Tezpur town and then leave for Kaziranga and reach there by 8.30 am. We were in for a surprise. 

We reached the town, had some tea and got up in a bus. But once the bus started, we were told that we have to sit in the Cabin as Kaziranga was short distance trip. We got down from the bus after travelling for around 2 km. We were still in Tezpur town. After waiting for another half hour, we got a bus. The bus then stopped at Mission Chariali, which falls on the way while leaving Tezpur town, and the bus conductor told us that the bus will wait for about 45 minutes. Well, since we were already late we decided to have some breakfast there itself. 

It was about 7.30 in the morning. The hotels were just opening. We went inside one and ordered for Puri-Sabzi. Suddenly we say the cook dragging the gas cylinder from inside and fitting it with the stove and also cleaning the dust from the stove with his hand. And without washing his hands, he had started grinding the dough to prepare puri for us. We immediately left the hotel. Then we decided to go to Hotel KF, which had a well-maintained and costly (for us at that time) restaurant. We asked for Breakfast and we were told that Breakfast was buffet but when he told the price per plate, we silently left the place. We then decided that we will have breakfast once we reach Kaziranga. So, we went and sat on the bus. The journey started after some time. We reached the Kaziranga National Park entrance by about 10.30 am. We were all hungry and immediately entered a restaurant and had our long-awaited breakfast.

Then we went for booking a Jeep safari. Another setback waited for us there. We were told that morning safari ended at 10 am and the next safari was at 2 pm. We had not even thought about the park timings (as I said, totally unplanned trip). We asked if they can arrange a special trip for us citing that we had to return to University by afternoon as we had time restrictions (such a lame excuse that was!). The person asked us to go the Park office. We went there and asked the officials there. They said no. Then we asked to meet the Director. They said he was not there. We took the Director’s number and called him. But, he said he was in a meeting and did not listen to our pleas. We were losing out options. One of our friends then made call to another friend, who had a friend, whose father worked in the Forest department (phew!). That did not work out as well.

Now we had around three hours to kill. We walked around the tea estate in the area. We discovered a nice area with a stream flowing by. We spent a wonderful time there. Then after having lunch, we finally went for Jeep safari at 2 pm. We had a splendid time inside the park, memories of which are still inscribed in my mind.

Those were, indeed, the best days of my life.