Let me take you through my journey from Dahanu (Maharashtra) where i work with Tamarind Tree as an India Fellow; to Chawngte (Mizoram) which is my hometown. As you can see in the map below, I have moved from extreme west to extreme east of the country. Google map shows about 3,629 kms, but it took me 4100 kms, to reach home.
While I was studying in Shillong, going home didn’t feel far because it was only 30 hours of journey which covers around 900 kms. Of course, I had to break the journey, I usually stayed in Aizawl for a night and picked my bag next day to my home for a journey of another 350 kms which is mandatory, because if you don’t take rest, next day you are going to reach Chawngte with all your flesh and bones minced.
Ever since I moved to Delhi, my travel to home have lessen, mostly because of the long distance. My first flight experience was back in 2008 when I went to Kolkata from Aizawl. I wondered back then if I were able to cover 2000 kms in less than 3 hours, why didn’t I have the same option from Aizawl to my home? Road journeys may sound very romantic or even thrilling for many; but this journey is not one of them. Oh well, if your muscles have been stiff for quite some time, then you must definitely take the exercise from Aizawl to Chawngte on the one and only bumpy road of the country. I bet, you have never traveled in such a road before. Then come back and share with me about your adventurous road trip!
I have since 2008, taken the flight directly to Aizawl from wherever I am. But this time, I chose to cover through all the main states to reach home. Hoping to enjoy the journey as much as i was eager to reach the destination. I was aware that it was going to take a long time, and given the limited 18 days break which is otherwise a sufficient break for many who have good connectivity, I still took the risk to go by road. I can conclude now, to reach my home has become more expensive than traveling international. Hence, most time I prefer to stay where I am or travel around than go home. In 18 days, I have not simply traveled through distance, I have traveled in different seasons; hills, plains and valleys; and adapted my conversations to suit the social groups i bumped against all through the course. The route that I followed was:
The beach near my fellowship host organization in Dahanu
My journey began from Dahanu on 4th Nov ’18, where the temperature was still 38°. To its west is the coast of the Arabian Sea and to its east is the Sahyadri mountain range.
While you can’t imagine sleeping without the fan switched on, in Delhi you will shiver around this time. I was kind of missing this chill in Dahanu. I was totally consumed by Delhi’s lifestyle once again as i returned to my city of alma mater. I felt pretty with the make up on my face and even pampering myself with the winter outfit felt so thrilling after months of wearing only kurtas, pajamas and Hawai chappal. 3 days later, I packed my winter cloths and flew to Guwahati to spend a couple of days enroute home.
Sidewalk at Guwahati
The colorful bright light in the city jolted me that it was Diwali, 8th Nov ’18 by now. In the midst of the buildings, you will see these most simplest architecture and yet so warm to look at. Every such houses had an open courtyard, wooden lining, tin roof and french windows. It is believed that this architecture have got it’s influence from the British colonials. While in Guwahati i realized how early sun sets in the northeastern part of India. The sunset at around 4pm on my way from Dawki was so bright that we did’nt feel the need to unwear our sunglasses.
Dawki river dividing India and Bangladesh
Dawki is a river in Meghalaya that divides Bangladesh and India. Such a short distance that you can even sweetly pass a smile or chat with the people on the other bank and yet intense curiosity in the eyes on both sides. It was definitely a good idea to have brought a pair of canvas and thick winter cloths as I was going to spend 2 days here. The temperature would fall down to less than 10 degrees in the evening.
From there, I took an overnight Sumo journey to Aizawl. By this time, I started to feel nervous because I can’t be a stranger to my fellow passengers. A mask on my face, made them even more curious of who I am. The driver and one of the passenger next to him started asking me if I am travelling to Aizawl for the first time. Replying in Mizo, I said ‘Mizo Thawng Thlem Ka Thiam’ (I understand very little Mizo). The following conversation led to a far family lineage, upcoming election scene and getting a long lecture on Chakma identity to marrying within the same community. I held back my opinion to stop getting into redundant debate.
It was a Sunday, and the 11th of Nov ’18 now. This time, I didn’t get the chance to gaze at the local beautiful Mizo women wearing their traditional pawn (lower wrap around cloth) walking to their church. Like a tourist in my own state, I was overwhelmed with the city, especially in the evening, where the clouds turn into fluorescent orange. By now i wanted to reach home soon, because it is the 8th day and I have exactly a week left for the end of the trip. The only public transport to my home i.e a jeep were not working those days because all of them were hired for the election campaign (the outcome of which and the subsequent change of ruling party you know by now!)
The helipad at Aizawl
It was one of the worst plan to come home around this time. Should I return to Dahanu? By then, there was only one option left which was the chopper service from Aizawl to my village. But it takes only 2 trips in a week – Tuesday and Friday. And provided it found enough rides. Should I be waiting for another 2 days then, which then leaves me with only 5 days for the trip to end. I had to make an inevitable decision. I was frustrated at myself. But I would get the chance to at least hug my parents if i spend the 3000 rs on the uncertain ride. How will I make it back within 5 days then? I would have to take direct flight then from Aizwal to Mumbai? That’s going to cost me a bomb …
It’s been 2 years since i was home, and my parents were equally keen to see me. I had already traveled for more than 3700 kms to meet them. I decide to go. I spend good 3 days with them. Although, there is no improvement in the road and the distance is still there but I no longer have to grumble about the painful road journey. I fly past all that. Reaching home in 30 minutes through the chopper ride from Aizawl reminded me once again of my first flight experience. It felt magical to have crossed the countless chain of green hills, passing by villages on the peak and the endless Tuichawng river. Money gives you wings they say …
Reaching home to Chawngte from Aizawl, view from the chopper
Well, the plan was not all that bad after all! All the places I wanted to visit in these 18 days have been check-listed. Although i could have done with some more time with my folks in Chawngte. If you wish to visit this part of the country, you will have to have a lot of time, money and plan by you. I wonder how long before this situation will improve …