“Its not the Destination, but Journey that matters the most “
– Unknown Source, Nat Geo maybe
“I wander and so, I wonder “
Driving has always been a passion. A rather unexplored one. I have had trips planned in my head, several times, to several unexplored, not-so-far places, with incessant research on google-maps, but shelved at the end owing to lack of time & initiative.
The rider inside of me was growing restless with each passing day.
Riding is a way for me to connect with the nature, to feel the wind on my face, and to feel the roar of my Tbird between my legs. The vibrations from the machine below, transferring to my body & soul. It’s like meditation. Galloping through the scenery and chugging miles as i go, gives me a certain high.
And with a failed digha attempt last year, i decided to once again saddle up and visit the seas at digha/ Mandarmani.
My current location is burnpur near Asansol, a small town in the western part of West Bengal. It is very close (Some 20-30 odd Kms) to the jharkhand border and about 10km from NH2. Me, along with a few friends, sat down one night, over a couple of beers and awful food, planned this impending journey.
Although much wasn’t planned. All that was planned was that we leave at the break of dawn to mandarmani (New Digha, as referred to by many), the next morning (a Sunday). There would be three bikes; my Thunderbird 350 , sachin’s standard 350, and shekhar’s good-ol- dependable HH Hunk. Both my friends would be riding solo, i would be riding with abhishek as pillion, with occasional switching. We would leave from burnpur, get on NH2 via Asansol, drive on till Kolkata, take the kharagpur highway and finally reach mandarmani – via- kolaghat. A 370 Kms of journey according to Google Maps.
It was decided that we bring along lots of undergarments, slippers, shorts and tees. The criticality of the items on the list was debated furiously by a friend (Name withheld ). Soon routes were decided, checklists were finalised, drinks were downed and we back to our respective places by 12am, with promises to start no later by 5 am.
Next morning, i get a frantic call at around 6:30 am, “Abbe @#$%^&^%&, chalna nahi hai kya ? “. I wake up from my deep slumber, with excruciating pain in my head, parched throat and limb movements slow by even zombie standards. I hurriedly do my business, get ready and we all saddle up and start by 8:15 am. The weather was clear, it had been raining daily for a few hours for the past few days. There was a cool breeze and sun wasn’t expected to be up in its full glory.
Trip odometers were set/reset.
And we began rolling and pretty soon we were on NH2. It must have been around 9am that hunger pangs started. We took a brief stop over at a dhaba near Raniganj turn. Had a decent breakfast of alu-paranthe and dahi, and were back on the road soon.
The journey was fun, and since we were full of energy, it didn’t take us much time to cross Durgapur and Panagargh. Panagarh, fortunately wasn’t crowded and we sailed smoothly through it. The sun grew stronger as we closed in towards bardhaman. We had to take frequent stops for hydrating. The road from bardhaman to kolkata is ethereal. It was a delight to ride on that tarmac, with minimal traffic and cloudy weather. Encountered a bit of drizzling too but it ceased soon. The joy is suddenly interrupted by a lathi-wielding thulla, who angrily brandishing his lathi, signalled us to stop. Asks rather rudely, “Racing kar rhe ho ?”. Surprisingly he lets us go the very next moment, when a friend tells him that we’re not racing, but simply heading to kolkata !!
We ride on, thinking for a couple of kms as to what his ulterior motives were ? “chahta kya tha b*&&(*&$# ?? “ Soon we cross kolkata, on to Kharagpur highway now. We had to have lunch at ‘Sher-e-punjab’, which was highly recommended by a many, but thanks to a stupid passerby, who gave us wrong directions, we missed the restaurant and only realized it miles later.
I hate it when a passersby give wrong directions. Ashamed of their ignorance of correct directions/ or that famous restaurant in our case, they tend to blindly, and emphatically dictate directions.
When in Doubt, ask again. Ask someone else if you feel that the shmuck you just asked for directions was an inebriated nincompoop. I believe that even now, in the age of GPS and other bond gadgetry, the ultimate GPS is still the roadside paan wallah. Such is the level of accuracy & dependability, that i think they should be hired to proofread the local Google maps data.
You stop by a tapri/ khokha (as referred to in mumbai), light up a smoke, order a sweet paan, strike up a light conversation about how good or bad the weather is, and that’s it. Camaraderie set. The paan wallah will now easily divulge even the most complex info about the routes to take, routes to avoid, probable shortcuts & other awesome places to see in between. Screw you, GMaps !! I got my own local wiki/GPS/navigator/tour-guide.
So, finally, lunch was missed at sher-e-punjab & we rolled further. A few miles ahead and just adjacent to an HP petrol pump, we saw one ‘lucknow dhaba’. We stopped over, with some inhibitions amongst us. The dhaba was not really a ‘dhaba’, it was an A/c dining hall, with comfy seating arrangements. From outside, too the first impression wasn’t encouraging, and ones inside, the place, recently renovated, was empty. But since we had a long day, the butt- numbness forced us to sit our behinds at those comfy chairs. God, the softness felt by my posterior, I wish I could sit there the whole day. Food was ordered, and we didn’t repent our decision to eat there even one bit. Food was savoury and light. The yellow daal-tadka is highly recommended, and the mixed raita too. Lunch was immediately followed by a cup of crisp tea there itself, and we were ready to hit the road again in no time.
Sun was out, shining at full-tanning mode. Jackets were out of the backpacks. The journey from there on turned a bit tedious, due to peak lunch hour traffic on roads. We have had the luxury of driving rather traffic-free till here, but not from here on. The road till Kolaghat is rather fine, with a few rough patches en-route. Took a left at Kolaghat, and continued. Watching trees and scenery pass by, the villagers ferrying goods perched precariously on top of their heads, kids playing by the roadsides, cattle grazing by the roads, with their rear pointed towards the road; few of which occasionally decide to randomly cross the road leaving you hurriedly grabbling for those breaks. As they say “The Grass is always greener on the other side of the road”.
I wonder, there are huge lawns, vacant lands filled with vegetation and other potential grazing sites for these bovine creatures, still the cattle or the owner decides to graze by the roadsides !! But then these places might be someone’s farm or private property & being chased out of a field with a volley of abuses is not the nicest thing to experience .. eh ?
Meanwhile the odometer is gradually growing in strength, and we arrive at a market near chawal-khora. The traffic is crawling with the hustle-bustle of a daily busy day in the market. The roaring of two enfields, equipped with free-flow, unmuffled silencers is catching everyone’s attention as passersby sneer. Riding a full blown enfield usually gets sneers; excited looks from kids/teens, appreciative ones from most middle aged men and stares overwhelmed with contempt and disparage from most women over 30. I don’t know why, they get this feeling that a group of hooligans is out on teasing spree.
Yes, agreed. A Group of loud-motorcycles doesn’t actually inspire confidence, nor does it portray a ‘nice-clean’ image. Picture all those biker-gang movies you have grown up watching. Those chain wielding, knuckle packing disheveled weirdos, passes off as villain’s right hand man’s minions. They always attack from their bikes, the front wheel lifted off the ground, which according to them is a potential weapon. But No. Not for the Deols or the Devgans, who make them kamikaze straight into a neatly layered deck of drums/boxes/earthpots/’you name it, they have done it’. What was the deck doing there anyways ? where’d it come from ? Why do they always have a deck of something or the other at villain’s lair ? Maybe the above mentioned minions work minimum wage and deck up all this stuff for villain’s whims and fancies. Maybe they all do it dressed up in pink girly frocks ! Well, that does make our villain much more wile than we anticipated, and Deol, any moment would rightfully KO him.
The sneers, taken in good spirits, we ride on. The next milestone read – “digha – 44 kms”. A spark of light in the eyes, a feeling of accomplishment rushes through, we are VERY close.
Its around 5pm and the tarmac is rather narrow now. With heavy incoming traffic from the opposite side (it was Sunday, and most of the tourists were returning from digha ), one had to be on toes all the time. I had to get off the tarmac a couple of times, just to let the casually boisterous bus-drivers overtake and occupy the road’s width as if they own the damn road.
Nonetheless. Middle fingers flicked. Abuses Hurled. We ride on.
The road that followed was serpentine, full of blind turns but with beautiful bamboo plantations of both sides. The aroma in the air hinted the presence of a large water body nearby. The roads were lined by coconut and ‘purple-coconut’ vendors.
Took a small stop. Emptied my tank and filled up Tbird’s. The road further down gets tricky, with lots of turns inside the town. Relied heavily on signboards and directions from passersby. Few miles ahead, and the roadside was lined with small water reservoirs meant for fish farming. We passed through small villages, soaked in the stench of fish. The sun was almost down now, an eerie dusk had settled in as we rode further. The fatigue was settling in, and every blind turn felt like it would open up to reveal the mighty ocean’s view, but all it did was conjure up into another blind turn.
We road through countless blind turns and speed breakers and AT LAST.
We were there !!
Although it was dark now, on the dirt track, as we rode, i glanced on my left to see the ocean very close now. My ears could hear the nearby frolicking of tourists and vendors. A true sense of accomplishment overwhelmed the senses; we quickly started scouting for the resort we were referred to by a friend, amongst the numerous resorts. After a few rides up & down the road &, a couple of directions from locals, we decided to stop looking for that particular resort and settle in for what we get. The ones we had passed seemed quite cool, and to save some time and get more beach-time, we decided to get our rooms there.
A couple of resorts were checked, prices were haggled on and we got a sweet deal at a nice resort, with not so awe-inspiring or hip name, “Priyajeet”. The manager was nice, with a little dabang-ish attitude, the staff was more or less courteous. We parked in for the night. Odo reads ‘369’ !! Maybe something was in store for us :P
We unpacked our stuff, took quick showers and hurried to the resort’s beach side area. There IT was.
A small word for an immensely powerful and mighty force. The previous night being a full-moon night, the tides were already quite high. The beauty of mother nature was at full display. I always tend to do some soul-searching whenever i am at the seashore. The calmness & the serenity, found in the turbulence & enormous might of the relentless waves makes you feel small. It makes you feel humble. No wonder, Poseidon was one of the most feared Gods in greek mythology. IMHO the instantaneous connection with mother nature that one makes at the seashore is unmatched. The more i visit these spiritual shores, the more love and utter respect for the Sea grows.
And thus, we settle in with my friends/brothers for a long and memorable evening by the beach, with plenty of delectable sea-food, never-ending supply of chilled beers and an unknown lass (Some tourist, staying at the same resort) for company.