The Dooars Nostalgia – Part I


I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

– Nazim Hikmet, Things i Didn’t Know i Loved

When i was in Siliguri, being what every geeky Bengali teenager was like, i tended to take the bounteous nature around me for granted. Sure, there were the occasional trips to Darjeeling, Gangtok or the forests; sure there were the winter-time picnics in Sevoke and Murti, but the sense of belonging had not developed.

Then came the big shift to Delhi. Then came the longing for home. Whenever i managed to get back, i would spend almost all the time in our little apartment, without even feeling the need to step out. This was back in college when i had not yet tasted the charms of travel.

Then came my job. I still maintain that this was probably the best thing to have happened to me. I discovered photography and i discovered travel – two things that have gone on to define me ever since. My initial travels were in central India across Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, but it was not long before we got a project on West Bengal and images and experiences of a not too distant childhood came flooding back.

A trip to North Bengal was soon planned and with gentle manipulations on my part, it was extended to cover almost all parts of the Dooars region of North Bengal over a period of five days. I only realised this later, when i was back in Delhi, that it had been a return to the familiar sights, sounds and smells. It was a a long chain of deja vu’s.

I was accompanied on this by my boss Swati. We landed in Siliguri on a sunny October morning and were met at the airport by my dad who had arranged for a car (a brand new Tata Sumo Grande) and a driver for our trip. We intended to reach Madarihat by the end of the day. Madarihat happens to be 141 kms from Siliguri and is the gateway to Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the largest number of Indian Rhinoceros in India after Kaziranga National Park in Assam.

We got out of Siliguri after a quick lunch at home and headed to Jalpaiguri via a smaller back road that cuts off from the bridge over the Teesta canal at Fulbari, south of Siliguri. Fulbari is famous for its pantuas, otherwise known as gulab jamuns and needless to say, we stopped at one of the many sweet shops for a taste. Luckily we had some fresh of the pan and still warm. See, i am not a big sweet fan so any comments i make will not do justice to these dollops of heaven. Here’s a pic instead:

Delight, some say!

From Fulbari we followed the road to Belacoba, a small town known for another sweet, cham-cham (no translation this time). For the first part the road ran along the canal. Autumn had just set in the pujas were just around the corner. It is that magical time of the year, when you suddenly feel light-headed for no apparent reason. The sky was a clear shade of blue, and there was greenery everywhere. The kaash flowers had just started to bloom and the forests opened their gates to tourists after the customary monsoon hiatus. Everything had been washed clean, awaiting the daughter’s return.

Autumn country!
Cotton candy heads!

The paddy fields were a shade of emerald washed in the first dew of the year, the rivers were calm, reflecting the skies above. There was harvest in every barn and yearning in every heart.

Paddy fields back home!
…of the skies above and the skies below
The Fisherman

It was the day of Vishwakarma Puja. Vishwakarma, one of the 33 crore gods that my ancestors created, is the lord of everything mechanical. On our was to Belacoba, we passed a group of tea estate workers transporting the idol to the factory where he was to be worshipped. While the god was on a truck, the mortal retinue followed, armed with incense, drums, gulaal and a very infectious urge to break into a jig!

In the name of the lord!
Beedi-in-mouth euphoria
Euphoria, your garden variety

After Belacoba, we hit the badly potholed Siliguri-Jalpaiguri highway and in some time reached the bridge over the river Teesta just as the sun was going down over the horizon. The mile-wide river was broken at places by sandbanks and spanned by a road bridge and another for the trains. I spent my early childhood in a small town called Falakata, deep inside the Dooars. Every weekend, we would make trips to Siliguri to meet friends and family, and every week the bus would cross the river. I would usually be asleep on my mother’s lap, but somehow managed to wake up to see the Teesta. The river amazed me. At four years old, it was the biggest thing i had seen. Now, more than 20 years later, it seemed even bigger.

The Teesta Bridge – Just as i remembered it
Teesta!

Darkness descended suddenly, like it always does in my land, except for the crimson afterglow still lingering in the fluffy clouds. In an hour we would reach Madarihat and check into the Jaldapara Tourist Lodge. In a day, the ardours of travelling, taking notes and shooting would catch up and dilute the feelings of being back home. In a week, i would be in Delhi, worrying about what to cook, when to service the bike and what movie to watch next. Till then, just like the afterglow, the familiar sights and sounds and smells persist. Just like what Colin Hay said. ‘yes, this is as good as it gets’.

Afterglow
After-Afterglow

PS: In the next part of the Dooars story, we explore Jaldapara and Buxa, two of the most famous wildlife destinations in the Dooars.

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13 thoughts on “The Dooars Nostalgia – Part I

  1. Hi, this is an amazing blog. I like your post. Here I am providing some info as to how you can reach Dooars.

    By Rail:
    Dooars is very much well connected with rail network from all directions. If you want to enter Dooars with proximity of interesting places like Gorumara National Park, Murti River, Samsing, Jhalong or Bindu – the best entry point will be by rail and the nearest station will be the New Mal Junction. It is almost 30km & 40mins drive from New Mal Junction to Lataguri where several quality hotels and resorts are situated. Everyday Kanchan Kanya Express leaves Sealdah Station at 8.30hrs and reaches Alipurduar Junction at 12.10hrs next day. On the way it gives a halt at New Mal Junction at 9.05hrs. Believe me, if you want to enjoy nature at its full extent, travel through this rail route. It will be a spectacular journey through lush green forests, innumerable small streams and endless tea plantations – it’s amazing. If you want to enter Dooars region from Jaldapara or Buxa sector, then it is advisable to get down at Hasimara / Birpara / Madarihat Station. In fact Madarihat Station is only 7km from Jaldapara Sanctuary and it is almost 20km from Birpara or Hasimara Station. Anyone can opt to get entry in Dooars from New Jalpaiguri Station also. There are several trains that depart from Sealdah Station for NJP
    like Darjeeling Mail, Padatik Express, Testa Torsa Express, Uttar Banga Express, Kanchankanya Express, Kanchanjanga Express. After reaching
    NJP, you can hire taxi or cab or any comfortable SUV of your choice to reach Dooars. If you want to travel Dooars or want to avail any Dooars Package Tour, try to get there by rail route as it is convenient and time saving also.

    By Road:
    Dooars is a straight way from Kolkata via NH34. It is almost 560km and 12 hours drive from Kolkata to Siliguri. Everyday several busses of
    private transport company leaves for Siliguri from Esplanade with AC Volvo or Rocket variant. Anyone can avail government bus service also
    like NBSTC (North Bengal State Transport Corporation) and Bus services of Bhutan Government. This bus route generally travels through Krishnanagar – Berhampore – Pakur – English Bazar – Kishanganj – Siliguri. It’s a comfortable over night journey and cost effective too. So
    if you are opting for a Dooars Trip or Dooars Package Tour, a road trip can be best choice.

    By Air:
    Bagdogra is the sole commercial airport in the Dooars region. It is the gateway to the hill station town like Darjeeling, Kurseong, Mirik,
    Kalimpong and states of Sikkim. This airport is a major stop over with the flights connecting from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Guwahati. It is 16 km from the town of Siliguri and well connected by bus and taxi service. Due to limited international operations, Bugdogra
    is having a great influx of foreign travellers also. Bagdogra has regular helicopter service to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Recently Bagdogra Airport has been upgraded with night landing facility resulting great movement of travelers & tourists. For travellers, want to visit North Bengal or Sikkim or Dooars, opting for air travel will be wise decision.

    Here at Denzong Leisure, if you are opting for a Dooars Package Tour, Sikkim Package Tour or Darjeeling Package Tour, we will assist you by booking your air ticket at reasonable and competitive price. Details can be found in: http://www.denzongleisure.com/packages/jungle_safari_dooars_3

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  2. Hi,
    Hope you are doing well. See, lots of people travel Dooars throughout the year, but many of them exactly don’t know when to travel Dooars. So without any prior knowledge travelling Dooars can be just a wastage of money and of course most precious things – your TIME.

    Here I am sharing some valuable info about best travelling period in Dooars as per season.

    Winter:
    Winter in Dooars starts from early of November and continues till the end of February. January is considered as the coolest month of the Dooars region and minimum temperature can come down to 5 to 8 degree Celsius. However travelling Dooars in winter is pleasing and can offer a variety of migratory birds to view.

    Summer:
    March to early October is considered as summer in Dooars and June to July is the hottest. Though at this time temperature varies between 20 Degree to 31 Degree, it never so scorching or intolerable.

    Monsoon:
    Dooars has its own charm during monsoon. Monsoon in Dooars starts from end of July and can continue till end of September. During monsoon all sanctuaries in Dooars region remain close from 15th June to 14th September.

    Best time to book Dooars Package Tour :

    The best time to book a Dooars Package Tour in between September to March. As the monsoon is over, Dooars prepares herself for upcoming winter season. So quite pleasant weather prevail in Dooars during this time and traveller can have spectacular view of migratory birds as well as wild elephants, bison, leopard, barking deer, rhino etc.However March and April, when new grass is growing, wild habitats are often seen in human proximity. Due to this a large influx of tourist in Dooars can be seen then.

    Off Season in Dooars :
    Dooars is always avoidable in Monsoon or Rainy Season. From 15th June to 15th September forests remain closed due to breeding season of wild animals in Dooars. But if you want to avoid the huge rush of tourists, visit Dooars during Monsoon. You will find Mother Nature in its superb shades of green like never before. If you love green, pay a visit Dooars at this time. More over many hotels and resorts owner offer lucrative Monsoon special discount which is very cheap also.

    So if you are not very much interested in roaming around, just couch in your hotel room or resort, relax with the best sounds of the incessant rain, enjoy Mother Nature at its best with a cup of coffee or your drinks – It’s amazing!

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