The Indian one-horned Rhinoceros. Resident of Kaziranga, Assam. So went the textbooks. A mental note. Something that keeps turning up at various times; documentaries – BBC and otherwise. Thus born the desire. One place for the bucket list.

Tripadvisor finds a place which seems alright. A mail sent and responded to. Reviews seem good. A booking done – for a solo trip. First time after 5 years. The last one Vancouver, Canada – a drive across the border to present a paper.

The date arrives more than a month later. November the 27th. The camera packed, the birding lens procured from the US added to the mix. Two days’ worth of clothes, one backpack in all. Airport. Gauhati. ISBT, Gauhati. A quick AC bus to Jorhat. To get down at Diring. Kohora is where I end up where the resort owner is on some work and picks me up.

The tent with attached bathroom. One cup chai. Tomorrow will you do elephant safari, he asks. Not too sure I want to trouble an elephant. He convinces me to do it, but we agree to do the Eastern Range the next day morning. Jeep at 7 AM, breakfast will be packed he says. Won’t it be wrong to eat in the forest? Won’t it attract animals? It’s OK he says.

Calls made to assure people of safe reaching. Murakami’s Norwegian Wood for company. Cold evening. Dinner at the table. Three in the next. The youngest surprised. Why would one travel alone, he wonders. Sleep eludes. Cold place, no fan noise. A woolen blanket and a razai. At 4 AM, the zip of the tent is opened and a man stands there. I scream “Kaun hai?” He keeps talking, but closes and goes. Continue reading “Kaziranga!!”


On the banks of the Brahmaputra

There’s something about the name Brahmaputra. The way the syllables stack up – with the ‘Br’ followed by the ‘hma’ which usually means it comes right from inside you and the ‘putra’ naming the son of Brahma. And among the Indian rivers it stands out for being the only male river in the country – the word ‘Nadee’ being feminine in Sanskrit. And also that it flows in the NorthEast, which is pretty ‘out there’.

Nov 30th, 2013:

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I sat there on the banks, shoes, bag and folded jacket behind me on the rocks. Resting on a rock, legs dipping in the river. Looking at the other bank, which was more than a Kilometre away. But then, this was a narrow section of the river, where the city of Gauhati came up. So in terms of size in general, this one is known to be massive. Maps show threads for rivers, but a thick rope for Brahmaputra.

I got down at one part of the city from the Scorpio belonging to RRL – Regional Research Laboratories, which ferried me from Kaziranga. The auto to Bhalarumukh, 170 bucks. Make it 150, I say. He agrees. If you want to rip me off, at least do it on my terms. A long park abutting the Brahmaputra. Couples all over in all kinds of positions. More of them walking and trying to find a spot. No way to get down to the river. I walk along to the Ferry Ghat – place stinking of rotting garbage on one side. The ferry to the other side. Sitting at water level in the hold with vehicles on top. The river stretching endlessly in perpendicular. A long voyage – from Tibet to the Sunderbans, and then to the Bay.

I see some rocks on one side near the shore with steps on them. A Brahmin comes down from the top which has a temple and gets to the river. I walk over to there after getting off the ferry. An old man comes out from the temple – ‘Raastha bandh hai’ he says in Bengali accented Hindi – ‘Rostho bondh hai’. “Nadee thaT jaana hai” I say, he smiles and waves me along. A genial part of the country – people smile more here, even auto-rickshaw drivers.

I climb down, there are rocks, I step through them – 6 Kgs on my back. I find a spot where the river can be accessed. No other soul in sight here. The bag goes down with the jacket and the shoes. I sit down on a rock jutting over the river and let my legs into the waters. One more river done. One I always wanted to see.

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[More on Kaziranga in the next post]