Friday, 7 December 2012

Travel Reads: Digboi - A journey down modern day Timbuktu

A full moon hangs from a dark and inky sky. Crickets screech and the hills have been laid to rest. This is the land of backyard and beyond – a township where leopards prowl on courtyards during the winter carrying away bulky Alsatians effortlessly from Shillong Road. This is an eerie sort of place but very beautiful and deep, colonial and very Assamese at the same time. It is a painter’s delight and gives the traveler a kind of joy that one cannot fathom unless one has traveled the untrodden way down the Himalayan foothills. A winter evening in this part of the world is foggy, cold, and wet, yet the warm, familiar smell of bonfires is something that will draw you to Digboi. It is a time for picnics and Christmas parties, and the place bustles with the town’s children coming back home for their holidays.

Digboi is known for its undulating hills and absolute greenery and pines. It stirs and stimulates the romantic imagination of both the young and the old. The oaks, the rickshaws, the narrow lanes, the old bungalows, and the colorful foliage of trees everywhere are reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s times and books. A rainy day in Digboi makes children sail paper boats around flower beds outside. The beauty of Digboi lies in its homes, houses that are old, sturdy, and picturesque. They have been built in a way that no house faces the front of its neighboring house keeping privacy very intact. Every house is adorned with a lawn that grows everything from marigolds and roses to pineapples and olives.

Digboi is also steeped in history. It is home to the oldest oil refinery in the Asia and the morning siren from the oil field spells early morning for all its inhabitants. The old hospital, the cemetery from the Second World War, the wide and rolling golf course, and its outskirts sketch a breathless landscape. Digboi is flanked by numerous tea estates, followed by paddy fields, a dense forest which is also home to unique kinds of flora and fauna. There is one straight road that leads one to Margherita and Dehing, to Arunachal, and finally Myanmar. This is the road that remains imprinted in the minds of all those people who travel to Assam and beyond. The journey is one of a kind; it is exotic and spectacular, without the support of plush and swanky amenities. This route used to be a paradise for the well-traveled and the curious until trouble in the north-east began.

Digboi is a route less traveled and it keeps enticing travelers to it time and again regardless of time and age.

(Article by Kabita Sonowal) 

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