Chronicle of Visit to Assam

In the last week of the last month (May 2010) I visited Assam after a long time. With a small number of leaves, I decided to fly. I started to check for flights and fare. I suggest using Makemytrip.com as it is very easy to use, provides various options, good fare and good service. I had two options – either fly upto Guwahati and then board a night super or fly upto Silchar. The fare difference between the former and the latter is only little over Rs 1000. So I bought a ticket on Indigo from Bangalore to Kolkata and then on Indian Airlines from Kolkata to Silchar for little over Rs 6700.

On 24th morning I left home by 4.30 am to catch a BIA volvo bus to Bangalore Airport. As now a days Metro rail construction is going on at CMH road, buses do not ply on this road. I inquired the day before and I was told BIA buses will stop at CMH hospital or near Indiranagar BDA complex. After waiting there for sometime a BIA volvo bus arrived. The bus already had a few passengers and it cost me Rs 165 to Bangalore airport. Covering over 40 km distance I reached there by 6 am.

The newly built Bangalore International Airport is beautiful and has good amenities. This was my second visit to the Bangalore airport. As i bought the ticket online, I had to carry a printed copy of the tickets and a photo identity provided by the government of India. I carried my passport. At the Indigo counter I collected my boarding pass and was waiting in the lounge as my flight was scheduled at 8.25 am. Around 7.30 am I went for checkin. My luggage and mobile phone was checked separately by a X-ray scanner and I was frisked and scanned. Then I was waiting at the waiting area near the particular gate from where we were to be taken by the Indigo bus to the Aeroplane.

The service on Indigo flight was good and the pilot used to provide regular updates like the altitude, temperature etc. Wheres on Indian Airlines the pilot just said time for take off and time for landing. Looks like talking is too taxing for him. There was a brief stop over at Hyderabad (Rajiv Gandhi International Airport). The Hyderabad airport is also newly built under public – private partnership model. As we started to approach Kolkata the sky become cloudy and the pilot had to navigate the plane above the clouds. The weather in Kolkata was over cast and the pilot said the temperature was 27 degree Celsius. Reached Kolkata at 12 noon 5 mins after the scheduled time. After seeing Bangalore and Hyderabad airport, Kolkata airport looks like wrapped in time. However, the runways are very good. The terminal buildings do look old given that it was built long ago. But it could have been managed much better. It is so congested and clumsy.

After collecting my boarding pass for Indian Airlines flight to Silchar, I went through the mandatory checkin. Then I walked to the particular, from where the bus to will ferry people to the flight. But as usual Indian Airlines is late. one official from IA came to inform that the flight be late by an hour or so as they doing some Tyre repair. By then I was hungry and I was told there is no food counter inside the terminal. With nothing left, I went to Coffee Day. I ordered a chicken burger and to my amazement it cost me Rs 76. It not that I never had a burger of Rs 76, I typically have the much costly ones Rs 90 ginger burger of KFC. The Coffee Day burger do not worth it at all. Finally around 2 pm, we were called for the flight. It was an Airbus 320. As we entered Bangladesh airspace, the sky became very cloudy. at times we are surrounded by think clouds. The pilot had to navigate up and down for visibility. However, around Silchar airport it was little clear and we had a soft landing around 3 pm. Silchar airport is very small like a studio apartment. I am glad nevertheless it is there.

I started to look for a shared taxi. I was asked to pay Rs 150 but negotiated for Rs 100. Later I came to know the actual price is Rs 80 per person. Passing over Saraighat bridge, the first sight of club road and devdoot area was little disturbing, it was much more congested and many trees has been chopped. After getting down at Devdoot, I went directly to Sumo stand and luckily one Sumo was leaving for Lala. A shortcut route through Gaglachara has open now with the construction of Gaglachara bridge and saves travel time by over an hour. The journey of around 2 hours cost Rs 50 per person. As soon I reach Lala stand (Petrol pump), it started raining. I boarded a rickshaw to reach home. This stretch used to cost Rs 2 (at max Rs 3) and now Rs 5 is minimum (lol they even ask more).

Now after 7 years I am supposed to see some changes or better to say development. Well, it looks everywhere trees creates problems, so they have chopped most of the trees, roads are dirty and potholed, congestion in the main town area, shops and shops everywhere. Thats pretty development you see!

The first two days took rest and on 26th left for Silchar by the afternoon. These days after opening of the route via gaglachara, Jeeps and vans are doing brisk business. At Silchar too development has taken place, roads are potholed so much that it is good enough to start cultivation and the local administration has decided to give such produce to poor people. In places like ambicapatty, if you travel in a rickshaw after having food, it will be digested in a few minutes. The Club road used to have a lot of trees, however they have been chopped as they may interfere with the looks of the new building that have come up. Rickshaw fares have doubled, however shared auto service has been introduced with minimum fare Rs 5. New traffic rules, few traffic police manning the road and few dividers can be seen. Banks like HDFC and Axis have opened branch along with ATM. Lastly, congested shops and shops everywhere.

Back to Lala on 28th afternoon. On 29th visited temple besides ours and in the afternoon boarded the night super for Guwahati. Now they have built a separate bus stand for night supers and buses like Network, Pooja, Jaganath Travels operate from Lala. Reached Guwahati around 5 am in the morning. These days you have to change a bus from Khanapara to Paltan Bazaar, as the bus goes to ISBT. Checked in Ambassador Hotel and took rest the whole day. Went for lunch and dinner at the nearby hotels ( Biswanath and …., no good food though). Next day (30th) boarded Bangalore express at 6.30 am ( Old time was 5 am).

The Indian Railways is a great platform for the great Indian tamasha. Almost everybody suddenly feels he/she is a Lata Mangeshkar/Kishore kumar, all young guys and sometime the not so young too feel they can match Don Juan, a bogey is meant for 72 persons, but you will find more than 100 persons, near the exit/entrance passage will be chocked for any movement, for any chance TTE (Train Ticket Examiner) will ask for chai pani. One can find all sorts of people there, setting up the stage.

The train (# 2501) crossed Assam by the afternoon and through out west Bengal, Orissa and Andhra it was like boiler country. I am glad that we crossed Chennai early in the morning. As we crossed Bangerpet, the look of the sky gave me an instinct that it might be cloudy or raining in Bangalore. We reached Bangalore around 1 am and we got down at Cantonment railway station. As usual an exchange of words with porters and auto drivers on the way to reach home.

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