When ever I sit fondly remembering my married life, one thing that surely brings an embarrassing smile to my face was my maiden journey with my husband. Hardly a few days were left for the marriage to be solemnized and then Soumen called up to declare, “We will move to Pasighat after marriage, I have got my posting order”. Thus began my maiden trip to Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast, a part of India totally foreign and unknown to me.
Puzzled at this weird name,” ghat…
Where the hell is this place?”
“This is in Arunachal Pradesh, the eastern most part of India”, explained Soumen.
I had a mixed feeling, there was an ache of not going to a metro city along with anticipation over this completely new, never heard of place called Pasighat. Well as a traditional Indian bahu, I was not given much time to think, my baggage was packed and we were given a moist adieu.
So I began my maiden journey to my home, my first ever own home. We took a train from our hometown and it turned out to be the longest train journey I had ever taken (absolutely not prepared for this)….3 ½ days. Since then I hate Avadh-Assam train.
I felt as if that place would never come.
Ours being a completely arranged marriage, I was a bit skeptical and not quite comfortable to snap or ask question. I just waited and tried to be patient (didn’t want to make a bad first impression, after all).
Well at last Soumen announced, ” Another 1 hour and we reach the destination station”. Believe me this was the most awaited statement of my life. But poor me, in my anxiousness I forgot to deliberate on the term used “destination station” It was only later that I realized that the train journey was only ¼ th of the destination covered. real adventure is yet to begin.
Completely exhausted after almost four days of chuk chuk journey, we got down at Tinsukhia railway station. A new energy sprang into me , so “Soumen how far is our house?”.
He gave a cunning smile and showed me the way to resting room. Ready in 2 hrs, I saw a jeep waiting outside. We hoped into that with 2 suitcases and 3 bags. Both the sides of the road were lined with tea gardens. It was early morning and the sight of women plucking tea in their traditional cane baskets ( till now I had seen it in some Hindi song sequences only), filled me with a new excitement . Though the sights were picturesque but the roads were bumpy enough and innumerable times did I hit my head to the sides of the jeep and this was just the beginning.
After 4 hours of such a jeep ride , we finally got down with our baggage to a river bank. Actually only a bank without a river. Boat men who had collected there to exploit poor forced travelers like us said, “ Saheb the river has shifted 5 kms”
Now what in the world is this??? I had no clue. I was always weak in geography and could in no way understand this shifting of river. When I tried to question my husband, he gave me a wise man’s look and I nipped the question in the bud itself.
Price was negotiated and two people took our luggage and we walked behind them on the sandy bank. Well a point to remember is that in all the happiness of portraying myself as a new bride, I was wearing sandals.
Finally after painfully walking for about 1 ½ Km , some relief was sought seeing traces of river. Next in line was travelling by boat to reach our final destination.
Feeling something wasn’t quite right, I asked , “Soumen isn’t this river a little less wide”.
He gave me a whimsical look and said, “ Dear wife this is just a sublet of river, the main Brahmaputra river is ahead”.
So, without much questioning, I sat on one side of a narrow but long-boat and Soumen on the other side with two suitcases precariously positioned on each side to maintain balance. I was commanded by the boatman not to move even an inch otherwise all of us will be food to the mighty Brahmaputra. So for the next half an hour, I even tried not to breathe. And finally took a deep breath after getting down!!!
Next was travel by foot but this time it was wet sand so I had to balance my chunni, purse, Ray bans and tread very cautiously, wearing my sandals. Soumen was walking ahead checking the sand and I was to follow his footsteps. But, but! I was an educated, smart, and modern woman How could I accept the fact that he was taking a curve rather than walking straight. So in my zeal to prove my smartness and save time, I walked straight and…it was wet sand.
The moment I kept my foot, I sank knee-deep and fell. Soumen turned back and chuckled seeing my pathetic condition, with sand all over my dress , hair and purse and myself sweating, for it was 12 in the afternoon. I was so embarrassed …such a showdown for the new bride.
But as it is said , show must go on, we kept walking, “ Soumen will we reach our home in this life span?”.
Extremely fatigued and disillusioned I could now see the main boat and the Brahmaputra River. It was such a mighty river, aptly called the father of rivers for its might. Such a wide river that it took almost 5 hours on the boat to reach the other side.
Now this boat ride is yet another interesting anecdote. Such narrow benches that an able-bodied woman like me was literally half hanging. Local tribal people smelled badly and more so the smell of indigenous tobacco and dried fish was nauseating. I was once again optimistic and happy for I could see the bank finally, only to be told that a jeep is waiting and it is another 5 hours journey.
In fact when I sat on the jeep , I realized that the jeep was not on road for there were no roads. Yes it was monsoon time in Northeast and all traces of road was washed away. It was barely mud and water. The jeep journey was quite adventurous (can be safely called my first off-roading experience). For minutes together the jeep would move on one wheel and do an air wheelie. Throughout the journey I kept on shouting,” Mummy , oh my God”. But the skilled driver kept on moving. There were streams of water where the gushing water would rise above the bonnet level. My adrenaline level would rise and I could feel butterflies in my stomach. It was a complete roller coaster ride.
Finally when we stopped in front of something that resembled a gate, Soumen opened the door smilingly and said, “Welcome to our home, my dear”. Truly speaking, I was still a little skeptical. Have we reached finally?
This time we did, reassured Soumen.
The breathtaking view of my home sitting beautifully in the picturesque surrounding took away all my tiredness and I started on a new journey of life.
There was a surprise gift waiting for me, a cane swing…..where I would sit and sip coffee for the next two years of our posting.
Where was your maiden trip?