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Monday, December 23, 2013

How it Started : Bihar-nama.

Back in 2011, I was given the opportunity to be part of the wing within our research team, designated to dig in and pump in samples to our laboratory, as part of the elaborate project funded by CSIR. I had heard a number of tales of the previous few journeys where Mr. Jayanta K Das (JKD) was accompanied by either Dr. Mayukh Banerjee or Dr. Babar Ali Shah or Dr. Anirban Banerjee. For an epidemiologists, field trip is always exciting, not only for the purpose of getting the precious samples on which the project or rather say, the bread and butter depends on; but is also full of experiences!

The project spanned over four different regions in the Eastern and North Eastern part of the nation, encompassing the far end wing of Silchar, Assam; Ara, Bihar; Behrampore and Chakdah in West Bengal. I was assigned for the longer trips and with JKD, it was always a peaceful journey regarding the accessory travel stuffs like dry foods. I am not a food junkie, but when outside Kolkata, I tend to turn out one, with exception of Bihar!

My first trip was in Bihar. November, 2011. I tripped the Ara township, whereby we would be getting soil and water samples for subsequent laboratory tests for arsenic and other biological analytic work. The first trip was an experience, as our contract driver, Mr. Shahbuddin brought in a car. An ambassador full of cobwebs and spiders. A car that would cost bare minimum and with a restricted fund flow, we made it as if it were a SUV! Vividly, some scenes come upfront when the seat dipped under my weight! (friends say that I am not too bulky!) Even JKD slipped through the crevices in between the back seat.

One passion of mine when I go out of Kolkata, is to try the local food. In Bihar, the speciality is Litti, which I seldom touched after seeing the way they were manufactured! Come one! Can't explain! There can be some Biharis who may sue me in court if I wrote anything of that sort in here. It just baffles my imagination, how a land, which once gave great insights to Indian Arts, Culture and Education like Nalanda; could deteriorate in their habits and attitude. 

I don't have enough pictures to the audience of this Bihar experience, but am lucky to visit  two places nearby. The Sher Shah Suri's tomb at Sasaram. We had an off day and we went there by bus; it was a real leaning across the inner tide experience there! I believe, the Central Government could have done something better with the shrine, given that he was one of the greatest builders of all time building the Grant Trunk Road from Peshawar to Howrah. It is still one of India's highly accessed and highly congested National Highway.

Apart from the GT road, the emperor had developed the firs postal system in the world, which has transformed since ages long. The postal address and demarcation was one his indigenous idea that transformed his short reign a success; given the jolt he had provided to the Mughal empire. In fact, this one man made Tagore's verse sound so true, even before Tagore shouted his post-natal cry: "Where the mind is without fear" or "চিত্ত যেথা ভয়  শুন্য। "

There are many more interesting incidents to follow.... soon.

Travelogue Series: The Left Over Trails.

I guess, this would have been a very long one, but then I decided to cut short and break the tales to a Series format. After all, these series are a big hit to the general mass and audience.
In this section of my Travalogue Series "Left Over Trails", I would simply talk about the experiences of field trips that I had to undertake for collection of samples, for my colleagues to work with. Although the project funded by the CSIR under the head CSIR-NWP-0052, made me learn a lot of aspects from various parts of Eastern India. But, the experiences made me learn a lot of things, especially the way the people outside the city lives and what most of them thing of the city dwellers. These trips made me realize that it is very important to value your money, or else many things  will slip off places.

I would love to keep this post  as a Preface to the upcoming series, which I believe would be completed in 3 to 4 sections. And I also believe that it would bring forth a greater sense of awe as to how these people survive, even after 66 years of Indian Independence. Till then , its a look back through the mirror, to the roads yonder!

(c) Somnath Paul, Meghalaya, Nov 2013.

Somnath Paul Photography


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