We met Ratneesh, from a local NGO, over a hot breakfast of Parathas with Sabzi, and many pyaalis of chai and got updated on the flood situation in Supaul and Madhepura. He gave us contacts of his team mates in Murliganj.
The travels guy had rustled up a macho black scorpio and we were off to the field areas. Premkumar, our driver, was initially a little sullen … didn’t change much though, inspite of all our efforts at making friends with him.
The highway was monotonous, with roadside slums, and a variety of occupations of the unorganised sector. Finally, after many hours, we were able to shake off the tentacles of urbanisation, and made inroads into the rural areas. Rural bihar is as beautiful as any rural area of the country. The villages were clean, mud houses with a variety of roof-tops, ranging from thatch, tiles to the ubiquous RCC, goats and cattle, carts full of hay … and one felt enconsed in the romantic bollywoodian theme of the rural.
Bihar and water could be synonymous, notwithstanding the floods. There were many, many streams, rivers, snaking all across the flat landscape and one understood the meaning of the phrase ‘river plain’. For a person with a background of hilly regions, seeing the horizon at such distance was amazing especially when the land below was carpeted with yellow mustard fields, and a variety of green.
Dusk came early. 4.30 p.m. and the light started fading. 5.30 and the fog started appearing. The journey in the dark was crazy – it was dark with the ghostly light of fog. But the dense fog made the road invisible. We drove at 20-30 kms. an hour, looking out for the edge of the road and hoping that we would not roll over the edge of the ‘high’ road into the fields below.
We hunted for food for dinner, but rural Bihar had gone to bed and did not co-operate with us. The line-hotels (dhabas) were far apart, and we were desperate for food by the end. Finally we found a line-hotel, albeit a small one, who doled out hot-hot rotis with the ever-present aloo-gobi. Tummies full, we felt we could face anything.
We reached Saharsa town. The kosi-nivas, the best hotel in town was full, so we went looking for accomodation. The Embassy sounded good and we decided to give it a shot, but we shot out at full speed after confronting its dingy and shady interior with Urinals and rooms side by side and walls painted and splattered with pan-pichkaris … ! We finally managed to convince Kosi-Nivas to give us accommodation. It was heaven after the Embassy. And not to forget the HOT water that was available for a bath !! We slept through the rambunctious celebrations of a wedding behind the walls and got up in the morning, once more ready to face whatever the day held.