ROAD TRIP TO AYODHYA HILLS

KOLKATA

We were supposed to reach Souvik’s place by 10pm .

As usual , I was late . 

Reached at 1.30 … yesss … a.m.  

Me and Sumit . Had to wake up Souvik’s entire family . 

1.30 at night … I know . Even after a year , I am still ashamed .

Souvik’s mom had cooked dinner for us . 

She served it after reheating it in the microwave.

It was D-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s .

1.30 am … waking up poor aunty that late at night to have dinner ! 

I am still shaking my head as I write this .

Hustled Souvik to get in the car. 

He went straight to bed .

Left without any options , we two also dozed off beside him on the bed .

Finally at 3.30 ,a.m., we loaded the car and bade our goodbyes to Uncle and Auntie .

By now we were supposed to have reached Burdwan .

Now , we had just left home . 

Another half an hour to get past Vidyasagar Setu . 

KOLKATA TO DURGAPUR

Crossed Kona Expressway , hit the National Highway 19 (previously called NH2) , paid the taxes at Dankuni Toll Plaza , and cruised to Hindusthan Hotel at Gurap , around 60 kms from Kolkata .  

Chai and sweets at Hindusthan , watching the sun rise in the horizon . 

And then pushed off .  

Taking the Panagarh Bypass , reached Durgapur .

NH19 from Kolkata to Durgapur is always a pleasant drive on the wide smooth tarmac with low traffic .

DURGAPUR TO PURULIA

From Durgapur , took the left towards the DVC Durgapur Barrage .

The road is called Durgapur-Purulia-Raghunathpur Road .

Crossed the barrage , kept driving straight and reached Bankura .

Turned right into NH314 , also called the Bankura-Bishnupur Road .

And reached Purulia town .

Durgapur to Purulia is a tight affair , with narrow roads , and lots of traffic and people .

Purulia was a crowded town . Had some refreshments , and got going.

PURULIA TO AYODHYA HILLS

After Purulia the route was quite scenic with quaint village vistas all around .

Drove down roads winding ahead in gentle curves , surrounded by lush green on either side .

Tiny villages , earthen huts scattered around , lazy cyclists and unhurried pedestrians .

Quite often we would get stuck behind shepherds herding cattle along the roads .
It was a slow ride , a gentle one , glimpses of another life , another way of living .

It was a drive for the slow traveller looking for peace and beauty in the little things .

Finally we reached Ayodhya Hilltop . 

AYODHYA HILLS / AYODHYA PAHAR

Red roads curved around the little hills with lodges and hotels and resorts strewn around . 

Last time I had come must have been at least 30 years ago . 

Then it was just a yellow coloured single storied youth hostel on a huge parcel of land on the top . Just that . 

And a tribal village in the distance . The rest was forest .

And now it was a dingy little town , crowded with cars and jeeps and tourists and locals and dusty shops and grimy restaurants . 

Why do we always have to make it so untidy . so squalid ? 

Development was meant to make it better , right ?

And we always end up in ruining the place and the people .

A little more thought , planning and imagination , and things can turn out so much better .

AYODHYA PAHAR YUVA ABASH

AYODHYA HILLS YOUTH HOSTEL

It was the 20th of March 2019 . Holi . A holiday .

And all the lodges and resorts were full . Not a single room .

And then I tried one last spade : asked around for the youth hostel I remembered visiting 30 years ago. 

It turned out that the yellow coloured single storied hostel of my memories had morphed into a three storied ugly blue behemoth , coloured in the light blue and darker blue shades of current government buildings , still on the top of the hill , but devoid of all its charms .

Now let me be very clear , it wasn’t that the single storied earlier edition was very beautiful . It hadn’t been much clean , the beds had been grimy and the toilets unclean . 

But it gelled with the rustic surroundings , the monastic minimalism . 

The fading yellow walls matched with the gray surroundings . the short stunted building complementing the barren red soil beneath .

Whatever . Back to the present behemoth in blue .

After a lot of pleading , we finally coaxed the hostel manager into providing us one room , that too for one single night only – we would have to vacate the next day as they had prior reservations .

That room turned out to be on the ground floor , with just three beds .

That was the last one , the only one they had , as if that was meant to be , for just us three .

The room was clean , the beds were clean , the toilet was clean , there was warm water and there was a large window looking out into the hostel grounds – that was nice . I mean okay . No grudges .

See I am a person who “travels” to office – meaning even a crowded bus ride to the office feels like a joyride to me , as long as there are new experiences to enjoy . 

And no , I dont have high expectations . 

Just getting to look out the bus window watching the city pass by is joy enough for me . 

I hate to grudge . I hardly do . 

In fact I didn’t , not even there when I was atop Ayodhya Hill in that hostel .

In fact I enjoyed staying there . 

Gossiping with my childhood schoolmate Souvik , pulling the silly leg of my kind of brother/friend Sumit . 

Looking out the window as people of various shades walked by. 

Watching the cars getting parked . Watching the sky .

Watching the trees surrounding the compound .

But now that I think of it , I feel the incongruence of it all .

That blue building , rising like a chest-thumping , stupidly self-absorbed monolith , head and shoulders above everything surrounding it , dwarfing even the trees that have grown there since time immemorial , seemed so insincere , in callous disregard to its earthen environment . 

And to colour it blue ! in the midst of all the green and the gray . 

And if you thought it matched the sky , it didn’t . 

To me , it was the colour of human arrogance .

A creation devoid of any imagination .

Just like the rest of Ayodhya Top.

See , I haven’t been inside all the resorts and lodges and hotels that had sprung up there .

Some of them might well have been fantastic . 

And I would cheer my voice hoarse for them .

I love stuff built with love and care and a dash of imagination .

The town planning of Ayodhya Hill top was none of those . 

And the Hostel exemplified it .

Thats what I saw .

You show me a better version and I am ready to fall in love with it .

But not what I saw .

They took something sparse , something beautiful , something pristine , 

and populated it with the ugly .

Enough of berating .

But I find that happening time and again with innumerable cases .

And no , development does not necessarily equate to degradation .

AYODHYA HILL – PLACES TO EAT

Anyway , we freshened up and headed out towards the centre of town . 

The Bus Terminus . There was also a huge football field . 

Some shops and a few restaurants .

We had our lunch at the biggest restaurant we could locate . 

Basic stuff – dal , rice , fish , eggs . 

The place was not clean , the food was not good , but the place was very very busy . 

Business was good and yet , they failed to clean up their act .

It was the same with every other restaurant in the area .

Left with no better alternatives , we reverted to the same restaurant and asked them to cook us chicken for dinner .

MURGUMA DAM

 We then drove over to Murguma Dam , 18 kms from the hill top .

The drive was an exhilarating one through forests and winding hill roads , going up and down amid verdant vistas .

The Murguma Dam is a large body of water and quite beautiful with a metalled road running around its perimeter . 

We stopped our car and lazed around , taking pictures and running around the edges . 

Sumit flew his drone and caught some great videos .

A dog followed us wherever we went , sitting under the shade of the car as the Sun shone through a clear sky . 

We stayed for an hour or so till the Sun started dipping . 

We had an hour’s drive ahead in the forests and didn’t want to get lost in the dark .

We reached Ayodhya top at around 7 .

AYODHYA HILL YUVA ABAS

Sauntered around , found a couple of locals who informed us about a chou dance programme scheduled for the night at the football ground .

We picked up our dinner from the restaurant and returned to the hostel .  

Chatted on the hostel grounds , met some fellow hostelites , soaked in the romance of the jungle night .

The jungles were awash with the radiance of the full moon night .

Had our dinner , switched off for the night .

Next day we slept late , partly because we had hardly slept the night before , partly because we were too tired from all the driving around .

The hostel did not serve breakfast and so we cajoled someone to fetch us some morning tea and biscuits . Freshened up , packed our bags and left the hostel by 11 .

BAMNI FALLS

Bamni Falls is around 10kms from Ayodhya Hilltop . 

The drive was a mesmerising one on roads making delightful curves round the hill , through light jungles and flower strewn landscapes . 

To see the Bamni Falls , one will have to trek down a little distance from the road . 

But Souvik had a previous leg injury and it would have been quite painful for him to walk down, We all decided to stay back . 

The place was littered with a lot of street food peddlers , and we had a fabulous time gorging on eggs , cucumbers , chana mixture , rolls , phuchkas , icecreams , soft drinks you name it we had it . 

TURGA DAM

TURGA FALLS

From Bamni , we could have gone another 8 kilometres along the same road to reach Turga Dam and Turga Falls . By all accounts its a beautiful must-visit spot but we turned our car back towards Raghunathpur .   

AYODHYA HILLS TO RAGHUNATHPUR

The roads were amazing to ride on , especially for a 4×4 . 

Just loved driving along the hilly curves downhill to the plains and from there on along the picturesque village roads of Purulia . 

If you love leisurely easy-going drives , these are the roads to die for . 

The Purulia roads are lovely , the landscapes serene , and the experience heavenly .

We stopped the car under the shade of a tree  and had the lunch that we had earlier got packed from Ayodhya . 

We had excess food and shared it with some locals . 

The people there are so friendly and simple , it was a joy . 

At Raghunathpur , we stopped the car when we reached a crossing .

There was an arrow pointed towards Baranti . We had heard of the place and wanted to go .

But there was another arrow pointing straight towards Garhpanchkot .

The name intrigued us . 

There must be some “garh” of some kind , “Garh” meaning fort .

Also we had heard good things about this place too .  

We settled for Garhpanchkot , consigning Baranti for another day .