Letters From Purulia Hills
A quick summer escape into the wilderness and mystery of a small tribal ecstasy called the Ajodhya Hills placed at the border of the Indian states of West Bengal and Jharkhand. In the midst of the lush green aboriginal villages and ever-appealing rocky mountain slopes , the week — end went past in a blink.
We , a group of five , had started to feel the grim of heat right away after we descended our train. It felt like the whole district of Purulia was being roasted in a frying — pan in that 8am April sun. Hadn’t it been for the love of hills and mountains , who could have selected such a place?
Well , we had already done that , and then there was no looking back. We dumped our luggage in a Sumo.
Please Do Not Turn On That A.C!
Inspite of that heat , the roads were jam — packed with people , cattle , motor — rickshaws , antique buses which looked like they had been excavated from the ruins of Harappa , trucks…and smoke! Ranchi Road was bustling! Our driver was a local identity and he knew the roads well. He honked and screamed at the top of his voice in some creole Bengali at the madness to make way…and the other drivers were up to the same. Somehow , we succeeded to make it out of the town after an hour of struggle. We were drenched.
Who could’ve thought it was going to be worse outside the town? Our driver said , “ It’s going to soar above 43 today.”
The paddy fields , little kaccha huts with their thatched tops , the black belt highway which cut through the villages…the little children who ran from their rooms and peeked through the school windows to have a glimpse of the car whooshing past them , the farmers with their cattle and tractors in the fields…life is so tough in these areas. You got to breathe daily with the fear of the Maoists at the back of your mind , you got to fight the impounding poverty day — in and day — out , you got to toil and toil hard for sixteen hours per day to support a family , you got to travel for hours to reach a dispensary and succumb to the commonest of diseases , you got to look into the eyes of the injustices on the part of Mother Nature. It doesn’t really rain there during summer. The cry for a bucket of water intensifies with each passing year. Yet , I noticed a sense of innocence in the eyes of the people , laughing away in groups as if there are no tomorrows.
We are human beings , but are they robots?
The driver was going to reach for the air conditioner in the car. I asked him to skip it. We needed to accustom ourselves to the weather and moreover it was fun when the air kept playing with our hair.
Political Unrest in Purulia - A Debate Aired on Times Now on The Arms Drop Case ( 17th December , 1995 )
And No 'mp3' s Too!
The villages had their own music. The wheels had their own rhythm. Some trashy bollywood track could mess up the whole ambiance.
The driver was perfectly disappointed in us…
After a couple of hours , the silence was broken by a sudden cry from one of us , “ There’s the hill! Here we come!”
There they were…lying in the horizon like huge black dinosaurs! They seemed to appear from nowhere and continue endlessly.
The Purulia Hills!
A sudden burst of cool air splashed against us , relieving us of the fatigue of the overnight train journey.
At last , an escape into the maze of the green hills. We started moving uphill. The afternoon sun was still merciless , but we were feeling a lot better.
An hour more and we would reach our hotel.
We finished with our lunch and straight away went for a nap. We had set our alarms at 5pm , to witness our first sunset in Purulia. It was majestic. As the last rays touched our rooftop , we sung a traditional Bengali song to welcome the evening.
Evening Descends In The Hills
A couple of lights flicked up in the distant slopes as it got darker. The chirps grew silent. It was so calm and tranquil. You could even hear the drum beats from the village fair miles away. It was the time of the annual pata — utsav (a festival of leaves) of the local tribes. The evening brought with it the darkness , the ceaseless noise of the crickets…and clouds. We were talking our hearts out and had no idea when the deep lightnings had started to tear off the darkness and the thunders rampaged the silence.
We were practically dancing in the storm and rain , screaming , singing and what not! It goes without mentioning that there was power cut and it was pitch dark all around. There were just lanterns. They made the surroundings even more surreal.
The rain was incessant. We had taken our dinner and had gone to bed but it showed no signs of rest. We had taken just a couple of lanterns , one for each room , for the night.
I woke up to a deafening roar of a thunder in the middle of the night. 3 am , said my watch.
I noticed something odd. The lanterns were still on but the windows were shattered by the hailstorm. The door was swinging back and forth. I decided to take a stroll down the corridor to discover the other room in the same condition. Everybody was sound asleep. I moved through the darkness and discovered a small wooden orifice at the end of the way and looked through it. The areas around the hotel were flooded!
What an exquisite sunrise it was! Quite like an artist’s creation with the colours touching every point of the canvas. Not a sign of clouds in the horizon and the cool morning wind brushed the last pinch of sleep away from our eyes.
We decided to take a walk along the road and visit the nearby stall for a round of tea.
It was difficult making our way through the puddles and swamp — like areas. A sudden fall and you crash against the rocks.
After the breakfast , we tried some small cliffs round the corner and the clicks started. The small villages down the valley , the tribal ladies carrying their logs of wood..we loved the place. We made up our minds to return to our hotel , get our stuffs ready and start off with our trekking before noon.
The Adventure is ON!
We passed through the tribal fair. We saw ladies , gents , young and old dance and sing to an absorbing beat of their dhamsa and madol ( an indigenous version of drums ) , distributed balls to the children…sheer happiness reflected in their satisfied eyes on receiving such a little gift.
We kept on walking uphill and then downhill , through the thickets and localities. We stopped occasionally for resting our feet. It had started to get hot. The cool winds had vanished to give way to the scorching downpours of the mid-day sun. We had enough water bottles but maybe just not enough to survive a full day in that heat. We reached a small village at around 12 pm called Bagmundi. It finds itself cached in the embrace of hills, small waterfalls , mosses , lichens and wild woods.
There were some other tourists. They seemed to be more interested in playing music in their stereos , cooking and disturbing the serenity of the place. We wanted to move as far as possible from the group and soon found ourselves in front of a huge cliff. We wanted to start with it. We got ourselves moving up slowly and it wasn’t too tough. Having reached the next base , we were planning our next route when suddenly , something caught my eyes.
Date : 17 th April , 2013.
Time : Around 12 : 30 pm.
Location : Bagmundi , Ayodhya Hills , Purulia , West Bengal , India.
Weather : Humid , Terribly uncomfortable.
Temperature : > 35 Degrees Celsius.
Purpose of visit : Trekking.
In The Hills...
Keep yourself fully equipped
Take a local guide
Carry plenty of fluids
Mark the path which you intend to take
Avoid junk meals. Never trek in empty stomach.
It was a cave. The whole area was rocky and barren. There was this small stretch of a waterfall finding its way down to a stream. I started moving towards this cave…it felt like something was there inside which was pulling me. The guide didn’t think it was a good idea , but I wanted to have a look. There were huge boulders lying all around and I crossed them and finally reached the opening of the cave.
At first , I had no clue in that blinding darkness after I entered the cave , having spent those long hours in the sun. After a few moments , I regained my vision and instantly found a wild snake near my feet , welcoming me in its den. It was ready to attack. I jumped back. Bats were hanging upside down on the walls and there were wild lizards , ruling their territories. Fortunately , the snake slowly moved under the thick cover of leaves.
I stayed on for some ten more minutes before making my way back through the boulders. Each and every rock was covered with lichens from the waterfall. A small step or a slip could be a fatal drop , about two — hundred feet down the rocky slopes into the wild stream. The more cautious I wanted to be , the tougher it got. There was this huge chunk of a pointed rock which was the final frontier and I could already see my group , far down there.
I placed my left foot on the rock and instantly knew that there was an imbalance. I lost my grip from the rock lying above. The lichens made the whole scenario worst and I slipped down the rocks and thumped some twenty feet down on a sharp edgy surface on my left side. I could distinctly see the stream flowing down.
I couldn’t think of anything during the first few seconds. Did I break anything? This was the first question which emerged. After some efforts , I managed to scramble up to find the left palm , the waist and the left leg bleeding profusely. There was a bad twitch in the spines which made it even more difficult to stand back again and move down somehow to the waterfall and wash my wounds. I was lucky not to have any fractures that day.
I had wrapped my hand with my handkerchief and when they asked me about the red stains on my trousers and t-shirt , I straight away put the blame on a pointed branch of a tree.
"You should stop being so casual!"...I knew they would say that!
I got my kit and put some antiseptic to last the journey.
We visited a local tribal market to collect some handicrafts. Those were astounding! We trekked back to our hotel at around five in the evening.
It was our final evening in the hills. We spent the night chatting , flipping through the clicks and packing our stuffs.
The next morning ( 18th of April 2013 ) saw five sad souls leave an ecstatic beauty behind with the promise of returning real soon!
P.S : The final few paragraphs were kind of a confession to my fellow trekkers of that day who till today , didn’t have any clue as to what had happened. A big SORRY to all of you guys. With you around , I look forward to many more exciting trips in the future.
What do you love the most about mountains?
MAY THE THIRST NEVER QUENCH!