Traveling by Road From Jorhat to Dimapur and Paying Tribute to Elephant Herds
Land of Wonders
Centuries back when Brahma created the universe, devout Hindu feel that he blessed India as the land of wonder. There is some truth in this because India is strategically located yet has a varied climate from the snowclad peaks of the Himalayas to tropical jungles and varied wildlife exclusive to what is known as the subcontinent. India is a vast country and its wonders never cease to fascinate visitors, especially Europeans who have never seen lofty peaks ( more than two dozen) above the height of 25,000 ft and exotic tropical jungles with wildlife that just not exist in Europe or America.
I am one of the lucky few who have spent time in the Tamil Nadu forests of Siruvani and Top slip and also visited the exotic jungles of Assam and the North East. However, in this article, I wish to draw the attention of readers to the state of Assam which has some of the most pristine forests in the world. These forests are replete with exotic wildlife that does not exist anywhere else in the world; herds of elephants and rhinoceros living in harmony with the most fierce animal; the tiger. The state of Assam has a small town called Jorhat which is one of the biggest year basis of the Indian Air Force. I had the opportunity to go many times to go out and then travel by road to a place in Nagaland called Dimapur. This road is something unique as it passes through some of the thickest tropical forests with heavy rainfall. Driving on this road is a rare experience.
Jorhat town Is located in upper Assam close to the massive Brahmaputra River. It houses two of the biggest transport squadrons of the IAF. It also has many runaways for use by aircraft. The base was a livewire during World War II. In those days the United States Army Air Force used this base as a supply chain to the beleaguered Chinese national Army which was fighting the Japanese. There are also reports that many B-24 Liberator bombers were used to bomb the Japanese lines in China from bases in Jorhat, Chabua, and Kumbhigram.
Dimapur is the biggest city of Nagaland and is connected by a road that passes through dense jungles. The distance is 110 km and passes through areas that are the habitat of the Indian elephant. (Elephas maximus indicus).The Indian elephant is smaller in height to the African elephant but it is more intelligent. This was the reason the Indian elephant was used as an instrument of war and also was domesticated.
Dimapur is important from another angle also, as there is a complete cultural change visible from the people of Assam and Nagaland. In Dimapur, you will find girls and women running the show i.e. hotels, shops, markets, while the men are conspicuous by their absence. This leads to its problems of promiscuity of the woman with the men from other regions of India.
I have traveled on this 110 km road twice. This road trip is something out of the ordinary.Firstly, one must remember that you are passing through a pristine and untouched forest area with plenty of wildlife and secondly, you must be aware that you are not allowed to kill a single animal and in case you do it, you could spend anything up to 10 years in jail.
I was keen to make this road trip because I had heard that the road passed through lands where herds of elephants moved about. I was a little wary of the trip when I heard about the elephant herds but I was also assured that these herds have never harmed a vehicle and generally all you have to do is to stop and after some time the herd goes away. However, it is not as simple as it sounds for sometimes the herds can block the roads and not let the vehicles pass.
As I have mentioned the Indian elephant is a very intelligent beast and the herds of elephants on this road will still let you pass after you have paid your "tribute." What is this tribute?
It is clusters of bananas that are being placed on the road and the elephants will come and take them away and let the vehicle pass. How lovely!
Our drive commenced early morning. It was a clear day and we drove in a Suzuki Gypsy. The drive was expected to take three hours and we would pass through thick jungles; protected wildlife reserves. We carried a dozen large clusters of bananas in the rear. These were loaded in by the duty Corporal, who traveled with us.
The first hour of the drive was uneventful and we kept a steady speed. I did not see any animal. After about an hour I saw a tusker standing in the center of the road. He raised his trunk and trumpeted. I was wondering what it meant but the Corporal who had gone on this route several times told us that he was the advance guard of the herd and he was conveying information that he was expecting his usual "tribute" of clusters of bananas.
The elephant continued standing in the center of the road. The corporal got down from the vehicle and taking two large clusters of bananas walked a few feet towards the elephant and put them in the center of the road. The elephant trumpeted again and low and behold five or six elephants appeared from the side of the jungle and moved towards the clusters of bananas. They picked up the bananas and walked with the bananas and for a few yards along the road and then melted away into the thick jungle.
The road was now clear and the driver put the vehicle into gear and sped forward towards Dimapur. I was wondering at the intelligence the elephant and I realized why the Indian elephant was also used as a shock therapy in war and battle. One can recollect what the Greek historians have written about the shock of the Greek cavalry when Alexander first saw the elephant corps of Raja Purushottam at the Battle of Hydespes, which he lost.
We had one more encounter with a herd. It remains an enduring memory for me and I thought it a good idea to share it with readers from the West. I was delighted at the conduct of the elephants, so wise and intelligent.
We reached the outskirts of Dimapur and the driver brought the Suzuki to a stop in front of a low built hotel. As the engine switched off a young Naga girl came out. She was the girl running the show and she informed us that she had good Army Rum available.
It was another enchanting moment and the culmination of a wonderful trip as the girl poured a double large peg of Hercules Rum and also said softly"I will roast two chickens for you. Ok?" It was all so exciting, the elephants and now this girl!
All things come to an end and so was this trip and the Rum with the Naga Girl. Can't relive it again?