‘Abhi ja raha hai,’ says the tout as he hurries me into a bus bound for Tezpur. It is six in the morning. There is no government bus yet going that way. I pay the fare and board the bus.
I should have been a little more discerning. There is no empty seat in the bus and I have to sit uncomfortably in the crowded cabin near the driver’s seat. The frenzied haste of the morning continues leisurely for another 45 minutes as more and more passengers are pushed into the bus.
Guwahati to Tezpur is about four and half hours by road. It has rained quite a lot last night and it contines to drizzle this morning. The roads are waterlogged. Pot holes are a common feature. We are actually on a National Highway, NH52. State roads and village access roads must be a lot worse.
Far to the north, across fields of paddy or estates of tea, are the hills and mountains straddling Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. The green fields stretching for vast distances are quite pleasing to the eye. The scenes are all rural with dotted village settlements. I see no significant towns. It would be difficult to find a clean place to eat or stay. I can only hope that Tezpur is a bit more modern and developed.
Indeed, Tezpur is a big town. I check into a basic lodge and head out to explore the sights of town. I step into the District Library. There is no power at the moment. In dim natural lighting, I browse The Telegraph and The Times of India. It is a chance to catch up on local news – border disputes, communal violence and the like. A depression has already formed in the Bay of Bengal. Prediction is that the monsoons may hit Kerala within a week.
When I step out of the library I find that it has started to rain. I walk to the neighbouring Cole Park. Nature has blessed Tezpur with good climate and man has tapped it to great effect in this wonderful park. The centerpiece is a U-shaped lake and on its low margins and higher slopes are walking paths. Trees are planted all around the park. The Golmurs decorate with their orange flowers; the frangipanis with their pinks and yellows; the lychees laden with ripe fruit with their flushing reds.
The park is landscaped with thatched huts and medieval sculptures. The sculptures have been salvages from drains, ponds and private residences. Scroll capitals are displayed upside down. They would have looked odd in a temple or in a museum but here blend with the landscape. A grotto adds to the ambience a little of the wild. A rope bridge, children’s playground, boating facitilies and an old aircraft are some others that make this park complete.
Next I go in search of another park, Agnigarh. I walk past Ganest Ghat, stopping just a few minutes to look into the Brahmaputra and its vastness. Agnigarh is a beautifully landscaped park set on a hill. It is a perfect blend of man’s work of art and nature’s wilderness. The place is in many shades of lushful green. In this park one can admire some modern statues and in the process learn the local legends – the love of Usha and Anirudha, the great battle between Hari and Hara. It is from this battle that Tezpur has an alternative name – Sonitpur, the city of blood.
In the evening I shop for fruits and head back to the same restaurant where I had a wonderful lunch earlier today. I am beginning to like Assamese food. Green lentils are cooked to preserve colour, freshness and taste. Mashed potato is a common side dish. Gravy spiced with black pepper feels good to the throat. Spoons of mango sweet pickle are no different from manga patcheri of Tamil cuisine.