Sunday, July 16, 2017

Monsoon Ride to Jhargram - met a gentleman Motorcycling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari

Monsoon Ride to Jhargram - met the gentleman Motorcycling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari
A rolling stone gathers no moss, makes sense only when uttered by a botanist. Otherwise, I do not know any selfless soul living anywhere in this entire universe who would take interest in growing slimy evils over his well developed gray matter. People who do not travel, consciously or unconsciously end up being static and eventually mossy. Like many of you I too have a step-motherly day job to put up with. But, long back I chose to be a rolling stone, and till date I have not found a single valid reason to dock. You might be wondering why yours truly is force-feeding you with pills of wanderlust instead of narrating the Jhargram travel tale. Well, not everyday you get to meet a passionate motorcyclist who's on the verge of completing his Kashmir to Kanyakumari circuit ride on a humble RE Classic 350! Hold on folks. Catching up with Shashidhar on NH-6, somewhere near Kharagpur was the highlight of my Jhargram ride. Before I get back to Jhargram, let me tell you what this Bangalorean IT guy was up to.

Monsoon Ride to Jhargram - met the gentleman Motorcycling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari
Shashidhar Sunagar, the Bangalorean gentleman motorcycling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari!
By now, having ridden a mountainous distance of 12,100 kilometers in 38 days, Shashidhar Sunagar has successfully concluded his dream motorcycle trip of Kashmir to Kanyakumari, covering 16 states and 5 union territories, almost traversing India circumferentially. Anticipating good amount of rainfall I had started off with Benu just after the morning tea. Sky was overcast. Online weather forecasts were not very dry either. Formerly a sub-division town of Paschim Medinipur, Jhargram is the headquarter of newly formed Jhargram district. With dense forests, hills, elements of history and tribal touch arranged proportionately in her platter, Jhargram has marked her presence in the tourist map of Bengal long back. Still when it comes of finalizing a weekend destination, travelers are reluctant to choose Jhargram. Probably, it will take few more years for us to convince ourselves that Maoists reign of terror has faded away from that region.

Monsoon Ride to Jhargram - met the gentleman Motorcycling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari
Jhargram Palace, the hub of tourist attraction at Jhargram was my first hunt of the day.
My objectives in the Jhargram ride were pretty modest: reach Jhargram as early as possible, visit Jhargram Palace, Kanak Durga Temple and Chilkigarh Rajbari, savor a sumptuous lunch, and then return Bardhaman before it gets dark. Benu's second servicing was due. I didn't want to take her to service workshop before clocking 4,000 kilometers. A couple of long day rides seemed necessary at that point. Anyway, the starting of the journey went absolutely trouble-free. NH-2 was partially wet, yet welcoming as always. I was expecting mild drizzle in the first half of the morning, but the monsoon sky took a rain check. Kindness is the last thing a traveler can ask for from the gloomy clouds of July. Calmly cruising at triple digit speeds on NH-6, popularly known as Mumbai Road is a pure bliss for any rider. I had got so engrossed in that act of euphoric mile munching that I missed the right diversion to SH-5 after crossing Kharagpur. That's when I passed by a motorcyclist in riding jacket, driving a RE Classic, hauling substantial luggage, flags and a yellow board at back that read- Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

Monsoon Ride to Jhargram - met the gentleman Motorcycling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari
Jhargram Palace still functions as the regal residence of successors of Narasingha Malla Deb.
For salaried professional it's never easy to get such a long leave from his boss. However stringent you maintain your policies as an employer, you simply can not hold back a rolling stone for long. When he was refused a month-long leave from the office, dejected Shashidhar expressed his intention to resign. Guess what? His travel leave was granted! A gentle disclaimer for my readers- This approach had worked for Shashidhar, but it doesn't necessarily mean it'll work for you too. If you're planning to threaten your boss with your letter of resignation, be mindful and calculate the associated risk beforehand. It was 31st day of his marathon tour. He had ascended to the north till Leh taking the west coast of India, and was descending for Kanyakumari following the east coast. He had been documenting his motorcycle journey through a helmet mounted camera. When he was traveling in Ladakh the snow layer on the road was so thick that he couldn't help toppling over more than a few times! As Shashidhar was sharing his trip highlights I could sense nothing but deep-seated satisfaction in his voice.

Monsoon Ride to Jhargram - met the gentleman Motorcycling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari
There is a full-fledged remnant of an old temple beside the new Kanak Durga Temple.
Our destinations were different. Eventually we parted our ways after a highway chitchat. By then I had rode more than ten kilometers from where I was supposed to change route for Jhargram. Better late than never, I took a U-turn. Soon, monsoon started showing its real color. It started all of a sudden and got intense in no time. Before I could dig out the raincoat my clothes were all drenched in rain water. Realizing the futility of searching for a shelter I pushed on, only to discover how efficiently Pirelli tires could hold onto the slippery road, an essential feature which Eurogrip tires had always refused to provide. Nagging rain, wet clothes, thick population of trucks on SH-5 and the ongoing road construction works joined hands to slow down my pace. Despite the unfavorable wetness I tried to appreciate the beauty of woods and red soil on both sides of the road. Taking out the camera was risky. Last year I had to get a fungal growth removed from the camera mirror. Humidity promotes such nuisance. Since then I have learnt to be more protective towards my photographic equipments.

Monsoon Ride to Jhargram - met the gentleman Motorcycling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari
Many devotees take bath in Dulung River before offering their prayers to the idol.
Jhargram Palace, the hub of tourist attraction at Jhargram was my first hunt of the day. Built in 1931, Jhargram Palace presently functions as a heritage tourist accommodation as well as the regal residence of successors of Narasingha Malla Deb. You too can experience a royal sojourn by parting with 3,000 bucks (plus taxes of course). As maintenance works are being undertaken tourists are prohibited from entering the main gate of the palace. Only privileged tourists residing in the cottages managed by West Bengal Tourism are rewarded with special entry pass to explore the beautiful blend of Islamic and Italian architecture. That's loudly unjust! After the security person came to know that I had been traveling all the way from Bardhaman solely for the purpose of visiting that palace (that's what I had told him with extra spoonful of meekness) he was kind enough to oblige me with an unofficial permission to trespass. Apart from the repairing process, abundant bushes surrounding the palace were chaotic enough to kill the overall aesthetic appeal of the majestic architecture. Probably, now is not the good time to visit Jhargram Palace.

Monsoon Ride to Jhargram - met the gentleman Motorcycling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari
Kanak Durga Temple has been built generously over a wide open ground.
Short spell of rain-free weather at Jhargram Palace encouraged me to take few quick snaps and rush towards my second destination- Kanak Durga Temple. This temple is probably 12-15 kilometers from the palace, but I had lost my way in the jungle and kept riding many useless miles. At last, a local guy on a motorcycle helped me out. Remember, Kanak Durga Temple is very near to Jamboni. The entire area around the temple is properly maintained. The path leading to the temple is fenced from both sides with myriad varieties of plant species, some of which did carry their biological name tags. Strychnos nux-vomica caught my attention. Its seeds parent a dangerous poison called Strychnine. The temple has been built generously over a wide open ground. The presiding deity is Devi Durga. There is a full-fledged remnant of an old temple beside the new one. It should be no less than 300 years old! Unfortunately, there was no authentic history available about that ruin. If you farther walk hundred meters down the Kanak Durga Temple you'll be greeted by the serpentine riverscape sketched by the calm Dulung River (a tributary of Subarnarekha). Many devotees take bath in this river before offering their prayers to the idol.

Monsoon Ride to Jhargram - met the gentleman Motorcycling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari
Despite all mud and water Benu felt more meaningful than ever...
Sky was getting murky again. I remembered my obligation towards my gut. Yes, lunch was still pending. There are couple of basic eateries on the temple ground. Whatever food they serve you is bound to be cold, because lighting fire is prohibited near the temple. Be watchful of the naughty population of langurs dominating the Kanak Durga Temple complex. Your momentary inattentiveness may cost you your food or other belongings. Before I could wrap up my compromised meal, it started raining. As I left Jamboni, the rain took a furious form. I surrendered my desire of visiting the Chilkigarh Palace. There's always a next time, I had explained myself. I was so wet that I could even pee my pant hundred times without letting anyone discover the grossness. Well, combating with the monsoon continued for first half of my return ride, and I must confess, it was damn tiring. Bounty of the ride was catching up with Shashidhar and the booster dose of motivation obtained from his feat. By the end of the day, Benu had clocked more than 550 kilometers. Despite all mud and water she felt more meaningful than ever. Obviously it made both of us happy!          

4 comments:

  1. Nice to see Jhargram in an absolute new light. I feel the east section of India really needs to become a 'rolling stone' in the tourism sector. The naxalite bit too plays a spoil sport.

    I can understand the disappointment of not being able to explore a place because of renovation work or any other reason. Maybe we should have these info on the tourism webpage

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    1. Here one more thing that needs to be addressed to- heritage/palace accommodations in West Bengal lack the hospitality (forget 'royal') which you would expect as a high paying tourist. Rajasthan fares better in that field considering ample palace stays it offers. Hope professionalism grows in my place too :-))

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