The little border town of Jaigaon lies at the foothills of the mountains where North Bengal ends and Bhutan begins. To get there, I had to travel to Calcutta (Kolkata) and from there by flight to Bagdogra, which is the closest airport and gateway to many of the hill stations in that part of the world. The flight was full of eager, noisy Gujarati and Maharashtrian families on their way to Gangtok or Darjeeling and I was probably the only one going towards the less scenic last Indian town of Jaigaon.
It takes about three and half hours by road from Bagdogra to Jaigaon. There are several routes through Jalpaiguri district of North Bengal but we took the shortest (and possibly, the least scenic) in the interests of time. It was still quite beautiful though and made me nostalgic for childhood summers when I traveled through Bengal by train. Unfortunately, again in the interests of time, I could only take pictures from a moving car.
Lush green paddy fields stretched for miles. Crotons grew here and there in wild bursts of colour. Overgrown bamboo trees that fanned out eagerly from the ground, betel palms with their tall lanky trunks and small tuft of leaves at the top, jackfruit trees heavy with fruit, gigantic Monstera plants growing wild, tree trunks covered with creepers and vines, jute plantations–this was the landscape.
And everywhere, water. Pools, puddles and brooks; muddy shimmering streams and broad white rivers; marsh, swamp and wetlands. Everything here is damp, moist, seeping. Even the weather ranges from humid to rainy.
People squatted in the fields sowing or weeding. Men took afternoon siestas on wooden benches outside their huts. Women with long, thick hair and large red bindis walked around with children in their arms, sat in the sun, or washed clothes by a stream.
We passed dozy, little towns and fields that contained every shade of green; houses made entirely of bamboo–bamboo reed and woven bamboo sheets–fenced in by bamboo fences; boys hanging from Banyan tree roots or playing football.
And then, the tea plantations like a thick, furry carpet of green, so luxuriant that you can sink into it, dotted with trees that were strangely twisted in many places and often leafless.