Jaigaon Diaries I: A relentlessly seedy lodge

I entered Jaigaon in the dark. It was 7.30 pm and the power had gone, a frequent occurrence in these parts. A market spread out on the road, little shanty shops lit by candles and kerosene lamps, a sprawl of a town. It had the precarious air of a border town, a shape-shifting town which sees much travel. It smelt funny: a mixture of diesel fumes, food odours, sweat and damp ground. I was told that it had rained continuously the night before–sharp, heavy showers that washed the fields but made the town more muggy.

When we reached Hotel Anand where I was to stay, a shiver ran up my spine. ‘Hotel’ is a huge overstatement; the place was a lodge. And it was full of men–only men–and some rather unsavoury types. They sat around in the ‘lobby’, eying me curiously. There seemed to be a bar on the ground floor. Not a good sign. I wondered if a woman had ever lived here alone.

I had just checked into my unprepossessing but habitable room when the generator gave out and the entire place was plunged in sooty darkness. The arrival of the project manager of the NGO provided welcome distraction and an excuse to go down to the lobby, which had some light. And since I was with a group of people (the project manager had come with his wife and child as well as some other people in tow) the stares were a little subtler. But after braving more looks on the way up to my room, I started feeling distinctly uneasy. I had been told this was the “one of the best hotels” in Jaigaon so it seemed pointless to say anything.

As the night progressed, my unease worsened. The lodge seemed to be populated with men of different varieties–mostly single–and some of them distinctly shifty. The room was relentlessly seedy with a night light that cast a strange, haunted red glow on the walls; an AC that let out a low, creaking moan every five seconds; and the incessant rattle of rain on the window panes when it rained. The door had cracks and was secured by two flimsy-looking bolts. There were no grills on the windows. Outside them, the grey wall of a dingy building that looked deserted.

There seemed to be a Truckers Association office across the street in front and there were lots of trucks parked there. Every now and then, a new one screeched up in the night. The watchman’s toc-toc echoed up eerily; someone yelled in one of the other rooms. And much later, when it was quieter, somebody’s loud groan broke through the night.

It’s always hard for me to sleep in unfamiliar places because I’m an insomniac and the particular combination of heat, mosquitoes and insecurity was not a great soother.

I insisted on checking out the “other best hotel”, Hotel Kasturi, the next day and found it was a hundred times better. Nothing fancy, but safe and clean with some actual, real-life women (hallelujah)! I was surprised that the NGO officials, who had booked the room for me, had not realized that this would be a much safer place for me to stay. Just proves that you can’t trust men with making simple judgments that involve seeing things from a woman’s perspective.

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16 Comments

Filed under Personal, Places

16 responses to “Jaigaon Diaries I: A relentlessly seedy lodge

  1. Kishore

    I’m loving the travelogue.. 🙂

  2. iz

    Scary stuff! thank god you’re ok!

  3. Chimera

    i think i have similar problems sleeping in a new place and this shady lodge wud’ve sent shivers down my spine.i’ve bin to the Bagdogra route during my trip to Darjeeling and planning on another trip that route to visit my friend in New Jalpaiguri.

  4. Anonymous

    What ever has been written about Hotel Anand, Jaigaon is not correct. It has been seen from one negative angle only. This hotel is one of the safest, cleaninest family hotels. This is a purely a family hotel. This hotel does not have any bar, as memtioned. The management does not have solutions for the guests “sleeping problem in a new place”. It is a purely a vegetarian hotel with strict rules and regulations. This hotel is situated on the side of the main road as such there may be some noise of the vehicles plying. This hotel has 39 rooms and as said runs full most of the time so the management cannot keep the hotel vacant for one honored guest. As memtioned, electricity problem is common in our country.

  5. aashit

    you should mention the number of hotel kasturi on your blog for people like yourself can make some good use of it…
    takecare…

  6. T.sushma

    Sad to go through ur blog. well if ur new to any town its not advisble to trust any brokers who promises to take u to a good hotel. I live near hotel anannd and i also do not like it. I think u should hav trusted a local people instead of any broker.

    Also sad to go through your comments on jaigaon and khokla busty, u made it appear soo scarry…. enough to drive future visitors away. i agree that its a very small, underdeveloped town which certainly lacks good infrascture but you should hav put an effort to raise a voice against such issues and not to potray the town and its people in a bizzare way.

  7. Anirban Patra

    Hotel Kasturi is a good hotel at Jaigaon. It is almost 100m away from Bhutan Gate. Rooms are good & clean.There is a resturant in this hotel whose quality is also ok. I lived in this hotel one month ago. This hotel is especially suitable for those persons who travels with family. Tarriff is also reasonable.

  8. alex

    anyone can provide the email address of Hotel Kasturi so that i can do the booking for my stay in mid-Feb 2010? many thanks 🙂

  9. Bhaskar Sur

    I know Hotel kasturi very well as our external examiners and Auditors and other guests are staying there. Nobody wants to stay other place.

    Personally, I know the owner of the hotel, Mr. Santanu Mukherjee, always ready to help others, Mr. Haripada Sarkar (Harida), Sr. Manager, Mr. Debasish Saha (Debu), Jr. Manager and may more.

    Ph. No. 03566-263036/263254

    Tks

  10. Jayanta nag

    I am tour operator. I have gone thru all the comments above. I have stayed in Hotel Kasturi as well. The best and most helpful owner I have ever come across is of HOTEL ANAND Mr. Ashok Kumar Agarwal. The person may not have met him as such he is a man only of 1 pond and do not the world outside. He is very courteous, helpful well mannered, as well as his manager. The hotel has the largest lounge with car parking facilities and the rooms are very neat and clean as the rooms have been renovated last year only. Hotel Anand is a family hotel and is liked by me and my customers and I find lot of guests staying there being satified all times. I have heard no complaint about it. Most of the foreignors staying in Jaigaon prefer staying with Hotel Anand only. This hotel is most spacious of all in Jaigaon.

  11. Pratap

    Comment of Mr. Bhasker Sur is not appreciable. He know only one man. He has not been to Hotel Anand. if he goes there he will know the owner and the Hotel. This hotel is the best seen by me. All the need of a guest is fulfilled with ease and comfort. This is the best hotel I have seen.

  12. Susil

    Go through the website of Hotel Anand – http://www.hotelanandjaigaon.com and the people who critised above may come to know the real fact of Hotel Anand as it is. We like this hotel ever since its incesption in the year 2000. Everything is good in this hotel from Manager to Staff and owner. This is the best hotel for any meeting to hold as it is in peaceful area.

  13. The best and most helpful owner I have ever come across is of HOTEL ANAND Mr. Ashok Kumar Agarwal
    India best job sites and job information’s

  14. A

    i am very sorry for what happened to you…i speak on behalf of the community of jaigaon… my dream is to see jaigaon as a safer and cleaner place but i guess that would never be possible unless the people of jaigaon take an initiative. i would be most willing to help in any way possible so that i can realise this dream… i would love to know more about the ngo… i come from a very influential family in jaigaon and could collect more people for helping your ngo if you could give me details by commenting further

  15. Seetha

    I am planning to visit Bhutan and need a room for a night either at Phuntscholing or at Jaigon , wondering which is better place to stay. Can any one suggest please

  16. Anonymous

    Arguments will Go On. Better to come and get Experiences. Kasturi Hotel is the Best in Jaigaon. hotelkasturi49@gmail.com 03566-263036, 263254

    Abinash Mahato, Balasore, Orissa

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