We go road trip­ping to the Bangladesh in search of the sim­ple life


Re­nault’s tiny hatch with a big heart goes sight­see­ing again to the treach­er­ous North East

FA­MIL­IAR­ITY AND HABIT ARE THE modern world’s worst en­e­mies. So much of re­search has gone into the be­havioural pat­terns of men and their life­styles that ev­ery com­mod­ity is sold with an aim to not just make you like it but also re­peat­edly buy it. The colours are care­fully cho­sen, in­gre­di­ents in food and drink are too, you will only buy shoes and clothes of a cer­tain brand, so on and so forth. When peo­ple and the world around you are in­flu­enc­ing you so much, a drive to this vil­lage on the Bangladesh bor­der in Megha­laya feels so re­fresh­ing.

The lat­est in our Kwid to the hin­ter­land se­ries has us start­ing off in Guwa­hati and then we set course for Dawki. Dawki is a small vil­lage on the bor­der be­tween In­dia and Bangladesh that’s eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble by road and even has a trade route be­tween the two coun­tries. How­ever, modern civil­i­sa­tion hasn’t reached there. You won’t find the burger joint known to make the most av­er­age yet pop­u­lar burg­ers or that cof­fee shop with the most over­priced cof­fee. You won’t get high fash­ion brands any­where within a few hours from this vil­lage or ho­tels and re­sorts for a lux­u­ri­ous night’s stay. This is the true hin­ter­land of In­dia. Those ‘es­sen­tials’ for a good modern life don’t ex­ist around Dawki, and that’s part of Dawki’s charm. Here, life is sim­ple like the good old days when travel was en­ter­ing the un­known and em­brac­ing a dif­fer­ent way of life to yours.

Once upon a time there used to be no Google or Google Maps, you asked for direc­tions if you didn’t have a map book and yet, very rarely got lost. You watched the road more at­ten­tively and land­marks were more of a pho­to­graphic mem­ory than a dig­i­tal pic­ture on a mem­ory card. A cut­ting chai was your favourite en­ergy drink, parathas and birya­nis were meal breaks and sug­ar­cane juice by the side of the road was a mo­ment to be happy about. A ma­jor part of the sim­ple life back then were small hatch­backs with big hearts that took us any­where and ev­ery­where. The Kwid maybe a modern car but it feels like it’s got that old world charm with its tough sus­pen­sion and even tougher looks. It feels like it was made for the hin­ter­land and find­ing so many of them here in the North East tells us a story much the same. A car’s real test is the coun­try­side. The folks out here are no-non­sense peo­ple. They will only buy a car that’s re­li­able, can take a beat­ing and is easy to use. Ev­i­dently they buy a lot of Kwids.

Spot­ting Kwids in such far flung places as of­ten as we did on our drive to Dawki proves it works well here. That 1-litre en­gine is strong enough to main­tain good pace on the wind­ing high­ways of Megha­laya and the sus­pen­sion is tuned to per­fec­tion for bad roads. There aren’t many in this side of the coun­try how­ever, you do find a lot of trails in many towns and vil­lages here and even on these trails, the Kwid feels at home. It’s light, the steer­ing is quick

and over­all, the hatch feels nim­ble for these places.

Some­where in these pages, you might have read about us miss­ing the Cherry Blos­som fes­ti­val in Megha­laya. We al­most did, but we had to go back to check it out and the Kwid was our steed for the drive. In this pleas­ant shade of sil­ver, the Kwid looks beau­ti­ful un­der blos­som­ing cherry trees around Megha­laya. The pink land­scape is so re­fresh­ing to the eye on our way to Dawki, it feels unique and bright­ens up our day. Dawki is no more than a six hour drive from Guwa­hati and when you reach there, a slightly busy main street leads you to the Dawki bridge, a sus­pen­sion bridge over the Um­n­got river to the other side of the river. This bridge was built by the Bri­tish­ers in 1932 and is still mo­torable. The Um­n­got threads its way through the hills sep­a­rat­ing the Khasi and Jain­tia hills of Megha­laya and leads into the plains of Bangladesh. In fact the bor­der is clearly vis­i­ble from Dawki and the land­scape changes too as you cross the bor­der. Fish­er­men are known to catch fish on ei­ther side of the coun­try and trade them too on ei­ther side. The lo­cals walk in and out of the coun­try like it’s their own as bor­der polic­ing isn’t strict here. You could look at it as a sign of peace when there are fewer re­stric­tions on travel.

The river it­self is un­like any­thing I’ve seen be­fore. Many rivers with fast flow­ing wa­ter are clear enough to let the rays of the sun pen­e­trate its sur­face but Um­n­got is rel­a­tively still yet the wa­ter is so clear, you can see the shadow of the boat on the river bed when


the sun is high in the sky. Lo­cals in their ca­noes ac­tively use the river for tourism, fish­ing and even a swim on a warm day. Yet you can see the sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity among them and even tourists in this vil­lage to keep the area clean. There’s no lit­ter any­where, plas­tic is used min­i­mally around town and ev­ery­one from kids to se­nior cit­i­zens put in an ef­fort to keep the place clean.

We wrap our jour­ney af­ter a sim­ple lunch on a road­side. It’s the tasti­est meal we had on our drive, full of lo­cal flavour, fresh veg­eta­bles and fish. Fit­ting on a drive to the hin­ter­land. Dawki is just any other reg­u­lar vil­lage with beau­ti­ful land­scape and vir­gin nat­u­ral beauty. Yet in Megha­laya, it’s one place you must ex­plore. ⌧


Left: It's nor­mal to no­tice vil­lagers walk on roads in Megha­laya as very few ve­hi­cles ply on these roads. Be­low: Freshly cooked food at a res­tau­rant in Dawki

Above: That's the Um­n­got river, not a beach in Mau­ri­tius, and it's as clean and clear as a new born's soul. Right: More cherry blos­soms and a beau­ti­ful sun rise, south of Shil­long

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