KWID TO THE COUNTRYSIDE
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
FISHERMEN ARE KNOWN TO CATCH FISH ON EITHER SIDE OF THE BORDER AND LOCALS WALK IN AND OUT AS THEY PLEASE
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