Exploring Hailakandi in Assam

What is offbeat travel?

You keep seeing these lists of offbeat travel destinations everywhere, and you let them shape your ideas of what offbeat travel should look like. Isn’t that very familiar to people telling what the most happening professions are and you shaping your career that way. We have seen that happening. And we let others’ ideas insidiously seep in. It has happened to me. I am guilty of not paying enough attention.

While we read about offbeat locales in popular blogs, we tend to misinterpret the term ‘Offbeat.’ What is offbeat for someone might not be offbeat to you.

Offbeat has become a “Jargon” for the travel industry. 

What we need to seek is our own personal oasis in this vast world, by taking the road that was always there left of your home, but you always took the right to go into the town.

My personal revelation happened this monsoon, when I took the right from my village, instead of the left that I have been taking for the last 26 years of my life. It happened while I was writing, and a line came forth of its own will.

We travel the whole wide world, only to neglect our very own backyards.

This struck a chord in my heart. I have traveled to other countries, other states of India, but never really explored my own village. So I went home to celebrate Eid with the plan of exploring my own backyard. The wandering bird finally comes to find where its nest lay.

The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at least to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.

— G.K. Chesterton

I was shocked at what I discovered. Just kilometres from my Dadabari (meaning Grandfather’s home), was such natural beauty and landscape awaiting, I felt ashamed at neglecting my own village for the 26 years of my life.

People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.

― Dagobert D. Runes

I will write about these two places that blew my mind in two separate posts that they deserve.

The first is the Serispore tea estate in Hailakandi, and the second is Son Beel in Karimganj border which is the second largest wetland in Asia. I bet you never heard of these two places before.

It is not down in any map; true places never are

—  Herman Melville

Serispore Tea Estate

Serispore tea estate is one obscure tea paradise. It lay just 10 km from our village, and yet all I ever did about it, was demand my uncle to bring yummy jackfruits and wild berries and lotus fruits that were special to the Serispore market. Serispore lay on the other side of the hills that marked our village plains. I knew very less of it, even Google could not tell me much about its past and history. All I know is that it was a British plantation before Independence, and the British named it ‘Serispore’ while the locals called it ‘Saraspur.’

As a child, whenever I visited my Dadabari, I would be warned not to venture towards the dark lane towards the hills. There were instances of the occasional murder or kidnapping rumour among the tea tribes that live in the Serispore garden. These rumours were unfounded, mostly because while our village was Muslim dominated, the tea tribes were Hindus and were thought to be harmful to the plain people.

This year, I convinced my cousins to accompany me beyond the familiar plains and thus we set in a car. Just 15 minutes into the trip, the landscape started getting darker and lush forests greeted us. We passed the market and entered the estate. I can not understand why nobody in my family ever told me how miraculous the landscape was.

Miles and miles of hills and water bodies as far as I could see.

Green pastures with tea shrubs, lazy cows grazing.

The locals fishing, and tending to their ducks.

Ladies with baskets on the back, picking tea leaves.

Can you imagine it? No?

See the pictures for yourself.

We parked the car and I ran inside one of the hills. We kept running in the tea gardens. The whole world seemed to sing to me. I was happy how undisturbed and peaceful the estate was, due to its obscurity from the mainland.

Not many souls to disturb you while you wander around meandering lanes inside those green hills. I lay on the grass and dozed in that wonderful fragrance characteristic of Assam tea gardens.

Soon it was dusk, and I didn’t want to go back home. But I had to go back as there are rumours of the estate being unsafe at night. The next morning was Eid, and I was caught up with family celebrations. I managed to sneak out of my home in the evening and went to Serispore again. I was aware that it may be a few years before I would visit the place again.

The evening was mystical, as befitting an Eid evening.

And I found solace in knowing that I would be back to this little piece of nowhere, someday again.

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