A three day ordeal at IT road

OT Ramshan *

A Map of Tamenglong district
A Map of Tamenglong district :: Pix - MMTA

I was all upbeat to take my maiden ride to Makui village, Senapati district along the I.T. road some 40 odd Kilometres away from Kangpokpi (Kanggui) for one special occasion. I have heard of I.T. road that connects Kanggui with Tamei in Tamenglong and beyond, on several occasions but I've never been to that part of land. 21st January 2014, Tuesday was the day of send off blessing of one of my old friend, Majathonliu (Athon) of Makui village and me and my good old buddy Mr. Livingstone, a jolly and an ever cheerful fellow, were inside the Type II Maruti 800 (old model) of my first cousin Athannao, heading along the highway of Imphal-Dimapur road for this auspicious event.

Reaching Kanggui from Imphal, didn't take us much time as my cousin negotiated the highway with his mesmerising skill of driving, wonderfully well. Making an uphill climb from Kanggui on the western side with so many curly turns every now and then, we were now strolling along the I.T. Road; and the thick billowing dust along the road made our sojourn livelier. For the past so many years this road seemed to have been left neglected by the government and ergo people living in and around this area have been reeling under tremendous hardship but as of now a huge repairing work is underway.

The road is much wider now and at every turn you'll find group of labourers laying shingles while some would be sprinkling the earth on it and the roller would roll over it. Up 8 miles the mountain, from Kanggui, we reached Chawangkining village perched on the middle of the two highest ridges of the mountain and beyond which, our airtel and aircel network was as good as dead. The road seemed never ending as we headed towards the western horizon following the long and winding turns of the road and yonder as we looked, we saw three big blocks of mountain resembling three big standing elephants, beyond which is a deep blue sky and nothing else.

Down the road as we go, our vehicle suddenly stopped. We couldn't make it out as to what had gone wrong with our vehicle until a mechanic, Jangmang Kipgen, from the nearby village, Selsi, came over, checked the vehicle and told us that the ball bearing of the front wheel (right side) was broken. We were already 22 miles away (around 35 Kilometres) from Kanggui and another half an hour drive would have actually landed us at Makui. There was no way out as we didn't have an extra ball bearing with us.

The kind hearted mechanic took us all around the surrounding villages in search of one such extra thing but to no avail as people in the area basically do not own Maruti 800. Our hope of visiting Makui and meet our close friend Athon for the last time, was all but over. We stopped a bolero camper that was going to Makui and handed our package for her and also sent our final words of greetings to the driver of the vehicle. The huge block of mountain on the western front finally swallowed the red sun and we were all left alone in the open paddy field with nothing except our broken vehicle.

On the eastern front right across the paddy field is the murmuring stream and beyond the small hillocks on the east of it are the hamlets of the Nepalese scattered all over. As dusk fell and the dust of the day settles down and the vehicular movement along the road came to a halt, the whole surrounding too fell to a complete silence with some chirping sounds of the wild dove and bulbul being heard from distant away.

The big-hearted Jangmang, a father of seven kids and a mechanic by profession, was gracious enough to be the host of these three totally unknown strangers that night. The hospitality that their family showed to us reminded me of the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible and I tell you, no words could ever suffice our gratitude to this fine gentleman and his family.

Selsi is a small Kuki village of about 40 households, mostly thatched, with one school till class VI. The kids have to walk down another 2 kilometres or so to another village to attend their high school. People here are so simple and down-to-earth with their occupation mainly confined to farming and cultivation. Electricity is still beyond their reach and even though the government has failed to light up this area, people of Selsi and the neighbouring villages are well ahead with their own technology of producing electricity. They have a dynamo, bought from Imphal at six to eight thousand rupees, kept upstream where the running water is plenty.

And there they let the force of the running water fall on the small turbine attached to the dynamo which when the turbine starts spinning, it turns the energy into electricity and thereby the whole village is lit up. This mechanism is exactly like the way hydro-electricity is being produced through dams. But here 40 households have to use around ten dynamos (the whole village clubbed themselves into different groups) and depending on the size of the dynamo, they light their bulbs (CLF bulbs and not incandescent ones) though they don't use appliances such as TVs and other gadgetry as their sole purpose is only to light up their rooms and kitchens. What it really takes one to be self-reliant in a modest way, is what I learnt from them.

22nd January, 2014 Wednesday, we requested Janmang's brother Kamlen to go to Sekmai on his Pulsar 180 and get the ball bearing for us which he happily complied. By ten pass one in the afternoon he was back with the stuff and so down we went to the paddy field to fix our vehicle. Jangmang, who earns his living by running taxi from his village to Kanggui daily, sacrificed the whole day for us. As he completed fixing the ball bearing, an air of unpleasant feelings swept among us.

The main nut that bolts the axle was gone. A deep sense of anguish filled our hearts even as we looked at each other with long faces. 'What do we do now....first was the ball bearing and now the nut...' We were helpless but friends of Jangmang who had come down along with him were so helpful as well. We tried to stop every type of vehicle, big or small, which came that road and search for every possible nut that could match our axle.

Finally, somehow Jangmang managed to fix the nut from the scraps that we'd collected from different vehicles but by the time the fixation got over, the sun had gone down again. Well, what do we do...just move on or let the dark night turns into a bright day...? We were in a dilemma. Then they asked us to halt the night again and push off the next morning rather early. 23rd January 2014 Thursday, 5.30 am we bade farewell and off we started our journey back home. But not long before we started climbing the winding road, our poor vehicle broke down again. We were stranded in the middle of nowhere and by now our pockets were also running dry!

The best part of our journey was that we hadn't contacted our families for three days as there was no network at all and I wondered how each of our family members would probably be feeling right then. Well, this time the problem seemed to be coming from the engine. We waited for vehicles to come on to our way so as to get assistance but we could not see a single vehicle except some trucks that were being deployed in the construction of the road, due to the 12 hour bandh called by the UNC.

At 11. 00 am, we stopped one shaktiman, boarded it and headed back to the village that had given us shelter for two nights in search of the same mechanic but luck would have it that we met Jangmang midway, at Kotlen village about 2-3 miles before Selsi village. It was like seeing a light at the end of a long dark tunnel when we saw him and once again I could see ripples of smiles on my cousin's face who otherwise, being the owner of the vehicle, had undergone tremendous amount of stress and besides, being a businessman by profession, I could also imagine how much he would have possibly loss his business in three days time.

Not to mention of my old buddy Livingstone, who is an advocate...well he too had missed three days of hearings in the high court! Mr. Ratan, a Nepali, permanently settled at Kotlen as a pharmacist, was so generous enough to spare us one delicious lunch with his cheerful wife showing so much of hospitality. Up we went to our broken vehicle again with one Setinmang Khongsai chief of Khomunon village, which is just a stone's throw away from Kotlen.

They put so much of their efforts in trying to fix the problem but to no avail. 'Well, it's probably the carburettor that's causing the problem...' reasoned Jamang but alas, they didn't have the right equipments with them to open the carburettor. The last option left for us was to beseech Jamang to pull our Maruti 800 with his Bolero pickup till Kanggui which he agreed to do it for us. Man, I tell you he was our saviour for our three days ordeal at I.T. road! We stopped at Maohing village, 7 miles away from Kanggui at around 5 pm where one, Seitinlal Haokip a friend of Jamang pried open the carburettor of our vehicle and there we found the brainteaser.

It was here that I called up all my friends and family members for the first time since I left Imphal two days ago. My brother was so furious and yet at the same time, I knew he was quite relief when he heard my voice over the phone. Having fixed our vehicle, we gently glided down and by the time we reached Jamang's house at Kanggui, it was already 9 pm.

Late as it was, we halted the night at Kanggui and 24th January, 2014 Friday we were once again strolling along the Imphal-Dimapur highway towards Imphal in our type II Maruti 800, leaving all the austerity of our journey behind and yet with so much of fond memories of our trip to Makui in front. I am sure this will go down into my history book as one of the most cherished moment in my life and perhaps I'll be telling this same story to my grand children 50 years on.

* OT Ramshan wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on February 13, 2015.

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