Life on Highway 39

Joyson Tao *

Life on Highway 39
The condition of NH 39 between Maram bazar and Maram centre - Pix :: Hueiyen Lanpao

Recently, a pregnant lady from Senapati delivered her baby on her way to RIMS, Imphal, thanks to all the pot-holes on Highway 39. At least those pot-holes had saved her husband's hard earned money, that by forced circumstances he is a cultivator and judging by his income he is someone who could hardly afford those expensive medical treatments available in all the hospitals.

Or no thanks to Highway 39 for all the pain and tears she endured during the nerves breaking delivery moment. Whatever be the reason the good part is: the mother and the new born child were doing well when last reports came in. Jokes apart.

But for people who don't even have a change of innerwear, traveling on Highway 39 could be very disappointing because chances are the bottom part of it could starts to grow holes as the journey continues. Once you reached your destination, there is no way as to how you will like to wear that torn branded innerwear. To be honest, whenever I have to travel on this highway I never go for the back-seat, especially the last row because I have had few very bad experiences.

Every time I took the back-seat my head would hit the roof of the bus, my back would ache as if it has been hit by an arrow and my buttock would get very close to catching fire. And you can't open the window during dry season because your well-ironed white shirt and the color of your hair would go grey. No kidding, my friend.

Well, if we are to count all the pot-holes on Highway 39 starting from Mao Gate to Imphal then chances are the numbers of pot-holes could be equal to the total number of HIV+people in our state. And the worst part is: pot-holes on Highway 39 are giving rise to more pot-holes as in the case of rising HIV+ infected people. Those pot-holes show how irresponsible and corrupted our politicians and contractors are.

It is the perfect result of weak governance and improper management of funds. Every time the public raise the issue, the blame-game between politicians and contractors would be opened to public view and any solution to the problem is a far cry. And of course there is no denying the fact that certain amount always go to militants (or Pirates of the Highway 39: At Atingba End) which in turn plays a very destructive role in maintaining Highway 39. But blaming the insurgents for the over-all system failure is more than a lame excuse.

I wonder how often Ibobiji and his groups of ministers take this road. Next time they want to go on a trip to Thailand, Singapore, Europe, or US for cleanliness lesson (some years back Ibobi went on a world tour seeking FIIs only to come back and clean the Imphal river, saying 'Imphan is berry dirty'- he didn't notice that before), instead of heading straight for the Imphal airport, I want them to take Highway 39.

Once they board the bus, the rest of the passengers should go for a humble request and make them sit on the last row till Mao Gate, and tell them that they would be airlifted straight from there to Dimapur or Guahati Airport. Better still, place another request and beg them to take Highway 39 till Guahati. Let them see how smooth and pot-hole-less the road in Nagaland and Assam is.

This could be one sure solution of mending those pot-holes otherwise if our politicians keep flying without taking this road then soon our Highway 39 could be mistaken as stony paddy field especially during rainy season.

Highway 39 is also famous for too many 'checking(s)' by Assam Rifles and our very own IRB. I don't mind police check-points. But Assam Rifles checking on every passing vehicles looking for militants in the name of fighting insurgency is a torture meted out to the public.

To be straight forward, ARs are menaces in our daily lives and they bring more insecurity to locals. Few years ago, on my way to Imphal our bus was stopped not once but thrice by armed personal (Indian army) and they thoroughly checked all the male passengers. On one checking, all the male passengers were let out of the vehicle, made us stood in line facing opposite to our aggressor with our hands up.

Then they checked us one after the other, with their dirty hands caressing on our clean dress and asking all those stupid questions. It was a total harassment and a direct violation of human rights. At one point of time, I lost my patience and had a heated argument with a crooked jawan. Seeing my angry reaction, a certain rifleman came straight to me and charged me in broken English that they have information about militant groups taking Highway 39.

"Do we look like those militants?" I responded in fluent Hindi, "And why can't you keep those information to yourself?" Surprised by my questions, he said something in Hindi which I didn't hear clearly but before I could open my mouth to enquire what he said, we were told to leave by the officer in-charge.

However, despite all these unforgivable experiences, traveling on Highway 39 could be of great fun. When it's not dusty, you can simply roll down the window's glass and sniff the fresh local air. Those green hills and paddy fields, clean rivers, streams and even water falls along the highway can take your breath away.

Better still, you can stop anywhere, chat with some locals and chances are they might invite you for tea or rice beer or pure sekmai atingba. You will even get to eat mouthwatering local delicacy. I just love those roasted meat and dried fish. You can always go to any rice hotel in small towns along the highway and the items they serve are so much that you will be filled with excitement wondering which one to eat first.

You don't have to worry much about the price because it comes at a very nominal amount.

And once reach your destination, you will be filled with some pretty good memories to cherish but you will always look back and wish if Highway 39 was free from pot-holes and army check-points.

* Joyson Tao contributes to for the first time. The writer can be contacted at joysontao(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on July 05 2011.

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