We had to cross the width of Nepal to get to Uttrakhand from Sikkim. In transition, we entered and crossed a part of West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and finally we would enter Uttrakhand. We were very eager to cross West Bengal as fast as possible. It is one of the dirtiest state we’ve ever visited, there was trash, dirt and dust everywhere. The landscapes are beautiful if you can look past all the garbage that exists in plain sight.
Once, when I wanted to get rid of all the empty water bottles that we had collected over the previous day. I gathered it all up and asked a watchman who was sitting nearby, for a dustbin. He looked around and shrugged; “Throw it anywhere.” He said. The traffic gave Naveen a severe case of road rage, most of the roads were undone and muddy, which gave our car quite a workout. People were just generally spitting and peeing all over the place. How can anything improve when there is no love shown towards it? Naveen and I felt unhappiness looming over everyone. They were unhappy with their food, their land, with each other and everyone around.
Once we escaped from West Bengal, we entered the infamous Bihar. I didn’t want to think much of it. But my poor mother’s BP touched the roof when I told her we were going to cross through. And why wouldn’t it? All the stories of Laalu’s notorious jungle raj that exists could scare anyone. But once we entered the state and crossed by the small villages, we felt it was peaceful. Of course, we were the object of everyone’s stares and judgement. But, we had to look past that. Bihar was a lot cleaner than West Bengal but the infrastructure was one of the worst. We had to go around at least three bridges that were broken in half and cross one of the most rickety bridges to get into Patna, the capital. We were stuck in a traffic jam on that bridge for about two hours before entering Patna city and the bridge was narrow enough to only have two lanes, one incoming and the other, outgoing. The bridge felt weak under the weight of all the vehicles. Each time the bus in front of us moved, the street lamp shook and the bridge literally groaned. Everyone stuck on the bridge could only pray that it wouldn’t collapse.
Uttar Pradesh was hot. The sun was beating down on us without mercy. Piercing through the glass and burning our skin to our bone. We missed the cold Sikkim weather. We stopped for the day at a small town, Gorakhpur, a couple hours before the capital city of Lucknow. Naveen, being the true blue south Indian boy, got excited looking at a couple of dosa points in the town. (But, he was disappointed. I wasn’t surprised.) Gorakhpur, a small town with all the makings of a big city, a mall in the city center, couple friendly hotels, designer brand stores, good restaurants. But it is remarkably crowded with vehicles, people, cows and dogs. We were out of the town before we could get stuck in worse traffic.
We reached Lucknow on the eve of Holi. Rightfully named the city of Nawabs, the city is wonderful with wide, clean roads and beautiful buildings. But to our unfortunate luck, the entire city was shut for the festival of colours. Though we saw a very few people of the city covered in colours, there was very little traffic, which made Naveen very, very happy. We crossed the beautiful city in less than an hour. What upset me was that I didn’t get to taste the amazing Lucknowi food, which I was so looking forward to.
Driving through the heat again, we were now eight hours away from reaching Bhimtal in Uttrakhand. We were so eager to see the mountains, get away from the heat and feel the cold mountain air on our skin.