Winter season is so maddening in itself, it makes you leave home, urges you to re-discover nature. over and over again. All you see is brightness, raging colors, the cold wind numbing your senses but the muscles in your leg push you to explore places.
The sun, the sky, the birds they all tend to invite you to put on the winter garb. We got off the hotel room, unfurled the map in the front, and looked for few getaways within 100 kilometres from Bolepur. Eyes stopped the scan, zeroed on..yes, “Shall we try Massanjore dam …”, we murmured and the next moment, we saddled our Swift to spend a day in the lap of a river tamed by humans situated in the state of Jharkhand.
Massanjore dam was built over the Mayurakshi river, with assistance from Canada in 1956 and so it has a second name, the Canada dam.
The dam looks a bit old though and keeps you guessing which department should take over – the DVC or the Archaeological Survey. Standing around 155 feet high, stretching to about 0.66 km. The adjoining reservoir looks beautiful with a greenish haze lying over it and touching the horizon where you can see small hills that complement the panoramic view as you turn 180 degrees.We fill ourselves with an omelet, bread, and down it with hot tea, in earthen cups which gave it an amazing rustic taste. The route we chose was Bolepur > Sreeneketan > Siuri and to Massanjore. From Chaurasta, we take the left arm of the ‘Y’ and over good to potted roads, we drive towards the Sreeneketan crossing. Siuri, the nearest big town is 35 kilometers from there and then you drive another 42-43 kilometres and reach Massanjore.
Any Bolepur road, if driven over feels like you are a student of ‘Kuchipuddi‘, the left hand and left foot frequently alternates like a classical dance exponent as you constantly change gears and sway the car from left to right to miss the craters. Interestingly, once you leave the Bolepur, the road to Siuri was very good..though a bit narrow, you have to lurch a bit to give passage to vehicles coming from the opposite direction.
The landscape for this part was flat land covered with a green and brown carpet of paddy fields and the road snaking its way.
Siuri is a small town with fairly wide roads. Typically, the traffic with all conceivable means of transportation exists as you carefully navigate the car from bumping people, car, bus, cow, and humans as they all converge on you.Once you leave the populated Siuri area, the road becomes wide and very good…within minutes we crossed the Tilpara barrage. On the left, we saw a huge flock of Cormorant birds, resting on the barrage wall edge as we bump across the barrage road. As you come near Massanjore, the scenery starts changing; the metaled road furrows between a forest of Sal trees.
The sunlight and the tree shadows between the tall trees create an interesting effect over a moving truck if you approach the vehicle from the rear in a car. The road is bordered by the same red soil of Santiniketan.
We slow down and sweep the camera lens to the rear of the car, to catch the forested road with the car looking very handsome with a coat of red dust on azure gray with the 12 o clock sun flashing off the metal.
We leisurely drive for three hours and reach the dam and right on the road edge we suddenly see the massive reservoir with its pipes bobbing away under the green water. Cool wind swept us as we settled for a view.
The road has a high outer edge so instantly, you will see it suddenly out of nowhere.
A great number of brown colored birds, probably migratory..can’t recognize from a distance were having a field day, harvesting on the fish as they dived over the lake surface. The birds circled in batches and bird watchers kept their eyes glued.
As you cross the dam by foot, the scenery on either side come into full view; the two sides were pretty contrasting..the great volume of water on one side is released in a controlled manner stays almost stagnant with the gentle wind making little waves on top splashing against the wall. The other side is outrageously rugged can be seen by the lack of water over the rough terrain of rocky outcrops.
On the other side of the river, the bank has been tamed to a certain degree by making an embankment, a long staircase made to cater to speed boat complex which entertains visitors. You can have a ride over the lake at speed and moor back.
The lake from across the dam looks very placid and a continuous cool wind blows over the bank which gets reflected off the small hillocks that line the roadside. As you take deep breaths of air, freshness charges your mind and soul.
You sit there and watch the rustic activities, life seems to be geared down at an even pace…village women carrying loads of dry woods walking along the small hill road, a day’s catch for their firewood needs. Scattered are few food stalls, briskly doing day time business as visitors approach them for refreshments. What you get for food is quite delicious, mainly fried stuff like onion rings, with chilies, potatoes, nuts, and accompanied with hot tea; the whole combination in a cool season is indeed mouth-watering.
On the edge was a small hillock, partly shrouded with some wild bush, and a makeshift road over boulders and loose rocks were made by local boys. If anyone dared to climb the road on it, will need some balancing act to scale up…we tried, and little did we know what was in store. City beaten souls like us, with less physical activity, were panting even to climb 35 to 40 feet of the hill phase. However, we rested and made it to the top and were presented with a splendid view.
While coming down, the locals were gathered with their bikes and were having a good time, chatting, and puffing away. The world at this place came to a standstill..you will relax and just stare away at nature’s creations around you. Even a tiger toy model, quite big in size, looking almost realistic made us gasp as we suddenly saw it..was made to rest on a bike. It seemed, even the tiger had casually parked to catch the windblown scenic beauty.
The day was filled with activities – hill-climbing, almost lost balance while trying to reach the hilltop, bumped into a goat on our way down; you should have seen the goat’s speed, they are natural climbers and that to without any fancy sneakers on..with sprinkles of red dust on shoulders, we started back to cross the river and the dam. The road which skirts the dam is pretty unique..on the opposite side bordered an upright hill face, has a series of small food stalls and you name it, you can get all kinds of delicious chaats, a very popular Indian fast food variant.
The mixed smell of ‘aloo tikki‘, or fried potatoes, with tomatoes, coriander, a host of masalas, our appetite just multiplied many folds and we hurriedly cross the road to grab one of the tasty ones, that could please our eyes and nose.
We ordered twice for each of us, and stopped only when were not able to move – filled to the neck, we sipped the tea to have a final look at the area around and climbed back into the car.
The road which goes to Dumka or the nearest town from Massanjore is very smooth and the car hardly did any ‘Bharatnatyam‘ as we danced on our way from Bolepur. We pushed a bit to see the undulating short plateaus, filled with vegetation and crops. You need to keep your eyes wide open as village boys cross right across your path and vanish into the undergrowth. As we were driving back, we saw a series of very heavily loaded trucks, wondering how many hours it would have taken to pack so much stuff into a lorry..the trucks were driven as you can well imagine by expert drivers who were slowly making their way on the winding roads through the hills.
We dared to tail them all the way and overtook a couple of them and felt like a pack leader when they were all behind us. Swift with its weight and length was looking like an ant beside these road behemoths.
Jharkhand has a mix of both green and barren landscape. Roads go up and down through forest patches as we traveled along the highway. Acres of mustard fields under the blue sky was so colorful that we stopped several times to catch memories of it.
As the sun slowly tilted to the west, long shadows reminded us of the day coming to an end. This beautiful bright day will be replaced by a starry night, none of the natural objects we are seeing will be discernible…replaced by dark eerie structures, so I stepped on the accelerator as the Swift increased her gallop towards Bolepur. The burning excitement in the morning was ebbing away, nothing else seemed new as we have seen it all as we head back.
The long road between the sal trees looked as if someone has cleaved through the earth and we were sailing over the base as the trees whistled by.
As we came back to Bolepur two sets of dance welcomed us. As soon as we touch the town roads, we started our ‘salsa’ ballet with our Swift and other vehicles missing each other outstretched front ends by a whisker. We were heading home, distant drum beats of a santal village attracted our attention. We were passing a sprawling area dotted with podiums and huts in an enclosure which was known as “Shilpagram’. We parked and got out to visit it. The place is very artistically decorated but manned by people who have no knowledge of ‘customer handling’…we went in and saw a group of village lass forming a ring was dancing to the beats of a drum.
A great day ended with touches of tribal history as we put back all our recording tools like the camera, our own mind and contemplated on the incredible diversity of our country.