The Eternal Journey

The Eternal Journey

Dudhwa National Park: Part 1 - The Experiences of the drive through Rural North India

Since I wrote the last travelogue, I had visited a lot more places, the last one being a trip to Dudhwa National Park, U.P. This is an adventurous saga of 6 jerks, who started out towards the north amidst the biting cold and blinding fog. 6 AM, The last Saturday of the previous decade, marked the beginning of this journey. I planned this trip along with 5 other friends of mine and we booked a Tavera (ergo used by paparazzi in some operation, as we later came to know) in the last minute and proceeded with almost no preparations. On one side of my mind, was the revenge for not being able to see a tiger in our previous visit to Panna Tiger Reserve, and on the other side, the eagerness to reach the place and get a couple of clicks of mine caressing a tiger or a cub at least. Whatsoever, my poor friends fell prey to my idea and set aboard the cab for the journey.

Learning from our previous experiences, my friend Prashant got two empty disks for copying some songs to enjoy along the journey and I filled one with Telugu and the other with Tamil with a few Hindi songs as a consolation for one poor non-south Indian friend. Hardly after an hour’s drive, despite my favorite numbers playing on the music system, I started feeling mice in my belly and asked the driver to find us a place to eat. Poor me, I got to see a place only after a couple of hours more and you can imagine all of us just pounced upon whatever we got to eat. This kid looked like given a chance he can beat the Ambanis and the Tatas with his cost cutting measures. He got us puri with a little bit of chana sabji (Bengal gram gravy), and every time we ask him for more, he got us a bowl of gravy with 2 grains of chana in it. And the more we asked him for chana, the more he started ignoring us.  Poor souls, we had to finish our breakfast without much of a complaint just for the reason that we were damn hungry. Finally, we took some mirchi bhaji. Munching over it and amazed at the way the kid in the mini-restaurant dealt with us, we headed towards the destination.



We kept on taking breaks at regular intervals to enjoy the beautiful countryside of the north. Our driver, a nice fellow kept on describing the different places we come across on our way, their history and geography, and one of the places interested us. It was a temple called the Frog Temple, built for Lord Shiva, in a place called Oyal, nearly 10 km from Hurgaon, en route Lakhimpur Kheri. The driver narrated an incident from mythology about Ravan getting the “Atma Ling” of Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesh obstructing him in the form of a shepherd and finally the ling getting onto the ground and getting permanently fixed at this place. I heard the same story about a place called ‘Gokarn’ which is on the west coast of India and my friend Prashant started narrating me the same story for Srirangam too. I started wondering about how many times Ravana got Lord Shiva’s Atma Ling and how many places on earth did he leave them. And every time, Lord Ganesh, whose part-time job seems to be a shepherd only to spoil Ravan’s plans, comes and executes his job to perfection… Assuming whatever our driver said is true, If I weren’t a fool, then definitely Ravan must be dumb enough to get fooled by Lord Ganesh in the same way, multiple times and at multiple places, or he should have had a Short Term Memory Loss. On the other hand, Lord Shiva should have been a perpetual manufacturer of Atma Lings in a monopsony market with the one and only customer being Ravan.


With all these thoughts in mind, I manage to escape the fatigue of a tiresome stretch of the road for 20 long kilometres off the highway. When we reach this frog temple, my friend Jinal started jumping in joy on seeing the pond (koneru) in front of the temple. The rest of us rushed to the place not to miss the beauty. All we see is a pond with just one layer of water above the bottom, and filth lying all around. Really could not understand what made her so excited just by seeing it. Finally, blocking our sense of smell, we reach the main temple.

Now, another wonderful experience to reaffirm the fact that temples in India are the best profit centers. If at all I have to make a business plan that ensures maximum profitability, it would be a temple. All you need to invest is a little bit of amount in buying some vermilion, turmeric and find a place to start. Of all the stakeholders, the least ignored is the deity, and next comes the devotees. With an initial investment which might be as minimal as a day’s income, almost zero operating costs, marginal maintenance costs, marginal returns to shareholders (the devotees and the deities), this business unit has a perpetual cash in-flow. Same was the case here. We found the main temple with the Shiv Ling inside, surrounded by small shrines containing different deities outside. There were 7 or 8 people outside looking relatively unclean, unshaven, relatively shabby clothes, foreheads fully decorated with vermilion and other related stuff, etc. standing and directing us on how we should go ahead with the darshan (visit). In short, it was something looking like a group of local goons standing and directing the public. Once we entered each shrine, they were just behind us saying “mathha dedo” which in Hindi, which means donate your share to GOD (money of course which will later get into their pockets). Prashant and I manage to escape them and just roam around at our will, whereas my other friends got caught and ended up giving a lot of money there. Finally cursing them, and criticizing the Indian system in which the so called priests loot the innocent public in the name of God, all of us boarded the cab to continue the journey.

Few miles ahead, I felt like having a halt and walking into the green fields and having a gasp of fresh air of the Indian countryside. The driver stopped us next to a huge sugarcane field. All of us got down and went into it and saw a few people harvesting the crop. With their permission, we got into the job and took a few canes for ourselves. Munching over them and enjoying the sweet juice, we spent almost an hour basking under the sun which was giving us enough warmth in the biting cold of the winter. Picking up some more canes for later, thanking the farmers, we got back into the vehicle and went ahead.

 One wonderful thing we came across during our journey was a bridge across the river. This bridge is unlike any other bridge in India. All along the 240 km long route, there is this Metre Gauge railway track from Aishbagh (Lucknow) to Dudhwa, running parallel to our road. At this particular place, the railway track and the road merge and go together on the same bridge. There are police on either ends of the bridge to regulate the traffic and also there’s a level crossing gate on either ends of the bridge. Moreover, the bridge is so narrow that only one row of vehicles can pass across it any given point of time. So, the police allow the vehicles from each side in a phase-wise manner and so, as vehicles from one direction are passing across the bridge, the vehicles to go in the other direction, get queued up on the other side of the bridge. One sad thing was that my plans of getting down and having a couple of snaps on the bridge vanished when we saw the police as well as a “Photography Prohibited” board on either sides of the bridge. After that disappointment, we drove for another half an hour to reach Palia, the last village on the way to Dudhwa. We had a break for lunch, then filled the cab with stuff for munching later, and went ahead to Dudhwa.

When we reached the National Park office, it was almost evening and to our shock, we came to know that all the sources of accommodation there in the forest have been booked in advance. After making some futile attempts, we finally got back to a place called Tiger’s Den, which is a U.P Tourism Guest house, just on the border of the forest. After realizing that there’s only one room available there, we decided to de-risk our search and booked the room without exploring any further. Having dumped our entire luggage into the room, we had some tea and snacks and decided to head towards the Nepal Border and visit Dhanghadi, the town on the other side.

The actual adventure starts hereafter. Hold your eagerness to read more in part 2.
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About Uday Sankar Yerramilli