We had a tragic reminder of the intensity of monsoon rains in the Dooars recently. A trainee assistant from Chengmari Tea Estate got swept away by a flooded rivulet. He was on his way to the bunglaow from the office on his motorcycle, and there were a few other people making their way home along the same route. All of them crossed the flooded stream just minutes before Debashis attempted it. His body and his motorcycle were found in the tea area several hundred metres away.
Dooars is full of rain-fed rivers that look deceptively small most of the year. Visitors to the area are quite naturally tempted to go in for a little paddle. People who live here maintain that you should only enter a river between the months of December and February. One year, a student from my daughters' school drowned in a river at Puja time in the month of October. There may not be too much water in the a river at that time, but the currents are strong, and the stones on the river bed are slippery with slime. A fall is enough to knock anyone senseless and the currents do the rest.
The tea area of 'NG' in the background.
These pictures were taken this morning after a night of rain. They were all taken from inside the jeep as it was still raining. The swollen flood you see here is not a river. It is the overflow from a storm drain that carries rain water down from the Bhutan hills.
Flooded section of the road to Samtse, Bhutan, and close-up, below.
Flooded paddy field to the left of the picture; drain to the right. Taken from the bridge across the drain.
This is all Moragaht Tea Estate: it is the division called 'NG' or New Garden. 'NG' is separated from the main division by the broad gauge railway track. On either side of the railway track there are roads - one is the National Highway 31 C that goes to Guwahati, Assam. The other is the road that connects us to Samtse, Bhutan. It is only used by Samtse residents and by the people living in the tea gardens that lie in that direction. The land between the tracks and the roads on either side is used for paddy, maize and mustard cultivation. It is under paddy at this time of year, but it's completely under water in these pictures. The drain, or the 'Haati Nala' as it is known, flows west (at that point)of the Bhutan road.
Since it had rained all night, the pluckers who'd been assigned to the flooded area were given work in the other division. Some jobs like guatemala* planting were held up, and people who were working on these were laid off for the day.
We saw a few of the planting men walking down the rail track. My husband called out to them and asked them to stay away from the flooded area. They said they'd only come to take a look since they had nothing else to do today. One of them smiled and said, 'Dhoop aaney se ek din dono bela kaam kar ke make up kar dega.' ('We can make up with a double shift one day when it's sunny !') Completely unperturbed - you have to like his attitude.
*A kind of grass, planted in areas where tea has been uprooted. It regenrates the soil before new tea is planted there.