Thursday, 14 August 2014

Nganglam - (oopa Nganglam style)

Having stayed here for more than half a decade, this place deserves a mention somewhere so I have chosen to write about it here. Every place on earth has its own charm and one tend to like the place once one start to get used to it. Lack of modern facilities and infrastructures teaches us to value it once we have it and never to take it for granted. Due to the effect of ‘creeping normalcy’ we do not realize but Nganglam has made a great progress in very short period of time.  

high way No 152

As you approach the base of the Himalaya from Indian highway No. 152 (new highway connecting Patsala and Nganglam) towards the North you will be greeted with ranges of foothills of Himalayas running east to west as far as the eyes could reach like a natural demarcation between the two countries, overlooking the plains of India. If you are lucky (or some consider it unlucky due to fear) you will come across wild life, mostly elephants, right on the sides of the highway because the highway passes through the Manas wild life sanctuary of both India and Bhutan.
gentle uphill through lush forest

After 7 km of uphill drive that is not so steep along the road covered with lush evergreen forest and when you are about to have a feeling that Nganglam is indeed a remote place, the valley opens up just as you finish ascending as if to welcome you warmly and to reverse your point of view. The roadsides lined with hut shops slowly being overshadowed by towering concrete buildings cropping up one after another, a true sign of development and prosperity of the people at Nganglam.   
budding town
I heard the name of the place – Nganglam, when I was in class seven from the students who came to study in our school. They told me that there was no direct bus to Nganglam from anywhere in Bhutan. They have to drop down at Patsala a small town in India. When I was travelling from Samdrup Jongkhar to Phuntsholing, as a child, I saw people disembarking from the bus in the middle of nowhere on national highway No. 31 c of India, saying that they will be going to Nganglam.  
concrete bridge

I asked for the meaning of the name Nganglam to the local elders but no one knows it for sure. The gullible reason one elder gave me was that it was named because the river ‘Kerung ri’ that flows through Nganglam flows North unlike other rivers of Bhutan. ‘Nganglam’ literal translation would be ‘doubtful path’, perhaps due to the doubtful path that the river follows. Another specialty about Nganglam is that you have to go to each village to see that village only, as the all the villages are obscured from each other from view. Unlike so many other places one village is not visible from another. 

I once heard a story from a contractor who came to Nganglam for the first time and he reached here at night. He slept in the hotel and when he woke up in the morning his bearing was completely lost because of the river that was flowing towards North. He knows that he came from India i.e. South but he was puzzled because he definitely did not come from the direction to where the river is flowing. He had to confirm from the local people about the direction from where he came, to the amusement of the local people.  

When you hear the name ‘Nganglam’ there is a tinge of dread in it. It may be because of the difficult route towards Nganglam in the past and may be due to many incidents relating to security issues that had happened. When we go out of Nganglam and hear the dreadful stories of Nganglam form others, we get Goosebumps. But now that is not what Nganglam is. You have to come here to see it for yourself.

The internal highway connecting from Nganglam to: Pemagatshel, Dewathang, Panbang, Monggar  and with the coming up of the south Asia’s 2nd largest industry - Dungsam Cement Cooperation limited  has changed so many things locally that it will definitely make Nganglam a commercial hub of the eastern Bhutan.