On Thursday morning, a Facebook post caught the attention of 54-year-old Dipti Sarkar, a resident of Upper Assam’s Dibrugarh. The status message, by a man named Gautam Bardoloi, had a few pictures with a caption that read “Good morning view. Is it looking like some street in Singapore?”
It did, thought Sarkar. Except that this was no Singapore street but one five lanes away from where she lived in the city of Dibrugarh. Sarkar then decided to go and see it for herself.
She wasn’t the only one. Over the course of the day, several residents of Dibrugarh — also known as the Tea City of India courtesy the sprawling tea gardens that surround it — were flocking to see what was being described as “Dibrugarh’s first world-class road with proper drainage, solar street lights and a garden!”
The verdict? “It is really, really beautiful,” Sarkar told the indianexpress.com over the phone.
Named Heramba Bordoloi Path in 2008 — after well-known Dibrugarh-based social worker who passed away in the same year — the road is one of the oldest in the Boiragimoth locality, a residential colony which houses about a thousand families.
A low-lying kaccha road, floods would render Heramba Bordoloi Path unusable for roughly two months every monsoon. Residents, like Pratima Das, 50, would have to wade through knee-deep water. “It wasn’t a road…more like a giant pothole, only fit for cows,” says Das. “But today, I’m at a loss for words to describe the transition.”
The transition is courtesy a man named Gautam Bardoloi — incidentally the son of the Heramba Bordoloi after whom the road is named. “The Dibrugarh Municipality named the road after my father in 2008. While it was a wonderful gesture, the road was in a pitiable condition,” says Bardoloi.
Thus, in 2013, Bardoloi, a technocrat and an entrepreneur, decided to re-do the road in his father’s honour. “My father, who was also a journalist, devoted his life to social work. In the floods of 1968, he had single-handedly rehabilitated the fisherfolk community, displaced from Mohanaghat by helping them build a new life in another village called Notun Tekela Siring Motek gaon. He helped them get documents for land, established a library and a namghar (prayer hall). My mother is still invited to the village to hoist the flag on his behalf every Bihu.”
The work started five years ago in 2013. “I spend my time between Dibrugarh and China because of my company — based out of Hong Kong — which caters to the needs of the Indian refractory industry,” says the 46-year-old, whose wife, son and mother live in Dibrugarh.
“In early 2013, with the help of some local boys, I started slowly filling up the road with land to raise its height. We raised it by about one-and-a-half feet,” says Bardoloi. PVC paver blocks in front of gates of individual houses followed.
2017, says Bordoloi, is when the ‘real work’ started. “I set up a drainage system, the lack of a proper one was what was causing the floods every year. We then started laying out garden patches on both sides of the road. Some local boys helped me in painting the road too,” he says. On either side of the 178-m-long road are garden patches with various ornamental plants — “and papaya, turmeric, and coriander, too!” he says.
“I wanted to make a model world-class street,” says Bardoloi. Apart from its ornamental features, the road also has solar street lights, reflective studs, pavement markers, rubber speed breakers, and convex road safety mirrors to avoid accidents. Plastered on the walls are vinyl posters with messages on cleanliness and road safety.
“It took me five years to do this,” says Bardoloi, who had a very busy Thursday. At 7 pm, people were still filtering in to look at the new model road, which houses about ten families.
Bardoloi is not sure how much the entire project cost but estimates it at about Rs 13 lakh. “The first thing many people asked me today was: how much did it cost you? Was it a community initiative? When I say it was my own, they are shocked. But it isn’t that shocking. My father devoted his whole life to social service. This was the least I could do.”