495t Oil Country UpperAssam Upper Assam 11-13/3/09

stew in Duliajan
Stew at a"nodding donkey" oil pump in Duliajan
- Siddartha was great
- he could teach hospitality to the hotel industry. He has a busy high stress job and his daughter was busy with exams, so was entitled to say "no this time I am too busy", but no he called in a load of favours and got me put up at a local contractors guesthouse and arranged for a company driver and junior engineer to show me some things.
- Wed - Explore Duliajan

- He drove over the 15Km to pick me up and then took me to the original oil wells in Duliajan. Even that first 1920 well has generated $100m plus of oil. So the whole field must have generated $billions. , but it's not exactly Abbu Dhabi with top class infrastructure of shops, schools, hospitals, culture etc, apart from a few functional oil facilities like roads, very little money seems to have reached local people in Assam in fact things are generally things are pretty rough and rustic.

- After coffee at his company apartment he drove me over to the guesthouse. Wow this town isn't really India, the company areas are organised and clean like a business holding to world class standards and being professional to keep the workers happy.. A floodlit golfcourse .. Even the market area was pretty clean.

Wed- Wedding Feast
- We drove over to the wedding celebrations of one of Mrs Bodoloi's younger colleagues. It was Bengli style so this was a post marriage finish to the week long celebration. I was told the father was poor, but he still laid on food for 500 guests !. Again different from British style .. the party runs all evening, but most people drop in for 20 minutes only.

- Of course I forgot to take photos of the food.

the kitchen
big serving bucketss of rice

- I was getting a very bad sore throat which lasted a week with a bad voice.

Thu- Digboi - oil heritage

- Since Sidd was busy he'd organised a junior engineer Zesus to guide me around Digboi, where the British had found the world's 2nd commercial drilling rig over 100 years ago. We drove 20Km to the town and met up with the field manager who took us up to the hill overlooking the 1000 drilling towers spread amongst the jungle over the 16Km .. They still sometimes get wild elephants passing through. Sometimes you can see across to the snowcapped mountains.

big serving bucketss of rice
With the company engineers in Digboi

- Then we went over to the Centary Museum centred around this first drill which actually still seeps oil.

- The museum was OK .. Telling the story of how mad-British explorers had reported seeing oil in the swamps in 1832 and how test rigs were done in 1860's and 1870's but proved to be unsuccessful. And how it wasn't until the Assam Rail Transport Syndicate building a rail line to the nearby Margarita huge coal reserves started their own serious efforts that this first commercial oil well had come on stream around 1890. There were replicas of this that covered tower, and stories of how first curiosity was sparked when a railway building elephant was observed to have oil on it's feet ... This I can believe
- The stories that Digboi got it's name from an excited oil explorer shouting "Digboy, digboy" I don't believe as that doesn't fit with how the English language works.
- "cried the excited Englishman", "Dig boy, dig’, shouted the Canadian engineer, Mr W L Lake" well since there is no definite name that doesn't sound very good evidence the guy on Wikipedia calls it "version of the legend"
- In 100 Years of Oil a footnote on Page 12 goes further "popular, but the one most unlikely ... 'Di' is Singpho for river so many town names begin with it"

- Manager's bungalows dotted the nearby hills, and we stopped one Guest House bungalow for lunch.
- Then we dropped by the war cemetery housing a mix of 120 Assam, Indians, Gurkhas, British etc who died stopping the Japanese getting as far as the oilfields... It was a surprise to find the Japanese had made it into present day India at all !

Thu- Explore Duliajan

- Back in Duliajan I took tea at a Nepali owned tea stall. It seems Nepalis make up 1% of Assam's population. - Due to the Holi holiday we couldn't get to tour a tea garden so Sidd got the driver to drop me off at the Market. Nearby I found 2 Nepali Temples, but then just behind the bank I found this nodding donkey which best sums up the constant work of an oil town
duliajan nodding donkey

- Thursday - Evening

- We drove through the spick and span streets of the oil company resident areas to one of the maagers clubs for drinks. Wow this could have been Britain or America .. I guess in an international business like this you have to look after the workers so they don't move abroad.

Me and Siddartha
- Me and Siddartha

- Then we moved over to Sidd's house where he cooked up a feast.

Fri- morning Tea Garden
- Sidd took a tea break from work to drop me off at the bus ... and just decided to try the tea garden phone one more time. He persuaded the manager to open up even though normal tours are in the afternoon 3-4pm.

Me and Siddartha at the McLeod Russel tea estate
- Me and Siddartha at the McLeod Russel tea estate

- The manager was great showing us around, but it was a little disappointing as in tea production there isn't anything dramatic to see; the Malaysian farms with their rolling hills of tea plantation and slick video shows might be better.

- They collect the leaves , they dry the leaves, they roll the leaves, they dry the leaves again, and then shred them in 2 ways finely for Europe and roughly for Russia and other places.
- People say that the Indian bosses are rather patriachal in the way of the old British.

- Sidd dropped me off at the Bus terminal so that I could had over to Dibrugah and then Sibsagar to meet up with CS host Dr Abdul Ahad. I got a seat, but of course the bus slowly retraced the 5Km we had just come from the teagarden. ...I think the train would have been more handy

- Wow that was a whirlwind experience of the Assam oilfields in 48 hours !

Me with Sidd's wife and daughter
- Me with Sidd's wife and daughter
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