Why and how to share daylight with northeast India?

Ultimate Travel Planning Hack for North East India

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It was already twilight at 04:00 pm on one December afternoon when I got off a bus at Roing, Arunachal Pradesh. People were on their way back from work and restaurants were getting ready to serve dinner. That’s when I realized that there is nothing standard about the Indian Standard Time (IST). I realized that everyday life in the region followed the sun – a must-know fact for every traveler to Northeast India.

Abhijeet Deshpande, author of Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey, lived the North Eastern life during his travels and witnessed the impact of a standard time zone on the region. He shares a perspective.

Why timezone makes India’s Northeast a unique travel destination?

Let us reconsider the above map, only this time with timezones marked on top. Bangladesh and Bhutan are IST+30 minutes, China is IST+150 minutes, Myanmar is IST+60 minutes, and Nepal is IST+15 minutes. Notice how the region of North East India is sandwiched between all these countries and their different time zones.

Timezone Illustration for Northeast India

Now, picture this: Tinsukia, a town on Assam’s eastern border, currently shares a time zone with the nation’s capital New Delhi, roughly 2300 Km west. Whereas Bangkok, which is almost the same distance heading southeast from Tinsukia, is 1 hour 30 minutes ahead of IST.

So when Thailand is about to wake up at 05:30 am, New Delhi is in a dreamland at 04:00 am and Manipur is hitting the snooze button. Look at the earliest and latest times (current IST = UTC+0530 Hrs) for sunrise and sunsets in four state capitals of India and notice how early (04:24 am) Imphal greets the sun.

State CapitalsEarliest SunriseLatest SunriseEarliest SunsetLatest Sunset
New Delhi05:2207:1517:2419:23
Data Source

North East India has adapted itself to this reality, at times making autonomous choices. For instance, tea gardens, one of the region’s biggest revenue earners, follow a British legacy. Their clocks are an hour ahead of the Indian Standard Time.

Share daylight with Northeast India

Many people have highlighted the issue and even demanded a separate timezone for North East India. As the region’s security situation continues to normalize, and focus shifts to quality of life, such demands may intensify. I don’t know whether multiple timezones would bring tangible benefits in the national context. But, how about sharing the daylight while retaining a single harmonized timezone?

Share the daylight with Northeast India

DP Sengupta and Dilip R Ahuja, researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Studies, have proposed advancing the standard time by 30 minutes to make IST as UTC+0600 Hrs. Clearly, this would increase daylight hours in the North East India by an hour (30 minutes each in the morning and evening). So, instead of an Imphal sunrise at 04:24 am, it would be at 04:54 am. See revised chart (proposed IST = UTC+0600 Hrs) below. Notice how other parts of India have no significant difference in daylight.

State CapitalsEarliest SunriseLatest SunriseEarliest SunsetLatest Sunset
New Delhi05:5207:4517:5419:53
Data Source

With potential benefits to North East India, questions remain on whether advancing IST by 30 minutes be suitable in the national context.

  • Would a UTC+0600 scenario result in substantial energy savings (due to nationwide daylight saving), and thus provide an economic justification for the move?
  • Would a UTC+0600 scenario offer a positive impact on trade and connectivity initiatives with Bangladesh and Nepal or on the proposed tourism initiative with Bhutan? (These countries are important partners for North East India)
  • Are there synergies that a UTC+0600 scenario might offer with India’s Act East policy?

Unless the response to these and more such related queries is counter-intuitive, there could be a case for sharing the daylight with North East India. But let me not digress too much. Instead, let’s see how travelers can deal with this.

What is the ultimate travel planning hack for Northeast India?

Follow the sun!

If you travel to the least explored North East India, be prepared to start and end your days sooner than usual. In many remote areas, restaurants or eateries offer breakfast and meals earlier than what you might be used to. How about lunch at 1030 am? Likewise, public transport services might start as early as 5 am to get people to their respective destinations before sun down. By 06:30 pm most of the shops shut down and guest houses request you to return to your room by then. By 09:00 pm, for all practical purposes, it is midnight.

Tea Gardens, Northeast India

In urban areas, on the other hand, while the loss of productivity and the impact on social lives may persist, the fallout for travelers is limited. Beware though, this rural-urban comparison is only for places within the region. With a relatively active night life, while you may dine out until later in the evening, do not expect Northeast Indian cities to stay up late like metros elsewhere in the country. Remember this travel planning tip for India’s northeast and make the most of your days and evenings!

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What’s the ultimate travel planning hack for northeast India that nobody tells you?

Think North East India

For those who do not know what northeast India is like, it comprises of eight states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. The Himalayas and its waters define the region’s terrain, climate, rich biodiversity, and the peculiar indigenous lifestyles her people follow.

That North East India is bound by Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet to the north, Bangladesh to the south and west, and Myanmar to the east hints at the eclectic mix of cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. This is where elements of Asia come together to do what they do best – cast a spell.

The region’s innate charms have remained under-explored. Travelers, who figure out how to backpack in Northeast India, find gems such as Dzükou Valley all to themselves. Importantly, the hospitable people of the region make sure that visitors take back the choicest of memories.

Meanwhile, pick up a copy of Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey. It covers over two dozen places and attempts to answer the question – what is it like to travel in the region? Give it a read and make your own choices.

  • The first and the only nonpolitical paperback travelogue on north east India
  • Loved by the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia, L. Sarita Devi, M.C. Mary Kom, and Sanjoy Hazarika
  • Perspectives to help you understand what to expect when you get to North East India
  • Anecdotal evidence and safety tips that help you plan your own travel
  • Consistently reviewed at 4.5/5 on Amazon and Goodreads
  • Available as an eBook on Kindle
Notion Press

Have you been to or live in India’s North East? Its time to share your experiences and help someone follow your footsteps! Click The Dialogue Diaries™ – Interview Line for details and to get started.

Abhijeet Deshpande
Abhijeet Deshpande

Abhijeet Deshpande is an accidental nomad. Over time, the frequency and length of his travel has steadily risen. To keep up, his choices have been changing too—from planned holidays to spontaneous ones, from fixed schedules to flexible ones, and from working full-time assignments to freelancing.

Disclaimers: (1) Maps, wherever used on this site, serve a representational purpose only. Scale Indigo does not endorse or accept the boundaries shown, names, or designations used by map providers. (2) This story/article is based on the personal experiences and / or opinions of the author. Scale Indigo is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity and it does not assume any responsibility or liability arising out of use of any information provided herein.

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