state: west bengal
location: some 180 km from kolkata via NH 2 and NH 2B
average cost per head: rs 1000 (in a group of two)
mode of transportation: train (general)
stay: hotel santiniketan lodge (non ac room, rs 300 for double bed occupancy)
food: local bengali cuisine at a restaurantfame: tagore, rural bengal, viswa bharati university, khoai, santhals
I woke up at 4 hrs and after packing my bag and refreshing got ready by 5 hrs and gave Vivek a call. It was still dark outside on the road and a little cold. Huge trucks passed by and some stars still twinkled and after a wait of a while I finally got hold of a rickshaw which I hired till Vivek’s place because he was still bathing and would take time. I reached his place, had a warm cup of tea (bliss) and left for the Liluah station in the same rickshaw whom I had told to wait. It was 5.35 hrs by the time we reached Liluah station and bought tickets for Santiniketan via Howrah (94 bucks). We reached Howrah at the nick of time and our scheduled train was thankfully on the next platform and about to leave in a while. The ignorant we scanned the entire length of the train for the general bogie not knowing that almost the whole of it was general. We thankfully got one seat which we shared. The train journey was great fun. The green paddy fields with the blue sky above gave a pleasant feel and before it was 9 hrs we reached Bolpur station in Birbhum district, a few minutes after having crossed the demarcating river of Ajay on a bridge. A baul singer had just mesmerized us with his songs.
The station looked great and much like my earlier visit to unknown and faraway places this one too gripped me with a passion so deep that a smile came on my face. I have always imagined and painted places in my mind and the fun of seeing them in real and comparing the two pictures is so much great fun. We got a rickshaw and told him to take us to a hotel. We booked one on the main road and coincidentally the road was named Santiniketan main road and the hotel, Santiniketan lodge.
|inside the campus|
|a buddha statue|
More than wild animals the sanctuary had many a couples gone wild. After all where else would you get to spend cozy moments under the darkness of the jungle for as less as 4 bucks an hour? Couples could be seen kissing, hugging and doing what not and not even minding wildlife enthusiasts (yeah! I am talking about myself) pass by. I went and sat on a concrete bench beside a couple deeply lost in making love and more than them I was feeling weird so I got up and got going. We almost totally explored the sanctuary and got some classic macro shots of insects. I couldn’t thank my stars. My camera was perhaps eight months old and not even one butterfly shot but the day was luck. Guess the wild couples blessed me for moving out from the “core” area of the sanctuary. I took shots of pollen grains, dragonflies, a butterfly and a spider besides many a thing else. It was already 13:20 hrs by the time we came out, after having spent a wholesome 80 mins inside the sanctuary. The rickshawala was tired but still showed us more around the university.
We asked him if there was anything else to see. He told us
about river Kopai and the khoai geology unique to the area. It was already time
for lunch and the best restaurant we could get there was just about ok. The
food was good (130 bucks) and we even invited the rickshawala to eat with us. It was quite hot by the time we set off
for river Kopai where Tagore had written a famous poem. It’s a seasonal river
and the area around it was very beautiful. We also saw a Santhal village while going
to an area of khoai formation where Bengali movies are also shot. It was an
amazing rickshaw ride and he took 250 bucks for the entire stay. The red soil
looked picturesque and the sal and eucalyptus trees gave the area a surreal
look. A canal ran nearby and the water looked inviting in the sweltering heat.
We returned to our hotel at around 16 hours and since we were very tired we
thought of resting for a while. We hadn’t rested for some 12 hours at a stretch
and the body ached like hell. We had bought some sweets from a local shop but
it tasted bad.
We decided to go for a stroll in the evening at around 19 hrs and hired a rickshaw from our hotel to the station. Since we had an extend weekend we had made plans to go to Bakreshwar or Tarapeeth the next day but considering the odd train timing plus our tiredness we changed our mind and decided to leave for Kolkata the very next morning. We went around Bolpur, eating anything and everything and spoiling our stomach. It’s a cheap city compared to Kolkata but quite bustling with activity. I was in no condition to eat a morsel but my namesake, the super glutton wanted to eat more.
|fencing inside the sanctuary|
“Kya? SBI bank? Haan, wo hara light hai na, usi ke bagal mein.”
“Arrey nahi, air conditioned restaurant, bank nahi, restaurant.”
“Oh! Acchca! ICICI bank. Wo to ye samne hai, par raat me to ye bank bandh rehta hai.”
“Arrey nahi chacha, restaurant.”
“Ye naam ka koi building yahan nahi hai!”
“Restaurant chacha, jahan khana milta hai.”
Considering an old man gone bonkers we left him in his fantasy world and got ahead to find a gang of boys under a street lamp. We asked them about an air conditioned restaurant. They did direct us to a dark alley where when we went we didn’t see any “Green Chili” restaurant as said by them but bumped instead into the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC) building. We hadn’t booked our rooms here, they are expensive plus booked well in advance but there was no reason we couldn’t have dinner at their restaurant. We got inside, inquired about the rates and got straight to the dining hall. After spending the whole day under the nude sun, this was such a respite. We ordered chicken, rice, roti and egg curry and some coke. We had our fill, sat for a while and left for our room and had a good sleep. We got up early the next morning and took the 8.30 hrs train to Howrah.
|the lush and green fields|
|they are birds!|