Travelling to Somewhere: Tasting the Countryside within 12 Hours
Getting a day off in the middle of the week is just wow! I was a bit stressed out since last week and was really looking forward to a day for rejuvenation. All I needed to boost myself was a brief travelling. And I just grabbed the chance this Wednesday to get, set and go!
Nothing was planned before and I had no idea about my destination. Given the short time and my mood, I wanted to give a shot to the beautiful Bengal countryside, a brief trip that could be wrapped up within 12 hours. Since I am too fond of long drives, I planned to spend 6 hours on the drive and the rest 6 hours in rural exploration, walking and clicking.
Thus as planned, there was no looking behind. I quickly packed my bag and boarded a bus to Digha around 10 am. The bus ride itself was feeling great as it crossed the Howrah Bridge and gradually found its way out of the concrete jungle. Within an hour, the city lights and buildings were replaced with open green fields, blue sunny skies, tall trees and hamlets. The bus conductor put on a dubbed South-Indian masala flick on the television as the bus halted at Howrah for 10 minutes. I knew the journey was going to be enjoyable while munching on popcorn and chips as I watched Allu Arjun move about the screen. Of course, nothing can beat South-Indian movies in terms of entertainment.
I know the road and the stoppages in this route well since I have frequently travelled here. I got down at Henria around 1.30 pm. This rural place is better developed than the other adjacent stoppages, exceptions being Nandakumar and Chandipur. I satiated my hunger with delicious ‘Dal-Poori’ in a sweet shop and geared up to start my exploration. Proceeding towards the route of Madhakhali or Itaberia, there are a number of villages around. Since I got down at Henria, I attempted the historical village of Jararnagar. In this post I will share the rural life here. I will put up another post sharing the rich legacy and history of Jararnagar or Subhas-Pally.
For city-dwellers, these places are so green and raw; and for travellers, they are simply too good to get enough of them. I have been to different Bengal villages and other states as well. While the culture differs in different districts based on people and topography, the basic everyday lifestyle is however, same. As I headed towards the interior, the tar road was squeaky clean with a great view of paddy fields on the two sides of the road. I took a Toto to get to the village due to the distance. The fresh air and the greenery were tempting and the winter sun was bliss. I got down right at the village entrance and walked my way through the village. The first thing I crossed was a Durga Temple which was built recently within a few footsteps from the entrance. I got to know from the locals that before the temple was built, every year Durga puja was celebrated right in this part of the open field and a fair was put up on the entire area of the field. Then they decided to build a permanent Durga Temple right there for daily worship.
The same field also provides an economic opportunity for the poor as every Thursday, a ‘Haat’ (market) is put up where every essential including grocery, vegetables, delicacies and junk food are sold. For the rest of the week, the residents shop from the big market in Henria. The open field also acts as a space to dry paddy for the nearby residents.
Crossing the field, I took the paved road that leads inside the village. There are, in fact, two roads leading inside and I attempted both one by one. This side was greener than the other direction. Both mud huts and brick houses exist according to socio-economic status. The education rate is very high here and it is one of the most highly educated villages in the entire region. Back home, I don’t get to see ponds and here every turn has a pond of fresh water, used and unused. Coconut, date, palm, bamboo, banyan, peepal and eucalyptus trees are a common sight. Vegetable and fruit gardens are typical and every house, big or small, has respective stretches of land around, including cattle houses.
Given the economic conditions, every family cannot afford gas cylinders and hence, they depend on wood and cow dung as fuel sources. However, there are also affluent houses that can afford but which opt to keep the past practices alive that seem more convenient and economical to them since there is no dearth of cattle and wood sources in their own premises.
Walking through and stopping by the locals to talk about the village, I came to know about ‘Shitlabaadi’, a temple compound which has innumerable stories of devotion, divine interventions, beliefs and cultural celebrations attached with it. It has been a cultural legacy here to worship ‘Mahaprabhu Gourangadev’ during the ‘Chobbish Parab’, a 3-day April festival where non-stop 72 hours ‘Hari Naam Sankirtan’ is carried out and at least 10,000 people are fed in this temple compound every year. Also, previously this temple ground used to host entertainment performances where the residents themselves participated. This place has a rich cultural background and till date the schools here hold ‘Prabhat Pheri’(morning marches) on special days and occasions. For example, on Swami Vivekananda’s birthday, school children march across the village reciting famous quotations of Swamiji and some are even dressed as Vivekananda.
People here speak in a regional dialect. They lead a simple rural life but the newer generations are fast getting acquainted with technology and are much advanced. I came back from ‘Shitlabari’ and moved towards the other side of the village. On this side, the road is not of concrete and there are vast stretches of paddy fields and a fishery owned by a resident. I opted to visit it. Luckily, the owner was present at that time and I could get inside. A small fishery initially started to culture fresh water fishes and later shifted to ornamental fishes for aquariums. It was a pleasant experience.
Coming down from the fishery, I spotted some kids playing. It was around 4 pm. Most schools here hold classes in the morning and so, it is never all work and no play for the kids here. They get enough time for playing and hanging around which the city kids are incapable of. I spend some time with the local kids and they are quite amicable and playful. Interested to see and touch the camera, they were not camera shy at all. Lucky me!
It’s winter and the sun goes to sleep quite early, so I had to keep on moving because within 5 pm it’d be dark and I needed to get back to Henria in order to return home. As the sun prepared to set, I reached the village entrance and took a Toto to reach Henria.
The 12 hour sojourn was very fulfilling. The refreshing green and fresh air supplied the exact dose of rejuvenation I needed. I returned with a bundle of satisfaction – the pleasure to know one more unknown place, a day spent hiking, capturing moments and preserving some precious memories.