November 24, 2010

Graam Baangla

Speeding through the Kolyani Highway with Bhatiali gaan in the background and lush green scenery interspersed with the eclectic view of diverse pukur’s (ponds) marked the memorable road trip to Mayapur.

Having a toddler (my 2 year old son) and a set of highly creative women (my mum n her sister- ex Shantiniketan products) as my fellow passengers added to the excitement of the trip.

Originally a 3 hour ride, we converted the journey to a daylong affair. The drive out of Kolkata was a bit annoying with all the crazy busses and of course the broken down roads thanks to urban development but 30 minutes of chaos finally opened up into a delightful scenic drive from thereon…

Graam Bangla is so pure and rich. All one can visualize when this word crops-up is ‘WET n GREEN’. Acres and acres of land tilting rice crop, variety of leafy vegetables, coconut trees and ponds with not just ducks but people with fishing nets trying to get the catch of the day! What a sight!

Our first stop was a breakfast halt at roadside shacks made of clay and straw. Both sides of the road were lined with them. Roll your windows down and the smell of ash from burning coal in a handmade chimney welcomes you. Bio is a way of life in this region. Walk through the shacks and each has something different to offer to you. I settled at a shack where we got ‘duck eggs’ while my mum and her sister chose the one where they could have ‘alloor dom and kochuri’….

My son perhaps saw a pig sty for the first time in real. He was in splits to see the pigs grunting away in their sty. This visual tactic helped us get down breakfast really fast for him. Just when he was through his first few morsels we spotted a kid at a distance. We went along and played with the kid for a bit…perhaps my first encounter with a kid as well! I was delighted to caress the little being and Adi found great courage to do so too!!!

With breakfast break through we continued the journey yet once more. Probably another hour into the journey my aunt recalled that we were closer to a small town called Hallishohor (my mother’s mama’r bari and a place I have frequented innumerable times as a child). The star attraction was ‘Gonga-e snaan’ (bathing in the Ganges) and since we were so close we didn’t want to miss it at all. We were parked at the river bank for a couple of hours just soaking in the beauty around the place. Being kartik ekadashi day there were many people dropping by to take a holy dip in the river. It was fun hanging around looking at the locals do their deeds while we clicked snaps and occasionally dipped our feet in the cold water.

Nearing mid afternoon in true Bong style it was time for lunch. So finally we bid adieu to the ganges and headed forward only to take a brake 30 minutes into the drive at a local restaurant….I am using the word restaurant but it was a slightly more sophisticated shack as they had a few fans hanging along with a couple of tube wells!!!! Man what a lunch it was!!!! Katla maach bhaaja (fish fry), daal, bhaath (rice) and potoler torkari (vegetable). We polished off some 12 pieces of fish fry that afternoon. It was bliss!!! The bill; jaw dropping 120 bucks!

After this our driver decided he’s gonna take us for a drive we will never forget. We drove for almost a couple of hours only to realize that we went around in a circle to return to the same spot again (maybe I am exaggerating here but that’s how it felt) and at that point all the romance around Graam Bangle suddenly disappeared. We had to hit destination and this task was fulfilled with numerous enquiries with villagers followed by another hour of driving. Finally we hit Mayapur a few minutes before sunset…

All in all I can’t wait to explore Graam Baangla yet again! A cherished and memorable trip.

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