I understood the reality by the end of my first few days in Delhi and was trying hard to adopt the new environment. The loneliness started to grow on me. I’m thousands of kilometres, twenty four hours away from my home, from my friends and from all the people who could understand me. I realized the meaning of ‘Home Sick’ and ‘Feeling Lonely’ in its true sense of words. At every night I had a dream of me spending my time with everyone at home, getting up early with the sound of a rooster followed by a morning walk in the village road. The dream would be so realistic that every time I would almost expect to wake up in my own room, filled with the pale yellow morning light. But disappointment would be waiting for me in disguise. That loneliness still had a deep impact on me and I am still trying to come out of it without any success. Meanwhile I started loving the place of my work and started living my life here.
It was more than a decade ago. I’m still nurturing the dream inside my heart to wake up in the morning at my home someday. Now, I am back at my village and entered my home after one year. It really hadn’t changed. I am still feeling the pains of nostalgia but it’s a moment of joy. I was at home. It had never felt so good, so what about last year! It’s the same feeling every time, year after year. I’m a sentimental crab.
West Bengal is a river-centric and mainly an agricultural state. Her economy and prosperity depend on agriculture. The district Hooghly and Burdwan are one of the most fertile lands in Bengal, as well as in the country. Though rice is the prime crop, the agricultural economy largely depends on potato, jute, vegetables and orchard products. There are many cold storages around to store mainly potatoes and supply them all over India. Again our agriculture depends on the mercy of nature that is rain.
Monsoon had already arrived early, by the starting of June in Bengal, including some other parts of the country this year. We can differentiate all six seasons and enjoy new scenes here. Rainy season is undoubtedly my favourite season. In Bengal, it means rain, rain and even more rain till September. Just as I arrived the rain came. I opened the window and sniffed at the air. It still smelt the same.
It didn’t take long when I drifted away into another world while listening to the mesmerizing sound of the raindrops. Remembering my favourite poem ‘The Rain’ by William H Davies:
“I hear leaves drinking Rain;
I hear rich leaves on top
Giving the poor beneath
Drop after drop;
‘Tis a sweet noise to hear
These green leaves drinking near.
And when the Sun comes out,
After this Rain shall stop,
A wondrous Light will fill
Each dark, round drop;
I hope the Sun shines bright;
‘Twill be a lovely sight.”
Finally the rain stopped after an hour. We had a sigh of relief. There was scarcity of water and everyone was thirsty. We saw the writing on the walls rain, rain and even more rain and looked forward to a good season ahead. If there is sufficient rain, our joy knows no bound. It’s time to plough our lands and sow seeds on time. It also washes away the filth and clears the atmosphere.
It was a welcome surprise for me after a long time when I got up in the morning around 4 O’clock as soon as I heard the nature’s alarm clock. The sound of a rooster. The horizon was still in twilight stage and the sun was about to rise. Few people were already on the road to go for a walk and breathe fresh air, to greet the first sun rays.
“Kajal, kobe eli. Kemon achis.” [“When did you come, Kajal? Hope you are well.”]
It is good to hear ‘Kajal’ again after a long time. Amitava is nowhere exists in their dictionary. We have two names…Do you remember the film ‘Kahani’? So, it is ‘Kajal’ for me (amar dak-nam). It’s a very common name for boys and girls.
After initial greetings, we took the quiet village road which led us to the beautiful river ‘Damodar’. It was few KMs away and an hour walk from our home. The place was so quiet and beautiful. I spent many evenings there. We used bicycle to reach the place, however, decided to walk for a change…trying to develop that habit seriously.
We continued our stroll as the sun showered the place with its bright yellow glitters and rays. It was a pleasant walk. That scene, to say the least, took my breath away, once again. There was no sound, nothing to be heard, except the cocophony of birds from nearby trees. It was a magical morning of silence and wonder. I sat there almost an hour, took some pictures in my mobile camera. It’s six O’clock and we decided to return. This place is so alluring. I promise to come back again. This walk is one of the special moments for me.
Life has already started in this part of the world. Farmers were going to the market with their products. Vegetables are fresh from the field. As I looked ahead, I saw the golden rays of the sun pour through the trees at my house. The morning sun rays offered an additional beauty to the house. It looks so beautiful.
We had a plan to go to Kolkata to meet some relatives, as well as sight seeing. Breakfast was ready and I just can’t expect anything else. A typical breakfast at home consists of ‘muri’ (puffed rice), coconut, singara and rosogolla, other than the all time favorite ‘Luchi’. I am definitely not in my dream.
Village life has it’s own charm & beauty with many disadvantages. We have our own tale of joy and sorrow. It is the same in a city as well. None can exists without the other.
So, this is my village. I touched some personal moments to give you a glance of village life. Thank you for reading the story and encouraging…the next post on Kolkata will definitely bring some old memories to many of you, including those who still haven’t visited the city.
…to be continued
A very interesting and jara Hatke kind of a post… loved the pics….
Thank you Prasad.
So, did you like it…good to know you love the pictures.
Yes I liked the post too…along with pics :)
very good post having the freshening aroma of rain soaked nature.very nice photographs. murhi and rosogula are the most admired eatables of the eastern side.
Thank you Sir.
Feeling nice to know that you liked the post and the photographs.
Amitava Ji very nice post…. Brishti pade tapur tupur…….
Thank you Prof.
…it’s one of my favourite too…
Nostalgic. Just reading it making me head home :-)
Thank you…you are too kind.
Lost my trusted BB today…do share your number
Nice post. I saw many such pretty villages when we drove from Kolkata southwards towards the seaside.
It was raining then too and it just seemed a perfect place to settle down.
Beautiful photos too!
Thank you Nirdesh.
So, is it Digha or Bakkhali…or Mandarmani!
Hope someday…but don’t really know.
So, did you like the photographs as well…still need lot of improvements…trying
Great work Amitava
wow… amazing images… full of colors… full of nature… and full of spirits…
Thank you Elex for your appreciation.
I am really feeling happy to receive such reviews from all of you…Tx…
Beautiful piece of writing Amitava, almost like a poetry on computer screen. Photographs are so nice.
Hi Deependra…Thank you
Where have you been? We are missing you here as well.
Nice to know that you like this post and photos.
Wow……….. Great post Amitva Ji.
Pictures are saying everything itself and showing the beauty. Every picture is refreshing the mind.
It’s really nice to read rosogolla but tell me about singra.
If it is within 4-5 hours journey in car or train, I would have loved to drive to go home every Friday and come back at my work place by Monday morning…practically that might also not possible…I know…so posts like this reflects my mood, mind…
Singara is nothing but Samosa…though the taste is different. Do not consider me in the same league of people who always say that everything is good there…but if you ask me to choose between ‘Samosa’ and ‘Singara’…I will chose ‘Singara’…if you go to Kolkata or Bengal, just taste it, as well as ask someone about ‘Alur Chop’ and let me know the taste…
Nice post. Loved reading it. Remembered my childhood days in West Bengal. The beautiful rain washed green terrain.
Thank you Bidisha.
It is a nice feeling to note that…to bring back those lost days in our life.
Another whip of nostalgia full with delicious ingredients…be it the soothingly sweet narration, or the marvelous captures full with the fragrance of the rains…flavoured this all while it was raining outside, what a deadly combination!…Kudos, dada!
Thank you Vipin.
I am glad that you enjoyed this post and the pictures.
You are just too generous Vipin…
Very nice to read of your memories. I, too, come from the Nadia-North 24-Parganas border, from an age that was very troubled, the 60s decade, and belonged to an India we shall not see again. That entire landscape has vanished, the mosaic of woodlands, wetlands, and cultivated fields all gone. What I treasured most was the silence, and the clean air and blue skies. Well, so much has changed and perhaps our generation should also be moving on, without making too much further ado!!
Now coming to your breakfast, what I loved most was that same ghore-bhaja muri from our Bangabhumi which nowhere else is duplicated except in Mayurbhanj, mixed in with a scant handful of murki: for those not familiar, this is akShata or khoi, or puffed whole paddy kernels that have been soaked in the syrup of the sugar date palm, Phoenix sylvestris. To this, occasionally a small quantity of dry roasted peanuts would be added, and certainly the wonderfully golden-mahogany crystalline cane jaggery of the region, sometimes from our own cane! How wonderful the taste, and we always preferred teas sweetened with this, and I still drink my tea to this day in this manner, being a village bumpkin! Now only one more thing needs to be added to gild gold: a few chini-kanthali, those delectable tiny bananas of our region. I believe in Hugli bhukti, the Chini Champa might be somewhat more common, with the peel coming off in 4 strips? So this was our geyon or rural breakfast!
The Rather Mela brought back so many memories: the smell of HOT mustard oil and those special VERY thin, very large-diameter papad found nowhere else, maybe 12-14 inches diameter, and superthin, saturated with oil and oh, so delicious! Never ever been able to find a retail source and their closest relative is the Bangali Biye Barir Papad, the wedding feast papad, which is also very thin, plain, soaks up oil to a delicious degree (!!), but still is not quite the same as the Rather Mela wheelies!
Another thing in our time was the Nagor Dola: call it a very low-tech Ferris Wheel, low and slow, but still one of the biggest attractions. Third, another characteristic item distinguishing Rather Mela, from say Chadaker Mela, was the Talpater Shepai, or dolls and soldiers fashioned out of Palmyra Palm leaves, complete with eyes and faces. You can see that modernity had not touched us much! Also, hundreds of fruit tree saplings, like mango, coconut, areca nut and many others were on sale, and this was another characteristic of this Mela. So were Talpatar Bhenpoo! Little rolled flutes or noisy annoying noisemakers made from palm leaves. That banana leaf flute you saw from our little sweetheart is a Kola-patar bhenpoo!!!
One more trick to teach the little ones is to collect the freshwater clam shells from village ponds, that are either eaten by ducks or are used to feed ducks, and then grind them on a brick on their convex side. Soon you get a really, REALLY SHARP peeler blade, that Daddy must carefully show Son how to use to peel Green mango, and how to eat those with powdered chili and coarse sea salt! The mother of pearl is on the convex side, the side that will be towards the user, and it makes such a great peeler for mangoes, like a personal pocket knife for free! Very sharp, so be careful!
One last memory: a little later in the rainy season when the palymyra or taal fruit begin to ripen. They are scraped on a pyramidal bamboo basket, which is our Bangali answer to the box grater. THe pulp is now prepared in at least 2 ways. First, some grated coconut, cane jaggery (!) and a little slaked lime water is added to the fragrant saffron pulp that has been strained of its fibres. This mass will congeal with a pleasant consistency at room temperature, like a pudding, and is called taal-keer in our area. SO SO GOOD!
The next is even better. The strained pulp is mixed it a bit of atta, a bit of cane gur, and what else I have forgotten, beaten by fingers a little to fluff it up, and dropped like soft batter/ round droplets into hot mustard oil of good quality. What you get is crunchy beignet-like balls of paradise, we called taaler-boda. After a long day of working in the rice field submerged to the knees in water, in the heavy rain, people would take a bath in the pond, and come and sit on the mud verandah: day laborers, permanent workers, everyone, all together in what we called Pankti in Bangabhumi. In a line or circle. An elderly aunt would be making these “boda” in small batches serving them hot one by one to each person, and there would be much joking, about who got more and who got less, etc.
Thank you so much for such a nice review, as well as mentioning lots of things which are so close to my heart. I mean it. Sorry for the delay in responding, something was beyond my control and I wanted to make it personal.
District Nadia is also very rich in cultural heritage; Painting on clay or Pot-chitra is very famous, including string puppet dance…and who can forget Krishnanagar’s world famous clay models…I have so many at home and at an unbelievable prices – those are our priceless possession, some of them are almost at my ages…and sweets. Though not fortunate to travel much, except few visits to Kalyani, Ranaghat and Krishnanagar during college days… and Mayapur few years ago.
Now my next door neighbour is from Pyradanga / Bagula, so we are very much in touch with the district.
All these as you mentioned here ‘Muri’, ‘Murki’ are still my favorite. ‘Muri’ is available here and we love to eat whenever we want. ‘Kanthali/Champa Kala’ – you made me remember my ‘Thakurma-r kotha (grandmother) – she used to bring them somewhere from the kitchen and gave them to us, all the time. Those were really sweet memories for us.
Where I grew up in South 24 pgs, those papads (in triangle shape) are still available and I still cherish the taste of those Papad with my all time favourite simple ‘Alur Chop’ or ‘phuluri’ whenever I have a chance…I too surprised how they can prepare them…I love all these which you mentioned like Nagor Dola etc. etc. and thank you for refreshing our memories…whoever grew up at rural Bengal or have had an experience of rural Bengal, I am sure would love your posts and remember those sweet bygone days.
Other than the tricks of the shells, have you ever tasted ‘geri-gugli’? It is so tasty and a food for poor family, easily available in the numerous ponds/rivers, – personally, I too love them and whenever I go home, my eyes still searching for them in the market.
Whenever, someone is coming from home during August/September (it is a continuous process at home), they used to bring two/three jars of pulp of Taal and we don’t miss them (taler bora/phuluri) here, even in Gurgaon.
I am glad to receive your comments.
Thank you Goutam.
Amitava ji I too am an ardent fan of simplicity and charm of village life and I was totally besotted with Amar Bangla.I belong to Assam but being in a metro like Mumbai,I yearn for home and your sharing took me closer home.Thank you so much.Pl keep writing