Destination : দেউলটি (Deulti), মেল্যক (Mellock), সামতাবেড় (Samtaber), all district Howrah, West Bengal, India
Departure : Saturday 19.2.2011, from respective houses by car
Return : Sunday 20.2.2011, after post lunch coffee
Participants : The usual BECA gang, in fact 38 of them + 1 Dalmatian
The occasion : Mantu, visiting from USA after a long time, threw a party to meet friends. As is his norm, he wanted an overnight party. Buro was entrusted with the budget, venue & menu selection, which he did quite well.
The journey : This was one unique trip, where we did not assemble first and then journeyed en masse. Instead, we travelled in hired station wagons, collecting 2 / 3 families or in personal cars. So, the gang trickled in, instead of landing like the hordes of Genghis Khan.
The place : Our car crossed the Vidyasagar Setu (2nd Hooghly Bridge), passed on to Shankrail through the toll plaza and headed along the Kona Highway. Onwards we reached the National Highway 6, paying toll of Rs30. Along NH6 we passed Panchla, Uluberia, Kulgachhia, Chandpur, Bagnan to reach the Deulti crossing. As usual, there is no signboard. One has to be guided by bystanders to slow down at the Deulti Railway Station road crossing and turn right. After you enter the narrow village lane, you know you are in the right path if you see sweetshop Raksha Kali Mishtanya Bhandarand a small image of renowned wordsmith Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. You know you have overshot the mark on NH6, if you suddenly find you have crossed River Rupnarayan and landed near those wonderful roadside tea & ‘rosogolla’ shops of Kolaghat. At 22°27'14"N 87°54'53"E, i.e. some 60kM from Calcutta and a short tap off from the NH6, we were booked at Nirala Resort, which has some 40 rooms in lawns, swimming pool & water tanks spread over about 10 acres of land. Close by flows the River Rupnarayan. The nearest train station is Deulti.
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
Unlike all our previous excursions, this place was teeming with other revellers, almost all of whom departed in the evening. Since Sania remains locked up alone at home while Mou & Ashim go to work, she had a gala time being the centre of attraction of so many people. At times when the grounds were empty, Ashim allowed her loose, which added to her delight. In the entire 30 hours of her stay, her tail did a non-stop wagging.
After a very satisfactory lunch, the gang left in 2 station wagons to visit the house of the renowned story teller Late Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay in the neighbouring village Samtaber. In front of his house was an earthen, rat proof granary next to a pond. In his story ‘Ramer sumati’, the large fishes Kartik & Ganesh lived in this pond.
It rained at night, greatly increasing the comfort of the trip. The silence of a cloudy morning was punctured repeatedly by the calls of a বউ কথা কও (‘bou-katha-kao’, Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus. Listen to its call at here) from a tall Eucalyptus tree. Unfortunately, before a cellphone could to switched to recording mode, it flew away. In course of the morning, calls of many other birds were heard, including the raucous call of হাড়িচাঁচা (‘Harichñacha’, Rufous Treepie, Dendrocitta vagabunda), but all hidden in foliage. As the day progressed, a band of ছাতারে (‘Chhataré’, Seven Sisters, Jungle Babbler, Turdoides rufescens) came down and noisily investigated the yard near us. We roamed around in the ample gardens & nursery of Nirala Resort. There was a profusion of brightly coloured seasonal flowers.
Hither & thither : From Sarat Ch’s house, a distant view of River Rupnarayan attracted us. A wobbly walk on narrow clay paths between harvested rice paddies took us to the bank. The erosion of Rupnarayan is slowly stealing land out of this bank. Yet, the fertile alluvium allows good crops. Finding some people loitering at a distance in a field with brightly coloured patches, Chitrita & Karabi decided, it must be season flower beds & started off towards it, riskily tiptoeing over highly slippery muddy patches. As it turned out, the bright colours belonged to woven polythene sacks for storing the potatoes being harvested.
Residence & belongings of renowned wordsmith late Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay at Samtaber
Sad to say, our walking work out was not enough to revive appetite after the hefty lunch. Some skipped dinner altogether. Those who dined were somewhat disappointed. Both the Chinese food and the service lacked warmth. At least one – Kanchan could not keep it down & suffered badly in the night rushing back & forth from bed to toilette and back.
Next morning, after a late breakfast of 'luchi & chholar dal' ending at 11:00, some of us felt the need to work it off before lunch. We ambled out on foot, socializing with & guided by the local population. This turned out to be an extremely satisfactory experience. We discovered a large, beautiful, terracotta ornamented, dilapidated temple of Radha & Madangopal-jiu. The temple was under repair. The deities were shifted to a neighbour’s house a few meters away. Gods were in post lunch repose, lying supine on a mattressed bed under a mosquito net. It seems, a priest visits only once a day and performs all the pujas of 24 hrs in one go. So, Radha & Madangopal-jiu are ritualistically woken up each morning, pujas performed. After lunch they are sent to bed till next morning, to sleep for the next 16 hours Under such sudden & unexpected visit from so many devotees from a distant city, the host agreed to raise the mosquito net to allow us a glimpse, but did not agree to wake them up. We registered our names paid donation for prayers to be said in our names on the morrow. The temple was built in 1651 AD by Mukundaprasad Roychoudhury (no known relation to Loken) the zemindar of Mangalhat Pragana *. Surprisingly, it is not to be found in Google, although this is one of the the largest ‘atchala’ (roof with 8 slopes) temple in Bengal. While we were coming away, a small troupe of 3 very elderly Germans with 2 Indian guides turned up. So, hopefully, we may be able to find some information on the temple in near future in some German website.
The photo & history of Madangopaljiu’s temple is taken from the Bengali book on হাওড়া শহরের পুরাকীর্তি (‘Howrah saharer purakirti = Heritage Buildings of Howrah) published by PWD (Archeology) Dept of Govt of West Bengal,
Cutting hay for animal feed
Erosion of River Rupnarayan
While ambling around, we discovered 2 goat kids sparring under a tree. It was so funny, that we made a small video of it. Presently, Ma goat, heavily pregnant with the next batch, turned up and stopped the show. See it all :
Adda : As usual, the adda went on endless. It was revitalized each time some more guests arrived in phases on the 2nd morning. Signs were apparent that we are aging, as the discussion veered to health issues. Seems almost all of us are fighting fat. One mystery was Manu & Gauri. Though they live in USA, where the staple diet is beaf steaks, both of them maintained slim figures. Mantu clarified, beaf steaks is by no means their diet and he runs 1 to 1½ miles (~ 2.4kM) per day. This found little favour amongst those present, as running like a horse was not anybody’s idea of good life. Lumu too started his usual postulations about spiritual upliftment of our souls. Since the previous night was steeped in spirits of another kind, nobody took issues with him.Booking : One can book rooms or space for a picnic at : Sandip Nandi Cellphone +91 9831620901,+91 9434136309, Land phone 03214-275043, 03214-275243 email firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com Mellock (Deulti), Howrah-711303 Near Novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhaya's 'Samtaber'. Visit their website is www.niralaresort.com or contact authorised agents at http://www.niralaresort.com/contact.htm The tariff chart is available at http://www.niralaresort.com/tariff.htm