I was at a loose end, what with Ma gone to Kolkata and Pupu off to Mumbai. I was also rapidly running out of free Sundays, and didn’t want to stay at home. The new car needed running, and the weather was still tolerable to fine, with a chill in the air in the early morning before the sun rose. So I made a quick trip to Mukutmanipur on Sunday the 11th. Indranil Panigrahi of the ICSE ’98 batch, one of those old boys who have always kept in touch, happened to drop in on Saturday, so I took him along.
Mukutmanipur, which became a picnic spot ever since CM Dr. Bidhan Ray had a several-kilometer-long earthen dam put across the Kangshabati river close to where it meets the Kumari, is only 100 km away, but for some reason I visit rarely. The last time I went was in 2004, during the rains, and stayed at the Peerless Resort. I am glad to report that the roads have improved vastly since then, and our current CM has done a great deal to give the place a face-lift, so it was a very nice trip. Leaving home at about 6:45 a.m., we were there at the WBFDC (‘Sonajhuri’) resort in three hours. Unfortunately cottages had to be booked online, and there was a poor internet connection on the spot, so we missed out on that, but we were allowed to look around, and the staff was surprisingly friendly and accommodating, considering that they were government employees. The hilltop viewpoint gives a lovely panoramic view. We drove off to the Sutan forest, which is the first real forest I have seen in southern Bengal – never having gone to the Sunderbans – where we saw the ruins of a police outpost which had been blown up by the Maoists when they used to rule the roost in these parts, and then to Jhilimili, which is 35 km. from Mukutmanipur, and which you can safely give a miss. Back to Mukutmanipur, where we lunched at Sonajhuri, checked into a little hotel at the foot of said resort, and went to sleep in air-conditioned comfort. By the time we awoke the sun was setting, and it wasn’t hot anymore, so we went for a long boat ride on the reservoir. The whole surroundings were ablaze with palash flowers, and gradually it grew dark, and the lights of many colours, which were there in profusion, began to glow and twinkle, until amidst the silence of the river, with only the water lapping around us, it became magical.
The riverfront reminded me strongly of the seaside promenade at Digha and the Motijheel Park at Murshidabad: Didi’s signature is only too apparent. I have never seen a more tastefully designed Sulabh Shauchalaya anywhere in India. We sat in the little park for a long time, watching the multi-coloured fountain and listening to rabindrasangeet, then drove off towards the other bank, which is dark and eerie save for the Peerless Resort, and another hotel, Aparajita, where we stopped for a quick chilled beer. Then back to the hotel, where we eased back for a bit, and finished the day with dinner at Sonajhuri again, because we had liked the food. A quiet night’s sleep, and we woke up at dawn with a multitude of birds whistling, singing, warbling and chirping all around us in the woods. We went for a long walk along the dam. The breeze was strong and cool, and the sun, mercifully, went behind a large dark cloud again and again. Indranil remarked that though it was a Sunday, when the place should have been crawling with noisy tourists, we had the whole place nearly to ourselves, the Madhyamik exams. starting the next day having kept most people away. Stopping once more at the park to photograph the flowers growing in rich abundance, we drove off, stopping near Bankura for a quick breakfast of poori-ghoogni and hot nikhunti, and we were back at home by 11:30, so I had time to see Indranil off, do a bit of tidying up, a bath, lunch and half-hour snooze before taking two classes as on every Monday.
My old Indica was always faithful and true, but the new Dzire is definitely one notch above. Thanks, Maruti.
Indranil, I do hope you enjoyed yourself enough to want to bring over your wife next time around. And remember to ask your dad to arrange that trip to the Sunderbans at a time of mutual convenience.
I guess my travels are now truly over till at least end-May, but as I said, I shall be looking forward keenly to suggestions about little trips like this one, which can be done in one or two days at the most.
When I was a child, our family did only a few trips together, but I remember enjoying them. Immediately after finishing the ICSE exams, I went on a long tour of Himachal Pradesh with the family of a friend, and liked it so much that I vowed to travel all my life, to everywhere that sounded interesting. I am glad that God has given me time, money, health and continued interest to keep at it for nearly four decades now. And as I have said before, I’d like to take old boys along: that is a special pleasure. Of late I have got to know that several of them have stayed on or returned to settle here in Durgapur, and most of them are doing financially okay or better. I hope to build up a network with them – I never give up hoping! Kaushik, Anupam, Tuhin, Abhik, Shakya, Prashant, Sayan Roy (and the likes of him who live not too far away)… are you listening? Tell others you know about this, too, if you can.
For photos, click here.