They say, home is where the heart is. I say, heart is where the home is. The last one month has been all about that.
I visited Calcutta after a year and a half. Amidst the usual pampering and spoon-feeding, night-outs, weekend trips, sudden plans and the nostalgia, writing took a back-seat (as did work, the PhD, conference deadlines, Skype discussions with supervisor). But then, as an angry child desperate to regain the lost attention, it fought its way back into my priority-list and forced me to serve its demands in these wee hours :D
Home, as always, was great. However, the highlight of the trip apart from the usual madness, was the three-days trip to the land of Rabindranath Tagore, with the best friends, during the festival of colors. That *life-is-beautiful* kind of feeling, experienced.
Santiniketan is a small town in the Birbhum district in West Bengal, India. Internationally, the place is known for its association with the famous Bengali Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, and attracts thousands of tourists each year. Although numerous cultural events are organized throughout the year, the place is best known for its Poush Mela (in December) and Basanta Utsav (in March, during Holi) celebrations. Luckily this year, we were part of one such :)
The train journey from Calcutta to Bolpur, Santiniketan takes approx. 3 hours. So the place serves as a perfect weekend getaway for many. There are also several accommodation options, from cheap hostels to fancy guest-houses, and can be booked at short notice. However, visiting Santiniketan during one of these festivals can be tricky (and annoyingly messy) and therefore it is advisable to plan the itinerary well in advance. Alternatively, if you believe in spontaneity (can also be read as stupidity by some), you can ofcourse do what we did- pay an unplanned visit :D
We stayed at the Bharat Sevasram, located in a small village called Muluk, some 5-6 kilometers from Santiniketan. This required us to travel daily, back-and-forth. But what seemed like an ordeal in the beginning, turned out to be the most enjoyable part of the trip.
The color festival, with its utter mismanagement, was not overly impressive. Also, the fact that most of Santiniketan, including the entire Visvabharati University campus and the famous deer-park remained closed during this time, left us disappointed. However, the ambiance in and around Santiniketan, the enthusiasm of people, the breathtaking handloom and handicraft collections, the mesmerizing Baul singers, the peaceful sunset on the banks of the Kopai river, the mindless strolls taken along the deserted village roads and the not-always-perfect conversations on the balcony on a full-moon night gave us memories of a lifetime.
The famous laal-mati (red soil) of Santiniketan. *mentally humming country-roads-take-me-home while writing this*
Sanibarer Haat- a weekly craft fair organized by the West Bengal Tourism, that presents outrageously beautiful and inexpensive collections of traditional Bengal handicrafts, decorative items, hand-made jewelry, textiles and more.
Muluk being explored, on foot, on a hot Summer day, and later, rest under the shades of the palm trees. Breather.
Often, people ask me if I consider myself fortunate to have been given the opportunity to travel to new countries each year. I always answer in the affirmative, given that I consider traveling synonymous to breathing. However, one doesn't need to visit Europe or the US to experience the joys of traveling. Small happinesses of life can also be discovered in a tiny village, from the indecipherable yet serene look on a Grandma's face :)