A Hamlet And Few Handsome Hours

I gathered myself on my way out of the platform and boarded an ogre-sized three wheeler. For company, I had January nip, ruffle of a shawl (borrowed at the last minute) and an indigenous roller-coaster. For those who don’t know, I was heading ‘Bankathi’, a quasi-obscure hamlet in West Bengal’s Bankura district.

A short ride and I am in the midst of thatched nests and whistling trees. Festivity was written all over the place where I rested myself. It has long refused entry to modernity.

A hurried lunch of rice and lentils and I sank into somnolence.

Evening was lighted in patches. A common assembly ground turned out to be a confluence of devotional songs with minstrel-like jingle and random body movements. Being oblivious of the occasion, I wandered unfettered. A not-so-confident podium graced solemn looking guests with beads around their neck and sandal paste on forehead. From them came rustic epigrams decked with wisdom. Audience soaked in their sayings as oracles waiting to see the light of the day.

In Bankathi, observing rituals is a common hobby. Few hours into my arrival and already a host of divine names did good to my already shaky general knowledge.

An early morning walk and my lungs rejoiced. At the breakfast table, hospitality was unrelenting.  In few minutes, I was heading towards the temple town – Bishnupur. The milky sun on my shoulders and wind followed behind until metalled roads found me.

Mind you, history is in town’s favour. 17th century kick-started cultural reformation and Bishnupur waded deep into culture. Terracotta (Italian for ‘baked earth’) temples and their daily struggle to exist are so glaring. Instructions and ‘do not’ caveats make them unapproachable, if not less admirable. The labour of past had yielded applause and mentions across the world. What craftsmanship! Peerless is the word to describe engravings on episodes from Mahabharata.

Local rickshaw puller and a self-proclaimed guide served a few anachronisms, and as a story lover would do, I allowed him to continue. The structures small and big, flat and bumpy, formidable and suave, burgeoned the dormant photographer in me. And suddenly, camera was invented just for me. Taking shots of the marvels and potshots at visitors’ arguments I left behind some handsome hours.

With evening, came longing – as if to bind me to the place.

The dimly lit hamlet resembled a cake with half-extinguished candles. It was a jamboree of silence and darkness. Morning arrived much before I could get acquainted with the night’s mumblings. Not to forget, the night was spent in company of folk songs.

Inebriated, I had announced my sleep.

Before I could reflect on nature and consume the unbridled greenery, the trip neared its end.

Journey downhill always takes less time even though you want it to procrastinate. The travel bag, when realization struck me, was petite with local produce. The soil of the place followed me to my city. May be that is nature’s way of reaching out to civilized ones with a hope of one good turn in return!!!

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