It was at a time when I wanted to reconnect with myself. And I knew where I wanted to be. It is honestly difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what draws me to Shantiniketan… but there is something intangible that pulls me in an almost physical pull. There is a sense of peace that emanates from the place; music that mingles in the air. The undulating red laterite soils, the barrenness of the land, the sudden bursts of plush greenery – all make me want to go back there time and again. Apart from the vastness of the Sea, this is another place that makes me feel at home.
The ichche to go to Shantiniketan was so strong, that on a Thursday, while I was enroute to office (yes, I was still working then and the ‘writing full-time’ bug hadn’t even arrived on the scene) and talking to Purba, I just popped the question – “I need a break. Jabi?” She too must have needed it real bad and pronto said – “Chol!” And there was never an iota of doubt in our minds as to where we wanted to go for this brief ‘Us-time’. Shantiniketan it was, and Shantiniketan it remained.
What followed was a series of frantic phone calls between Purba, myself, travel agents, and people who had homestays or guest houses. Tickets, we managed somehow. But the guesthouses I knew of were all reserved. We fell back on our “trusted humsafar” Kunal of Season Four. He said – “Why don’t you stay at the Raktakarabi Karugram? It is in Ruppur, a little way away from Bolpur.
We loved the idea of Raktakarabi… Raja… Nandini… Bishu Pagla, and immediately decided to put up there. Also the idea of being ‘far from the madding crowd’ appealed immensely.
Raktakarabi Karugram, situated in Ruppur, is almost a 30 minutes’ drive from Bolpur station. There was a car waiting for us. Despite it being the beginning of February, the nearly mid-day sun was close to scorching. The drive through the seemingly endless meandering roads of red soil mixed with asphalt and the greenery on both sides was a soothing balm for the sore eyes.
Raktakarabi Karugram didn’t disappoint us. The cottages were built in the Bengal hut style, two-storied structures of mud and wood. The interiors were serene and boasted of modern amenities like coffee makers, ACs etc. A winding log staircase connected the ground floor with the first floor. The flooring was of wooden planks, adding to the feel of a rustic log house.
The resort car was about to drop us to Shonajhurir Maath. Baul songs drifted in the air. Stirred restless by the breeze, yellowish dry soil flew around. The tall shonajhuri trees made soft murmuring noises and the undulating ground stretched far, far beyond the horizon.
Artisans, bauls sat hither and thither. There were Khesh sarees, neckpieces made with dried and colored seeds, unpolished Dokra figurines, the amazing workmanship of painstakingly made kantha sarees and stoles. And along with our material buys, what we brought back to comfort us in the daily humdrums of life, was the image of an impossibly blue sky peeking from behind the canopy of leaves of the immensely tall shonajhuri trees.
The terrace of our hut overlooked a vast open land. On the velvety darkness of the night sky, we could see thousands of brilliant pinpricks of stars. It was incredibly beautiful and impossibly quiet. A slightly chilly breeze rustled the fallen leaves, crickets chirped nearby. It was the time to connect with yourself. To go deep into the heart of darkness; to touch your soul. To peer through your own ‘pensieve’ and retrieve the memories you want relive, again and again.
Purba and I sat side by side, cocooned by the comfortable camaraderie of silence, under the starlit sky, filling our lungs with that pure clean air which would keep us breathing in our hours of continuous strife and struggles. Andhokar byapiyache dik bidike…. lupto chari dhar.
We went to sleep deep in the night and woke up to the lilting strains of Ektara accompanying the soulful sound of a Baul singing in the garden below.
But that again is another experience tucked in the corner of our hearts.
Love and light