The incessant ringing of the I-phone along with the honking from the streets below woke up this woman of 36 years. Already 35 missed calls and the time was only 4am! For the last few days her mind has been restless, she is unable to think clearly, there is this storm brewing inside her. But being the strong, level headed woman that she is, nothing is getting dampened, neither her family or home nor her office. Today she decided to avail car pool instead of driving. Later on she will thank herself for this decision because that was when she had her Eureka moment. She never realized that the 1 and half hours journey to office in a jam packed shuttle on chaotic, busy streets of Kolkata along with traffic snarls and non-stop quarrelling of all vehicle drivers can clear her mind. She actually blocked out the cacophony of noises and went into her own shelf. She started thinking of her last trip to Ladakh. ‘Oh! Whatta place that was. The Pangong Lake, Nubra Valley…Ladakh was really Lajawab!’ India has innumerable places to visit which can’t be covered in one’s lifetime. And that is when she realized that she needs to fly away to a new destination. ‘30 years from now, I am sure that I won’t be able to visit Ladakh once more or party at Baga beach till the wee hours or even go scuba diving in Andaman!’ Because with time, body changes, priority changes and most significantly situation changes. ‘Moreover what about now? Where can I go for a quick escapade? Somewhere near, somewhere in Bengal itself? A weekend retreat of sorts, with not much planning and not much days to spend? A place where I can go now, and also in the later stages of life or now that I want some peace of mind and indulge in some soul searching and still enjoy the trip?’ Then she heard a snippet of a conversation coming from the seat infront. She caught words like ‘Muruguma…its very near…Sittong was beautiful…Tabakoshi…romantic’. She took out her phone and quickly started typing in the places she heard and voila! She found many such places.
There are many weekend destinations in Bengal itself which are unheard of. They are untouched, raw and virgin, still holding on to its own natural beauty without any interferences. She shortlisted some of the places like Muruguma, Sittong, Pabong, Singi, Lamhatta, Bungkulung, Sangser or Tabakoshi .
Muruguma is a quaint tribal village in the foothills of Ajodhya in Purulia some 335 kms from Kolkata. This quiet place exudes serenity and wipes away all worries. The charismatic Chhau dance by the tribals can be experienced here. Muruguma is painted red during summer by the numerous ‘Palash’ flowers giving it a vibrant look. For a change she wanted to wake up to the chirping of the birds rather than the blaring of the horns.
Sittong sits blissfully in the laps of hills which is about 35kms from Darjeeling. She felt like escaping to Sittong, a cluster of hamlets, from the congested Darjeeling and experience the mesmerizing mountains, bird and butterfly watching, blooming oranges etc. Once arrived at Sittong during November-February, the aroma of oranges fills up one’s nostrils and that is why it is also known as the ‘Orange Village’.
Pabong is an attractive settlement perched atop a mountain slope, hardly 34kms from Kalimpong Town. She thought that this place was also ideal for her as she was fed up with the teeming crowds and could disappear to the peaceful Pabong surrounded by Debdaru, Oak, Pine and small Orange orchard and the never ending scenic beauty of the surroundings. It’s a bird watcher’s paradise.
She also desired to visit a sweet little village called Singi in Shantiniketan. Living in the city, she lost touch with her actual Bengal. To reconnect herself with the real Bengal; inhale pure oxygen, take a deep breath of the aromatic soil, stare at the blue sky above and ofcourse indulge the taste buds with the authentic Bengali cuisine. Singi is a Village in Katwa in Bardhaman District.
Lamhatta is a small dwell at an altitude of about 5,700 feet and at a distance of 23kms from Darjeeling hill town. There is a beautiful polished garden and dense dhupi and pine forest. The magnificent Mount Kanchenjunga is in the fore front. This majestic location is sure to lighten her burden.
Bungkulung is a hidden secret of Darjeeling. It is hardly a 50km drive from Siliguri. Bungkulung is the perfect place because her mind and heart and soul, all together want to take a break, away from the maddening city life. It is encircled by mountains, rivers, paddy fields, orange orchards and pineapple garden. She found out that visiting in the month of October she will be able to spot exotic birds like Velvet fronted Nuthatch, Emerald Dove, Greater-Yellownape, Green Magpie, Common Stonechat, Hill Myna, Oriental Turtle Dove, Olive backed Pipit, Asian barred Owlet, Golden fronted Leaf-bird, Brown fish Owl, Grey Treepie, Scarlet Minivet, Blue bearded Bee-eater, Banded bay Cuckoo, Black winged Cuckoo-shrike, Lesser-necklaced Laughingthrush and the very elusive Black Baza.
Sangser is a small splendid settlement near Kalimpong. It is around 10-12 kms from Kalimpong. It is blessed with abundant natural beauty. The Herculean Kanchenjunga, the river Teesta and the Delo hills surrounding it are all here to give her company. She longed to drown herself in the unadulterated beauty of Sangser for a day or two and return with memories to cherish forever.
Tabakoshi is a quintessential getaway for nature lovers and bird watchers. It is just 5kms from Mirik. It is a beautiful spot encompassed by tea gardens, hills and the meandering Rangbhang River. Tabakoshi, nestled amidst nature will surely calm her senses. Away from the regular traffic congestions, hustle and bustle, commuting on a crowded bus, her soul is searching for tranquility and she is sure to find it in this marvelous peaceful village.
There is also not much hype surrounding these places because most people are not aware of their existences. These places are ideal getaway retreats / offbeat weekends for reviving yourself. These places are perfect for short breaks for one and all, a 30+ IT professional or a retired professional, an ardent bird watcher or the poets who wants their minds to travel free in search of those missing soulful words or also for a singer who wishes to hum ‘O Polash, O Shimul..’ without any disturbances. As Rose has thorns, similarly these places are also not perfect, in the sense; it will not be right on one’s part to expect 5 star accommodations or international range of cuisines here. Rather be prepared for a bumpy ride, humble food, normal home stay sprinkled with genuine affection and hospitality from the locales and unmatched scenic views for as much as your eyes can see.
So pack your bags, nature is calling you!