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A Weekend To A Forest From Kolkata

Arup Chanda

When we heard Bongaon we were scared! It is known to be close to Indo-Bangladesh border and infamous from crime. My friend Parveen and I decided to take the chance and visit it regardless.

From Sealdah we boarded Bongaon Local. The train journey of almost two hours was hilarious with vendors selling almost everything from Chinese toys to even “idli”!

We disembarked at Ranaghat in Nadia District of West Bengal. From there we took a local taxi though buses are available and continued on our trip which was to enjoy ourselves in a forest locale!

Parmadan forest now known as Bhibutishan Wildlife Sanctuary named after the famous Bengali author is really a week-end get away from Kolkata. It’s only 80 kms from the metropolis and one can straight drive down NH 34 via Dattafulia to reach the forest.

The best time is to visit is winter and this is truly a tourist’s delight.

Parveen and I decided to take a walk within the forest after a hearty breakfast of poori, aloor dom (potatoes in a curry) and local sweets with black tea. But we carried some packets of biscuits and chocolates in case we wandered off the beaten path and hunger pangs attacked us.

We were surprised but scared too!! But to our delight we found that we had made the right choice for a weekend trip! As we walked around just wearing jeans and sandals the deers came towards us and we fed them biscuits. The monkeys played among themselves in the trees while peacocks were spreading their wings and dancing before us. Parveen was excited as various kinds of rabbits were running all around us! The 70 square kms of forest just engulfed us.

We returned to the forest rest house and then decided to take a trip near the Bangladesh border on a country boat. We sailed on the Ichamati River towards Chuyatia, a village near the border. The villagers were excited to see a couple from the city and offered us some tea and sweets following which we returned to the boat as the wind had picked up speed and the weather was getting cold.

On the boat Gopal, our assistant said, “Korta we will just put our fishing net out and catch whatever we can get. Hope you will enjoy this,” casting his fishing net into the river as we sailed towards Bangladesh and enjoyed looking at the amazing forests on the way. We were curious about what kind of fish he netted, some of which he returned back into the river whereas the others were saved for our meal. As the boat sailed on Gopal served us tea along with some local eats like “nimki” and “gaja”.

Then he started preparing our meal which was served to us around noon along with chilled beer which came as a total surprise to us.

The meal consisted of lentils, fried brinjal, potatoes and a fish curry. It was delicious and something which we had never tasted in Kolkata!

By that time we were returning to our lodge with the sun dipping we could see various kinds of birds flying back to their nests.

Once back at the forest lodge we had a quick coffee and decided to venture out again. We took a stroll to find birds chirping and the monkey squeaking. It was a short walk but with the temperature dipping we found it thoroughly enjoyable.

Dinner in forest lodges is usually served fairly early. By 8 pm Deepak cooked “bhaja mooger dal” a local cauliflower fry, rice and mutton curry. As we ate we could hear the sounds emanating from various kinds of animals. Deepak warned us that sometimes the Royal Bengal Tigers from Bangladesh stray into this area and hence it was not advisable to go out at night.

Having had an enjoyable but tiring day we avariciously consumed our dinner and took to our cosy bed.