Dwelling in a city, amidst skyscrapers, expensive malls and movie theatres, it is easy to overlook the fact that the majority of India still lives in villages. I almost forgot that the green in our flag refers to the fertility that feeds the entire nation. On 1st June, 2020, just as the Covid Lockdown was lifted, we travelled through the countryside for 16 hours from Calcutta to Darjeeling and made a ‘tryst with destiny’. Since then, we have made 80 such trips. Every trip has made me realise how limited my knowledge and information is.
Mobility and travelling are a blessing and an absolute imperative for understanding different perspectives of different people. Our dear Innova is not just a car. It is a completely self-sufficient travelling tent. Only ask and you shall receive – shelter from sun and rain, food, water, pillows and blankets. My entire world (my small family) within the larger world now exists within this microcosm.
We start very early while it is still dark. The saffron sun rises and the rays gently awaken India from its slumber. As I gaze out of the window I see acres of paddy, maize, mustard, jute, wheat and many other crops that I don’t recognise. Men and women are bent over caring for these crops from sapling to harvest. My mind registers a water-colour image of many musical notes of green captured beautifully in the words of Bankim Chandra – ‘Shasya Shyamala Mataram’.
There are 2 types of highways that connect India – the National Highway and the State Highways. Although the national highways are smoother and faster, I prefer the state highways. They are like the veins of the country that carry life giving blood to and fro. As the journey progresses and the sun becomes stronger, shade is provided by trees on either side. The neem morphs into an aamla which merges into a peepal. Under the bearded banyan is a tea shop run by an equally old man.
Cows, goats and buffaloes amble across the road in complete disregard of high powered trucks and cars. Obviously, the animals know they are valued and well cared for. In fact, we have been told that if you happen to hit a goat, it would warrant compensation not just for the goat but for at least the next few generations that it could have parented! The writing on the white band is clear – What’s the hurry? Pause, Breathe, Introspect.
The camera shutters of the mind and eye click again and again as I carry the images in my heart. I present my album before you - pictures of huge, lotus filled ponds, fields of marigold and the flaming red of the gulmohar as it hangs down. My India is truly perfumed and bejewelled. As Malda approaches, there are mango and litchi trees galore. The sight of the ripening, shining fruit makes my mouth water. I don’t blame Eve for plucking the tempting apple!
India, especially Bengal, is a land of many rivers. Believe it or not, one of these rivers is a part of the national highway. Trusting the GPS blindly, we suddenly reached the edge of the river. Obviously, we thought we had made a mistake, till we saw the bamboo raft that carried us and our little Innova house across the river! The river below, the rustling wind and the gentle monsoon spray. It is truly an experience of ……
Sujalam Sufalam Malayaj Sheetalam’
The ever-turning wheel of the car and the day soon bring us to the end of the journey and to my beloved tea bushes. A cup of Dorje First Flush Tea revives and refreshens me.
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