Storms ruled the first thousand years of life.
By the time I claimed my room, I turned into a zombie...
Suspended somewhere between the worlds within and outside...
Vaguely aware of either...
But then, existence needs more meaning, and spectacles need a windowpane...
Right here, I found mine…

Who am I? An average woman - trying to work on my share of maze through layers of haze...

Monday, July 23, 2012

We Smelt The Woods...

Year 2010 saw my first tryst with the woods...
A fruition of the innumerable dreams of adventure I grew up with…
Campfires, tents, sleeping bags, log houses deep into the heart of the forest, occasional roars of wild beasts and GOOSEBUMPS!

To touch the misty horizon...
Well, that's what I had EXPECTED it to be when the four of us finally set out for the forests of Duars* (or Dooars) in the foothills of Eastern Himalayas on a cold January night; - all thanks to my Dad’s lifelong obsession with jungle movies, and also to Ms. Enid Blyton – who penned the daredevil ventures of Secret Seven that formed my staple diet as a kid.

But then, how RIGHT and WRONG I was! The forest bungalows of West Bengal Tourism turned out to be far too luxurious with their plush room decors, steamy chicken dishes and obscenely large number of TV channels for you to be lifted even an inch out of civilization. And our presence seemingly failed to evoke much curiosity in the wild beasts either, thanks to the cold that could send ME to quarter-year hibernation if back at Kolkata, I didn't have an office to attend.

Car Safaris through three different forests of considerable repute-


1. The Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary+ - that holds the maximum number of rhinos’ population in India after the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, apart from Royal Bengal Tigers, Elephants,  Sambar, Barking Deer, Spotted Deer, Hog Deer, Wild Pig and Bison...


Elephant Safari in the Twilight, at Hollong, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary  

2. the Gorumara National Park& – which is again rich in large herbivores including Indian Rhinocerous, Gaur, Asian Elephant, Sloth Bear, Chital and Sambar Dear – apart from a large resident population of Wild Boars and some Leopards, and...

3. The dense and risky Chilapata Forest% that forms an elephant corridor between Jaldapara and the Buxa Tiger Reserve...

... - and a single one-horned rhinoceros, a couple of barking deer and a few peacocks sum up the list of ‘genuinely wild’ animals that our eyes could catch glimpses of. 

The world of sap green at the Chilapata Forest
However, it’s worth enough to mention the MAJESTIC Bengal tigers and leopards in the South Khayerbari Tiger Rescue Centre$ that were a ROYAL treat to the eyes.

Cheetah at Khayerbari Tiger Rescue Centre
So, if not the thrill of campfires, if not memories of herds of wild bison roaming free, what is it that I carry from this trip to this day?

Answer - The definition of night. The reverence for darkness!

The forests of Duars (in fact, any forest in the world I suppose) and the areas surrounding them see a different facade of the world after sunset. Darkness descends there fast and heavy, and darkness drips with a strange grim silence and an unspoken word of forbiddance.

Hardly a 5:30 in the winter evening, and the forest department's pet elephants would be back to their sheds for their days' rest. The streets would be empty but for an occasional tea stall. The young lads who were yet to reach home after the evening chat with friends would speed up their bicycles. Our driver would invariably bring us back to the forest bungalow and advise us against loitering out, and we'd often doubt the credibility of our individual watches and get the time verified once more. 

The Evening Twilight at Gorumara National Park
After all, what is 5:30, or for that matter, even 6:30 or 7:30 at Salt Lake Sector V? Why, the nonchalant evening tea, techie talk, verbal manager-bashing or gearing up for the next critical production issue!

Also, to be remembered forever is the scent of the woods…
Or the thickness of mist in the Savannah grasslands of Jaldapara at 6 in the morning…

Daybreak at Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
The great, wide, huge, wonderful view offered by the forest watchtowers…

Enchanting Trail - the view from a Watch Tower at Gorumara National Park 
The trick of balancing while crossing the hilly rivers of Bhutan barefoot, just for the fun of it....
Happy happy Bath Time - A River at Bhutan
Climbing up a steep rocky hill…
The white calm of Kharbandi Gompa, a splendid monastery overlooking the town of Phuentsholing^ and the plains of Bengal…
Buying a pair of Bhutanese 'kira#' from the market of Phuentsholing…
The placidity of the green waters of river Murti, flowing down from the hills of Kalimpong…
The tribal dancers and a moonlit night at the resort of Murti…
The majestic Sevoke Coronation Bridge!spanning across the river Teesta to hold together the districts of Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling… and the ethereal view from the temple alongside…

And time - immense free time right from the onset of the dusk till bedtime, when you don't want to disrespect the gravity of the chirping crickets by playing a loud music on your TV; and so, you sip tea and talk. You talk to the friends you've worked with for years and never quite had the time to talk to with such relaxation.


Ah, did I forget to mention my trip partners? Well, ours was a gang of four - Somnath, Archita, Sanjoy and I, who had been colleagues, project-mates, lunchmates, cubicle-mates and in case of Archita and I – roommates as well - right from 2006, the beginning of our professional life – until we dispersed to different cities and continents around mid-2010.




Let's Cross the River Murti

Can’t wait to have our next trip together as what was once a carefree gang-of-fresh-engineers gets all set to become 'bigger and better’, as the four of us - the original partners-in-crime , enter a whole new phase of life with our own partners-in-life :- ). [ By Antara Kundu ]


Check the below links to know more about the places referred to in the above composition:

20 comments:

  1. Yes, I smelt the woods too! I also felt the fog and the river. Thank you for the lovely share along with breath-taking shots.

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    1. That was a lovely comment. Thanks a lot Umashankar :-).

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  2. Beautiful post :) I feel like I'm taking these beautiful journey with you :)

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    1. Thanks a lot Tes :-). Please do come back to check out my latest post at http://windowpane2006.blogspot.in/2012/12/the-immortals-of-meluha-extrapolating.html.

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  3. Anonymous9:14 PM

    I give rise to look on behalf of such a article on behalf of a sustained era, credit a percentage.

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    1. Thanks for going through the article :-).

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  4. Wonderful as ever. It was a great idea to write a travelogue, in your own style. Somehow, you can make people compel to read til the end. Wish, I could be part of this trip as well :|

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    1. Thanks a lot, and no worries :-). We can always plan trips together!

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  5. Anonymous11:10 AM

    Thank you for sharing. Not to many people in your position are so gracious. Your article was very poignant and understandable. It helped me to understand very clearly. Thank you for your help.

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    1. Thanks a lot for your time, and your wonderful comment :-). Such words of appreciation from new readers are really encouraging for bloggers like me :-).

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  6. Antara,
    Happy for you and envious of your experience in the woods ! Nice pics, take you into the world you talk about, however i would have liked the diary to be more indepth :0 keep traveling and exploring.

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    1. Thanks for your time Oorvazi :-). This content was originally written as a Facebook album description - didn't take the pain to expand it much when I made a blog post out of it. Hope I'll be able to produce some posts to your liking in future :-).

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  7. Anonymous7:24 AM

    Highly energetic article, I liked that bit. Will there be a part 2?
    Here is my webpage - sun bingo

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    1. Thanks a lot :-). No plans about a 'sequel' right now :-) - but what do you want the part 2 to be about? Will surely go through your webpage soon.

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  8. Very beautiful photos! I almost feel like I'm looking through a window in Ottawa where I live to see all of these things. Happy travels!

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    1. Ah, what a beautiful home you have Walter :-). And thanks for the compliments :-).

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  9. Nice post n superb pics!

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  10. Many thanks Madhusudan :-).

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  11. Great pictures. like them very much. i will visit the place for sure once in life. best tour operator and travels agent for dooars

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  12. Hey keep posting such good and meaningful articles.

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