Serenity of Taki, a city dweller’s comfort balm

Every time I drove down the northbound highway from Ruby crossing over to Science city, I always cross a bridge over a very narrow channel, in the eastern Kolkata region of West Bengal, India. As I bumped across the bridge, the eastern sun rays caressed my right hand holding the steering wheel. I turned to look towards the wide expanse of the horizon dotted with dark green trees. I had to really hold the wheel straight as my inner self-urged me to take a U-turn ahead and follow the road which hugged the canal.

The translucent water of Basanti canal along which we drove down towards Taki at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
The translucent water of Basanti canal along which we drove down towards Taki

I knew that the international border of India and Bangladesh was not really far away from this point. A tour of this place to explore the area should not be a bad idea at all. Over and above gathering knowledge, this drive would also offer a quick getaway for a day to unwind in the cradle of nature. 

On a bright Saturday morning, we jumped into our Swift, armed with a route map, a cache of snacks, and took the slender road that meanders its way towards Taki.

The Basanti highway that runs along the canal was tabletop however as a driver I had to keep my eyes peeled as the road was quite narrow and was filled with fast moving very unruly traffic on Basanti highway at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
The Basanti highway that runs along the canal was tabletop however as a driver I had to keep my eyes peeled as the road was quite narrow and was filled with fast moving very unruly traffic

Although various resources and guides mention that it takes one and a half hours, we took about two and a half hours to reach this quiet town. The places that we touched upon were Malancha, Basirhat a typical small town that one can see in Bengal. Political as well as commercial hoardings and captions hung everywhere. Disfigured roads that get further subdivided at major junctions.No GPS or any of today’s hi-tech Sat-Nav was of any use…all that worked for us was – stopped the car, pulled down the glass and with a smiling face asked, “Dada” (if you are talking to a man, that’s the way we address in Kolkata), and “Didi” (for a lady) and asked for the directions. They were kind enough to provide us the shortest routes to our destination.

Cars, buses, trucks, and all modes of transport crowded around us. The JBL speakers in the car were having a hard time keeping up with the constant honking of the vehicles.

The steering wheel spun on either side as we almost scrapped through parallel moving trucks and buses on our way at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
The steering wheel spun on either side as we almost scrapped through parallel moving trucks and buses on our way

After about an hour’s drive through the countryside, the road rattled across wide broken rectangular sections. The human habitation in these areas looked sparse, at least as it seemed. Huge water bodies, probably created for fisheries. The most notable feature in this area is the presence of innumerable brick-kilns that are everywhere and forms a unique pattern of smoke across the cloudy sky…staring upwards with its long slender snouts and belching dark gray smoke as bricks were being made.  

Quite expected on the outskirts of Kolkata; a mad rush of real estate boom.

Water reservoirs and brick-kilns flanked the road and we were able to pick up speed as the road was both good and empty due to midday sun blazing away at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Water reservoirs and brick-kilns flanked the road and we were able to pick up speed as the road was both good and empty due to midday sun blazing away

We finally reached Taki.

The best part of this small town is the wide river beside which the town is situated. The Ichamati river sits in the middle and each of her banks belongs to a different country. We stopped the car and waited under the branches of a sprawling tree to explore the river.

Ichamati river flows on with so much of memories that she carries from both the countries she touches at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Ichamati river flows on with so much of memories that she carries from both the countries she touches

We parked the car at an opening, which the locals have kept for tourist parking. It was beside the remnants of the Taki Rajbari or the houses that stood there made by the zamindar family of Taki.

Ravages of time and decadence presented themselves in front of us. Only a few structures of the gallant old building stood.

A gripping peepal tree speared an old building, which belonged to the old zamindar family of Taki stood beside Ichamati bidding goodbye to the new generation at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
A gripping peepal tree speared an old building, which belonged to the old zamindar family of Taki stood beside Ichamati bidding goodbye to the new generation

We were just enough lucky to see the last of the structures before they will be pulled down for the modern buildings to appear on the river bank.

The broken residues of the zamindar's house looking at us with a taunting smile as we walked around at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
The broken residues of the zamindar’s house looking at us with a taunting smile as we walked around

I peered closer to one of the remaining walls and found an engraving of a figure, could be that of a god or goddess. What was astonishing was the old peepal tree, the way it encircled the building on all sides. I questioned a passerby and learned that this tree was over 200 years old.

Tree roots, branches, and the old wall entwined each other in a gridlock at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Tree roots, branches, and the old wall entwined each other in a gridlock 

The road that borders the river bank was very narrow. Driving was virtually impossible so the only way to see Taki was either by foot which was not possible with the sun overhead or by hiring a To-To, an environment-friendly three-wheeler which runs on battery power and the driver in our case was also a self-proclaimed tour guide.

We set off to learn about Taki a bit closer…

Ichamati was washing the banks very gently. Although it was very hot when we were under a shade the breeze over the river was very pleasing at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Ichamati was washing the banks very gently. Although it was very hot when we were under a shade the breeze over the river was very pleasing

Every boat that drifted on Ichamati had a pennant with a flag fluttering in the breeze. The boats closer to the Indian bank had the Indian flag and the ones on the other side were having the circular red over green ensign, the flag of Bangladesh.

We strained our eyes to catch any movement or some life over the Bangladesh bank. The nearest town or city in Bangladesh closest to where we stood was Khulna. Not much could be seen in the distance apart from a motorbike with two people moving away in a cloud of dust.

The vegetation around Ichamati is primarily mangrove as can be seen by the abundance of roots protruding from the muddy bank at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
The vegetation around Ichamati is primarily mangrove as can be seen by the abundance of roots protruding from the muddy bank

Taki has a man-made enclosure on the river bank to promote the surrounding ecosystem. A pathway on concrete supports has been made and a visitor can walk over it with trees like “Golpata“, Sundri” and many more plants that are seen in the Sunderbans. Due to Taki’s nearness to the famous Sunderbans, the vegetation resembles that of the marshlands.

We ambled across the interconnected walkways and were able to see a variety of trees that exist in a typical swamp.

After walking through the thickly forested path, we came to a wide opening muddy bank of Ichamati to catch another glimpse of the river.

Sundri and mangrove formed the undergrowth that led us to the bank of Ichamati at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Sundri and mangrove formed the undergrowth that led us to the bank of Ichamati

Here we came quite close to the Bangladesh border as the river turned and was comparatively narrower. We did see the other side now closely.

All along our research of the river bank, a street dog gave us company. Not sure to which country it belonged to.. whichever country it belonged, the dog was very friendly and helpful and led us through the walkway and showed us the bank.

Ichamati becoming narrower and we trudged over the low muddy bank bang opposite Khulna at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Ichamati becoming narrower and we trudged over the low muddy bank bang opposite Khulna

Maybe because of the river on one side, and pockets of forest and human habitation on the other, every road that ran parallel to the river was not very wide. We could see unkempt electric wires, mangled corrugated makeshift shops selling eateries.

Plenty of trees all around not only was beautiful, it also kept the heat at bay.

Numerous slender roads of Taki that can be seen woven across the town. Driving a car was quite difficult as the rickshaws that travel along refuse to give way to any other vehicle at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Numerous slender roads of Taki that can be seen woven across the town. Driving a car was quite difficult as the rickshaws that travel along refuse to give way to any other vehicle

Soon we turned away from the river and started exploring the older parts of Taki. Small swamps and very old houses and structures lined up the road.

Maybe because of the summer or the time when we had gone, we saw fewer people on the roads and all we could hear was the sound of breeze, and cacophony of bird calls.

Dilapidated rajbari waiting for a modern-day predator to swallow at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Dilapidated rajbari waiting for a modern-day predator to swallow
A very old water tank constructed of bricks and cement, perhaps 200 years old still stands to deliver its duty for which it was made at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
A very old water tank constructed of bricks and cement, perhaps 200 years old still stands to deliver its duty for which it was made
Rajbari perimeter wall in extreme state of disorder cries out for maintenance at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Rajbari perimeter wall in extreme state of disorder cries out for maintenance
A huge derelict wooden door in another wall of the Rajbari on the main Taki road at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
A huge derelict wooden door in another wall of the Rajbari on the main Taki road 

We touched upon few more places and found the local population busy with their daily chores.  We traveled another 3 to 4 kilometres into the town and came across a very historical road called the Mansingh road.

A milkman with a makeshift hat on a bicycle starts his day to provide personalized service at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
A milkman with a makeshift hat on a bicycle starts his day to provide personalized service

Mansingh was a valiant general in Mughal emperor Akbar‘s army. During his campaign of Bengal in the 1500s’, he pursued King Pratap Aditya, a local ruler who was among the Baro Bhuyans,  We drove through a road which was used by the invading Mughal army in their pursuit ages back and a cemented placard mentioned that in Bengali. Thus it is called the Mansingh road.

The road which was used by Mansingh's army as they chased King Pratapaditya and his men during the Mughal campaign at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
The road which was used by Mansingh’s army as they chased King Pratapaditya and his men during the Mughal campaign
The cemented board mentions this great historical fact at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
The cemented board mentions this great historical fact

It was an hour after midday and we were driving around the town, braving the heat to soak historical and topographical details. Naturally, we were starving and wanted to get a spot of lunch. I heard that local restaurants served freshwater fishes, from Ichamati and found one.

This was the menu in Bengali language and it said that this restaurant offers Rice, Rohu fish, Bhetki fish, Parshe fish, Tangra fish, Prawns, Egg curry, Mutton or goat meat, Chicken with rice, Mutton Biryani, Chicken and Vegetable Pakoras (pakoras are usually eaten as snacks), paneer (cottage cheese), tea and coffee at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
This was the menu in Bengali language and it said that this restaurant offers Rice, Rohu fish, Bhetki fish, Parshe fish, Tangra fish, Prawns, Egg curry, Mutton or goat meat, Chicken with rice, Mutton Biryani, Chicken and Vegetable Pakoras (pakoras are usually eaten as snacks), paneer (cottage cheese), tea and coffee

So we ordered this…

White rice, lentils, a slice of Rohu fish and Brinjal (eggplant) fry and they were so delicious at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
White rice, lentils, a slice of Rohu fish and Brinjal (eggplant) fry and they were so delicious 

After a good meal, we thought of going back to the riverfront to catch the cool breeze. The sun was in the western sky by now and had lost its midday rage.

We parked at various empty places wherever we could to see the variety of river activities.

A locally made wooden boat juts out and rests under the tree branches. Waiting in the shadows for its owner to push her into the passing river  at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
A locally made wooden boat juts out and rests under the tree branches. Waiting in the shadows for its owner to push her into the passing river 
We captured this image of a big trawler, broken off in the middle while she was trying to carry cargo across the river. The wreckage was found moored on the Bangladesh bank of the Ichamati at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
We captured this image of a big trawler, broken off in the middle while she was trying to carry cargo across the river. The wreckage was found moored on the Bangladesh bank of the Ichamati

It was about 4 pm in the afternoon and we were still driving and parking along the river. We saw a  couple of fishermen’s boats sailing away with the day’s catch headed towards a local market.

We parked almost at the edge of the land mass where the river started to keep enough room for another car to pass at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
We parked almost at the edge of the land mass where the river started to keep enough room for another car to pass
A country boat loaded with fishes and net making its way to a local market. Couple of passengers hitched a ride too at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
A country boat loaded with fishes and net making its way to a local market. Couple of passengers hitched a ride too

It was time to wrap up our tour of Taki and before we could leave, I was on the lookout for a particular sweet dish which is made here and is famous for its unique taste. It is called “Chanar Malpoa“. It is made of cottage cheese and they exist in two forms..one is fried and dipped in sugar syrup and the other one is like a paste with less sugar and can take any form of a container in which it is kept.

They tasted different and had enough gastronomic triggers that kept us salivating.

Chanar Malpoa fried first and then dipped in its sugary syrup and I loved them when they were hot at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Chanar Malpoa fried first and then dipped in its sugary syrup and I loved them when they were hot
Chanar malpoa in paste form. It has taken the shape of its container. Very yummy.. at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Chanar malpoa in paste form. It has taken the shape of its container. Very yummy..

Unfortunately, the day was very hot, we decided against taking some of it with us, in case if they get stale. We had it to our heart’s content and ended it with “mishti doi” or sweet yogurt.

Sweet yogurt or 'mishti doi' in its earthen container as called in bengali..it tastes extremely good and must be taken chilled at Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Sweet yogurt or ‘mishti doi’ in its earthen container as called in bengali..it tastes extremely good and must be taken chilled

We were replete with a full day of Taki’s culture, history, food; we took deep breaths of the cool breeze which was sweeping the river Ichamati.

We felt so relaxed and did not feel like coming back to the city at all.

Crossing the Vidyadhari river which was glistening in the setting sun as we returned from Taki, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Crossing the Vidyadhari river which was glistening in the setting sun

The sun was almost touching the western horizon. We started the car engine and slowly headed west to come back to Kolkata. On our way back we crossed a very wide river called Vidyadhari, a distributary of Ichamati.

We reached home and saw the odometer. A mere 72 kilometres away what a lovely place existed.

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