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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So we ordered this…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.