The metallic azure grey hood of the Swift flashed off the sun and trees as she bounced vigorously over an uneven patch of the State Highway 02. This road connected two distinctly different towns in character, Arambagh, and Bishnupur in the state of West Bengal, India. It was the usual December vacation that the six families look toward to for a break from the city drudgery every year.
We huddled together with our travel gear and headed a whisker north of west from Kolkata towards a jungle refuge about one hundred thirty-six kilometres away.
Any travel out of Kolkata within fifty kilometres radius is shrouded in hues of green. The unmistakable rancid smell of the innumerable water bodies that dot the surroundings, grip you, even more, to see the overflowing nature around. After having traveled ninety kilometres, the three cars took a driver’s break at Shaktigarh, the must stop for some quick bite to devour Lankcha, Jhal muri, and hot tea. Usually, the explosive combination fueled the drivers for another five hundred kilometres of non-stop drive. Anyone taking the National Highway 19, due north towards New Delhi is bound to see the steering wheel veering off to have this palatable dish.
The stretch from Arambagh to Kotulpur slowly made the inmates in the cars expert kuchipudi dancers as the cars jumped and suspensions battered due to brilliantly dug up road, which clamored for road maintenance. Craters plastered with dust made the car groan all over. The speed dropped to about ten kilometres per hour taking the next seventeen kilometres agonizing two hours to cover.
The constant spring action was well matched by dense jungles on either side of the road. We took a sharp right and the curvaceous road suddenly became incredibly good to our utter surprise.
Through the tall sal and teak trees, a huge expanse loomed into our left. An interestingly decorated gateway ushered the vehicles into a well kept enclosed area with a smattering of low buildings bordered by farmland.
We had reached the Banalata resort.
It looked for a couple of days, the calmness cradled in nature’s lap was bound to transform us into strikingly new human beings replenished by nature. The general plan was to lazily sleep, eat to our heart’s content, explore the surrounding, breathe in the rich oxygenated air and wear no hand watch to keep track of time until the last day.
As we scanned the lakeside, rows of Marigold flowers or Tagetes lit the place with its fiery yellow glow under the midday sun.
Having parked the car under a long shade, we got into our colorful informal outfits to investigate the sprawling resort.
The lake looked quite large and at a far corner, a set of water jets made a huge curve of water into the air before crashing on to the smooth ripples of the lake surface.
Swans and ducks wadded through the water. Few of them were brave enough to challenge the humans around with a defiant look.
Forest cover was dense and uniform. It was either the fresh air or our bursting excitement seeing the location, well settled with natural resources, that brought the pangs of hunger.
We headed for the building cafeteria. A sumptuous lunch followed soon.
What a gastronomic experience – the taste of the tandoori chicken still hangs with its blissful succulence. Had it been in the evening, a glass of chilled beer would have been a perfect choice.
We started our walk along the acres of farmland that was present. It fed the kitchen that had everything on offer. Undulating fields completely covered with all sorts of plants and livestock too grazed on the adjoining field.
We trudged along the fields, the cool air brought with it, a wet earthy smell. It provided our imagination to go wild, and the ladies in our team ran to the cars to grab the badminton rackets and shuttlecocks that sat in the rear seats of the cars. A badminton field on the eastern edge awaited us and we all dived in to play continuously for four hours.
Even with the temperature hovering around twelve to thirteen degrees, we sweated and the chill was quite refreshing as the late afternoon breeze blew over us.
Right after our game, the roaming resort officials came to us to take our dinner order which was about two hours away. The group sluggishly gathered together for a consensus on the dinner plans. We scanned the menu for something unique to taste.
The group was quite animated and made preparation for the night. As is the favorite, members started narrating ghost stories to liven up the quietness. The resort was on the state highway so frequently, the silence and the darkness were punctuated by passing trucks with their fading tire sound and fleeting white light as the headlights cut through the tall sal trees.
The day’s activities were now taking its toll on the visitors and all wanted to ensconce themselves with the soft linen and welcoming bed that was made ready for the guests.
We retired for the night and set our alarm clocks for a fabulous early next day. The revelers mused about the surrounding area and what it has in store for the team to explore. Never had I fallen asleep so fast.
I could hear the distant sound of another truck on the highway…what happened next, I do not recollect as slumber had engulfed me.