“Vacation” – The rare and most wanted word in entrepreneur’s life. In last 5 years (ever since the inception of my startup), I missed out taking break. I failed to take breath for own self, family since was bogged down in transactions. This was a chicken egg story as usual I have seen any other startups as well. We get stuck in bandwidth crunch while running from pillar to post and having no time even to think/strategize. Hence this year it was a conscious decision to take a break. But as usual, the vacation could be finalized very late in order to balance with work. In effect lot of hiccups took place. Getting a ticket in Indian rail is an extreme difficult option now a days specifically in season time. We planned a family vacation in North Bengal and no tickets were available even I had planned one month back.I was forced to do lot of permutations and combinations and finally one ticket got confirmed two days before the journey out of 3 tickets purchased (in three different trains). Hotels and other logistics were booked seamlessly though. Packing and other preparations were at incomplete stage even one day prior the journey due to my hectic schedule. First time I planned a travel without my laptop (intentionally kept it at home) as wanted to have a complete break from ‘always connected’, ‘easily accessible ‘ and ‘exposed’ lifestyle. I wanted to document the vacation in Diary Style and here it goes for readers:
Day 01 : 24-05-2015 (Sunday)
Finally the day had come. Gopal, the car driver came at 7 am as per schedule in a relaxed Sunday morning. We were ready in party moods after taking showers. My kids were super exited. The Red Scorpio started at 7.30 pm where me, my mother, wife, kids (son and daughter) got boarded (my father was missing as I felt him in every occasions of life ever since his expiry, The passion for travel was inherited from him only).We further picked my father-in-law and mother-in-law from the mid-way and rushed towards Santragachi. There was significant amount of traffic even though a Sunday. But we reached station well before time. Train started at 10.30 am (Santragachi – Siliguri Special).
We had homemade breakfast and lunch for the train travel. In effect we did not have any tension of food quality (as in general train food quality is bad and moreover this train was not having any pantry). Train reached new Jalpaiguri station at 10.30pm as per schedule. Our first destination is Coochbihar as per itanary, but we were forced come at NJP as other train tickets were not get confirmed (these were the trains touching Coochbihar / Alipurduar – “Kamrup Express” and “Saraighat Express”). In effect we had to have night halt at NJP and travel by road next day morning. We all were tired and gone to bed after having quick dinner.
Day 02 : 25-05-2015 (Monday)
We started early today keeping around 5 hours drive in mind. Breakfast was at Gautam Hotel as usual ( I had food here several times during my frequent travels to Sikkim). On the way we met 5 rivers – Teesta, Diana, Jaldhaka, Moorti and Torsa. The day was cloudy and the road was butterly smooth. We crossed several areas like Mongpong, Paren, Chalsa, Malbazar, Banarhata, Nagrakata, Falakata etc. Most of places we would revisit as per itanery except malbazar. I had earlier been to Madarihat, Holong, Chilapata, Dhoopjhora earlier and intentionally did not keep them on the list. But Malbazar is favorite to me for “Arjun”, the character created by Samaresh Mazumder. I used to wait for “Anandamela” Puja edition for the new thrilling stories. Arjun lost now and Malbazar became more prominent to me as he used to live here. On the way we passed several tea gardens and few of the glimpses are as below:
We reached Coochbihar around 12noon and checked in at “Hotel Yuvraj”. We did not choose this place only as tourist to see Rajbari, Madan Mohan Temple, Sagardighi etc. But we are here to touch the glorious past. Wondering?
My wife spent her childhood here and father-in-law used to work in Govt Dept. in Coochbihar.
We wanted to feel and investigate the old golden moments. Initially we went to the Govt quarter and inquired about the present occupants in that specific flat (G26) . Present Flat occupants were so cordial and humble that they greeted us and welcome inside. This is unbelievable in the big cities (even the city where I born and leave – Kolkata) where we used to be resistant to the unknowns with lot of apprehensions. We roamed around all corners of the flat and my wife, in-laws tried to smell the time, memory they processed here way back. Who says we bind our mind, souls only with living elements? The house, the area, city, locality all have tightly coupled bondage with our journey of life and we realize it when we grow older. But these thoughts are hardly holds any value to the present time, generation.
The smile in their faces were reflecting the satisfaction they achieved on the way to “down memory lane”.
Then we went to meet my wife’s bosom friend (school times) and had lunch there. My in-laws continued navigating old people, friends, shops, fellow colleagues.
We had a casual walk in the evening with visit to Madan Mohan temple and Sagardighi Lake. History is spread across the town and l planned for a city walk next morning alone.
Day 03: 26-05-2015 (Tuesday)
Early morning walk made me meet with the King Nripendra Narayan through his statue near Sagar Dighi. Morning fresh air with the fascinating ambience was extremely energizing. We visited Madan Mohan temple once again post hotel checkout. Next was Coochbihar Rajbari visit. The history revisited with different sculpture and archeology extractions. Kids were extremely happy with the green land flooded with various flowers and trees.
Post king’s house, we stepped into Baneswar Temple, the place for Shiva. But the major attraction was ‘Mohan’. Now what is Mohan? It is tortoise in the pond besides the temple. They reside there for years. My children liked it most.
Finally we checked in to the Jungle Lodge by West Bengal Forest Dept. The position, ambiance, facilities, hospitality were awesome. We reached there at around 2pm and we were extremely hungry including the kids. There was no pre-intimation on lunch from our side. But they responded quick and accommodated our lunch needs with 15mins. We were delighted with the food severed hot (rice, dal, veg curry, fish). The day ended with a two hour jungle safari by zypsi. The journey inside the dense forest was adventurous. The ride inside the trees through the areas of jungle (no road), sharp bends, the rise and fall made the visit more thrilling. It was no lesser than the journey though amazon as displayed in Hollywood movies. We could watch peacock, deer and was given to understand we missed watching elephant gang by 30 minutes (as narrated by one of the forest representative in the watch tower).
Day 04 : 27-05-2015 (Wednesday)
It was raining yesterday whole night and in effect did not for site seeing to Jayanti today morning even though planned yesterday night.
Rajabhatkhawa (RBK) forest lodge is a cool place. Anyone (sorry may not be anyone, rather the nature lover) would love to spend 2/3 days leisure time here without even exploring any site seeing. The site was just a walking distance from Rajabhatkhawa railway station and can be easily reached by Kanchankanya once travelling from kolkata.
Today post breakfast we started for Gorumara area and arrived at Ramsai Rhino Camp by five hours drive. Again an amazing place and surely not that well marketed (rather should say “No marketing”). The location was having 4 cottages at a height from the land. All cottages were having modern amenities. But the interesting part was all of them are having balcony surrounded the room and the rooms have four wide glass windows in it’s four walls. In effect seating inside room (even laying in the bed) the 360 degree view outside will be exposed. In the Gorumara territory Ramsai is one of three sites where occupants are having privileges to have elephant ride as a part of the package. Other two sites are Kalipur and Dhoopjhora.
Post lunch today our visit to Medla watch tower and elephant safari were planned. The watch tower and elephant ride kick off points are almost in the same location and the same was around 3km away from the Rhino Camp ( it’s just a name, don’t misunderstand assuming rescued Rhinos were being treated here ! Initially I had this misconception since Dhoopjhora was really holding elephant besides the camp as I had visited earlier). The bullock car taken us to the spot by 5pm. Elephant ride was still 30 minutes away and in effect we walked towards Medla watch tower. And the surprise was waiting for us. Yes, you are right. We found at least 4 Rhinos, 10 no.s of Deers, Peecock, hornbills from very close proximity. Elephant ride time was nearing and we had to rush back to the pickup point. We went inside the forest after crossing Moorti River with our Elephants and the God of Forest did not deprive us here even. We could see Rhinos, Bison from a hand shaking distance. On return, we went back to Medla tower once again to spend some more time. The bullock car dropped us back to our den tonight. But the night was amazing. The location was having load shedding problem with Genset backup. But there was a complete blackout for around one hour due to gen set issues and it’s rectification. But that one hour was most precious time of the day (though neither my family nor other Co – occupants thought alike). It was the rare chance to experience nature, talk and blend with nature. The entire area was flooded by moon light. “Jhijhi” was sounding in tandem, “Jonaki” (the glow-worm) were sparking in large numbers across the area. It was heavenly atmosphere for them who can feel and enjoy nature.
There was an arrangement of tribal dance and music for the evening entertainment (interestingly there was no television facilities and in my view that is blessings and in effect this enforces people to get attached / accustomed with the nature and ambience instead to continuously surf channels and spend a same city life style. Again this was some thought which most of the people would not agree and there is high chance of treating myself as “Mad”. My kids did leave all their city habits and continued spending “boring” time with mobile games and could make the duration more meaningful. )
Day 05: 28-05-2015 (Thursday)
Today our destination was Paren. Post breakfast we started around 9 am. The drive is about 4 hours. We took a break near Gorumara Forest Gate in order to procure some mementos ( local handmade) for friends/ relatives. Paren is a small virgin village in Dooars. I had been to this quite, less crowded place in 2010 as well and I loved it. This time this place was selected due to the same reason i.e. cool, quite place without the availability of city features.
We reached Paren at 2pm and the new place named Khambubhang Nature Camp was selected in order to explore new properties (last time we stayed in west Bengal forest department bungalows). The area was at the edge of the mountain and surrounded by trees. The weather was cloudy and once we finished our lunch, the clouds came into our cottages and drizzling was followed. The atmosphere became heavenly. We were in the mid of nature and completely disconnected. Curious? Yes no telephone, mobile, Newspaper, Television and internet. Last time (in 2010) I spent 24 hours in the same conditions and this time I had planned for 48 hours intentionally. I aspire to spend for 72 hours in the next visit (the aspirations will stated at the end of this blog). There were 4 cottages in four steps on the downhill. The area is filled with trees mainly Orange Trees. Seating in the balcony of the cottages and having a intimate discussion with sky, hills, garden, trees, clouds, birds and surely rainfall were out of the world. The raindrops at the tin shades were flawless and the sound melted in night dreams.
Day 06: 29-05-2015 (Friday)
Today was the second day in Paren. The morning was gloomy, cloudy with rains similar like yesterday. Today we visited Bindu when we met Jaldhaka River and the dam for hydel power. Next we went to the Forest Bungalow (where we stayed last time). Care taker Prakash Rai was extremely friendly as we had given introduction about our last stay (he was there last time as well). We exchanged thoughts over a cup of tea. Then on return post lunch spent leisure time in the resort itself. I continued seating and talking with nature apart from few of my writings. My friend Pritam Bhattacharjee keeps on telling to mold myself into the thinker’s state instead of being stuck in transactions.
Day 07: 30-05-2015 (Saturday)
Today we checked out early and visited Rocky Island, Samsing on the way going towards mongpong. Rocky Iland is also an awesome place like Paren/Bindu where we get a rare chance to meet nature closely (Rocks, River, Trees, Clouds) and built connectivity. Samsing is flooded with the tea gardens and also accompanied by a solitary river.
Midway lunch at “Bapi Hotel” with traditional Bengal cuisine (rice, sukto, fry, vegetables, fish chacharì, chingry malaikari, chatni) was very exciting. We checked in to mongpong by 4pm. Mongpong is also a fabulous place in the mid of Forest and besides river Teesta. The place is also having similar spirits when you will get refreshed with the accompany of sweet nature.
Day 08: 31-05-2015 (Sunday)
Today is the end of travel, end of sweet time with family. But still lots of twist pending since our return ticket was not confirmed. Return was also planned in the same train which we used for the onward journey (NJP Santragachi Special). I planned travel 1 month back as per trends no tickets were available in any train. More precisely it has been observed getting train ticket anytime any route is a major challenge. People (including my family) accused me for not booking tickets earlier (4 months) and I know better (my entrepreneur friends and readers will agree with me I guess) why it is not possible due to my nature of work. Anyway let’s comeback to the point. The next day after the ticket purchase, the tickets were dropped down from WL 16 to WL 9 (total 6 tickets) and I was very sure that by next 29 days tickets would certainly be confirmed. But the day of our return the tickets were standstill in WL 2,3,4,5,6,7 (same position for last 7 days). Before leaving town (Kolkata) I planned and delegated the submission of MP Letter for availing VIP quota (and it was submitted 48 hours back of our travel). Out of 6 tickets 3 were for senior citizens. Hence in this context we all were very sure of getting sure for all tickets confirmation (and almost everyone affirmed this thought as well). We left mongpong and reached our house by the time it was set for disclosing final charts. Out of 6 one became RAC4 and rest were unconfirmed (WL1, 2,3,4,5). And we all were much tensed with next course of action though the stay in relative’s house was bit of a relief. Elder brother is relative ‘s place did some calls by that time and suggested me to buy next morning Shatabdi Tickets (WL74,75,76,77,78,79) and by the time chart prepared we got 4 tickets confirmed out of 6 in some quota. I did not pay a penny since my relative had a connection. But what about poor common man of India? I got the samples/examples of the same next morning.
Day 09: 01-06-2015 (Monday)
We had to start very early today (4pm) with the pre-booked car. Rana da also came with us to see us off.
We had a splendid evening yesterday with the near and dear ones. My grandfather was the elder brother of Ranada’s Grand Mother. Ruma Di and Jhuma Di were same cordial as always with heartily hospitality. Only Jethi (Aunty) was very unwell. She is surviving with external support as her own lungs is not functioning. I still remember the kind of hard working she was. She is confined to a small room. But fortunately she can talk, seat and eat since except lungs all other organs are running fine. But Ranada was explaining how difficult it was in last November to bring her back from the death bed. It could not have been possible without god’s grace.
Anyway the train started as per schedule at 5.35am. Meanwhile I met one of my good old friend in the station and found him running pillar to post for getting confirmation of his ticket which was WL 1! Finally he got a seat by paying INR 2500 (Shatabdi CC fare1050, ec fare 1600) and he was not alone. I met five more gentlemen who got similar confirmed seat by similar payouts. My question is simple how these seats were vacant? How my tickets were confirmed. ?why agents can give us confirmation of tickets of any day anytime if I am ready to pay any amount? It seemed to me deep rooted conspiracy and we the common man just see the face of it by non-availability of tickets.
And finally my vacation ended with lot of energy and refreshments. But I aspire to go back to Paren in November/December when it will be chilled and flooded with Orange. I dreamt of having an entrepreneur’s outbound meet / boot camp of 3 days. 8 cottages can accommodate 24 persons and if we plan well Kolkata to Kolkata (i.e. starting from Kolkata and back to Kolkata) will cost around 15000 per head (yes it is costly). The kind of disconnected world it is, the entrepreneur’s will be bound to exchange thoughts / ideas/ strategies and outcome should be great. I also know converting this dream into reality is damn difficult with Bengal/India as cost will be apprehended to be waste and I might be treated mad for my wild thought.
At last, not the least Incredible Bengal should have been reviewed through my blog and pictures. Do you feel Bengal is behind in terms of natural resources compared to other state? Answer is ‘No’. We lag in promotions. One of Indian state only survive due to promotion where they are far behind us in terms of resources.
Bengal has hills, forest, river, sea and every aspect there are lot of varieties.
Let’s be proud to be born in Bengal promote our Beautiful Bengal to be in leaders segment under Incredible let India mission.
My guess this blog is really built big. My sincere thanks to the readers for patience and would to have your feedback.
The Photo Album is Here.