Destinations,  India,  Sonajhuri,  West Bengal

Sonajhuri — Part 1: The Shingles, The Plan and The Mad Drive To The Station

Generally people cringe and cry when they suffer from a painful disease, particularly diseases which may leave a scar. My case was different. Before consulting the doctor I had googled my symptoms and the Almighty Internet had made me believe I would die within a month. So, when I was diagnosed with the Herpes Zoster (Shingles) – a curable disease, it didn’t bother me much. I was extremely happy to know it wasn’t life threatening and I would be alive.

Suddenly I was a minor ‘celebrity’ and each single member of my extended family either visited me multiple times or called on the phone to know my health condition.

Though the blisters hadn’t died down, the pain was still persistent and I was on medication, the doctor declared me non-contagious. Now it was time to celebrate. Celebrate my freedom from the awful ‘sophisticated’ slave job that I did in a ‘plush’ office.

The trip was planned by my super-talented cousin Moumita Mukherjee who runs a travel agency Breathe Fresh. In the wee hours of a cold morning the 17 of us extended family members, set off for Sonajhuri, the quaint ‘forest’ in our backyard. I am blessed to have a daring family who loves travel in all its form.

Sonajhuri is a forest in Khoai region near Shantiniketan, West Bengal, India. The place is renowned for its unique ‘Shonibarer Haat’ or Saturday Fair and ‘baul music’! ‘Baul’ is a Bengali word and its English translates to mystic minstrels.

Baul at Kopai river shore

I am not a morning person and it turned out the car driver we hired to get us to the train station wasn’t one either! So there was our group of 17, consisting of kids aged 5 to oldies aged 65 stranded on the highway at a deserted bus stop in the darkness before daybreak.

I was considering my options: running, trucking. An interesting junior who works in film studios had once told me how he returns home after midnight from the city to the suburb where we both stay. Past midnight when buses stop operating the trucks plying in the National Highway pick up passengers and drop them off at the correct stop for a meagre tip. I was already thinking of ways to stop the whooshing trucks without ending up under them when I saw ‘the old lady of the road’ approaching us. The kind hearted, extremely helpful but sleepy driver of the white Ambassador greeted my brother-in-law. He came as our saviour.

Usually an ambassador can fit in 4 sane persons excluding the driver. Ofcourse, we weren’t sane. The poor old ambassador was burdened with the weight of 8 Homo Sapiens apart from the ‘pilot’! While I was wondering in my mind if I would still be solid or reduced to pulp by the time I reach the station, the driver was comforting my worrying family members that he can easily manage two back-to-back round trips and rescue the 9 others, still stranded.

Sleeplessness affects efficiency, period. Our confident, heroic rescuer temporarily forgot the route to the station and merrily took the road towards another city. By the time we realised this we had already lost a good 15 minutes.

Luckily the stranded people got a taxi into which 6 of them dumped themselves and reached the station along with us almost at the same time. The rest 3 were in a desperately desolate condition, probably contemplating asking for lift to the people riding bicycles when they found a taxi and asked the man to fly the vehicle.

The 3 were still missing when the train whistled. Most of my family members were running up and down the train coach with anxiety, shrieking, frowning every now and then. When finally the ‘ironman’ pulled off I saw the 3 panting figures quickly climbing up.

I felt jealous! For a brief moment the 3 challenged my temporary shingles infested ‘celebrity’ status! They were the new stars; heroes and heroines who board a running train. If you are acquainted with typical Bollywood material you would know what I mean!

Thankfully I got over my disgustingly pathetic jealousy and participated in the selfie marathon! The train gained motion and soon the view outside the window was blurred. Hola! Sonajhuri! Here we come..

The Crazy Dynasty


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