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Rural hearth turns haven

Siliguri, Aug. 1: There are no roads, electricity, telephones or television sets at Rishap. Nothing to remind the guest of the concrete jungle back home.

Only the beauty of nature, hospitality, long hours by the fire in the evening, and home-made food to recharge the battery before going back to the grind.

Little wonder, the nondescript village on the outskirts of Kalimpong is turning out to be a tourist destination.

“Tourists from cities yearn for peace and quiet. What matters most is the hospitality, something villagers do not need to be taught. They live as a part of the village and come in direct contact with the life and culture of the villagers. Village trails, nature trails and cultural programmes are organised for the guests by the residents,” said Raj Basu, the vice-president of the Association for Conservation and Tourism.

Basu has tried the concept and developed about 12 tourist villages in north Bengal and Sikkim. “Villagers earn money, handicrafts get a market and people are motivated to preserve their culture and identity. Each village earns around Rs 3 lakh every year,” he said.

With pujas round the corner, Basu said, “60 per cent of the villages at Rishap and Gorumara have already been booked. We have been flooded with queries for bookings at other such villages in Soreng, Varshay, Lava, Lolegaon, Karmi, Lataguri, Mangalbari and Rajabhatkhawa.”

Tollywood, too, has come knocking.

Singer-director Anjan Dutta, who shot telefilm Short Cut at Rishap, said from Calcutta: “The experience was marvellous. We had Moonmoon Sen and Raima in our crew and they enjoyed the stay. Rural tourism is the best way to promote the region. Otherwise, the hills will turn into a huge concrete jungle like Darjeeling, a place that was once very close to my heart.”

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