As our car left NH 6 and turned right towards Midnapore, it became clear that we would not be able to reach Mondal Pushkarini by evening. And that was not good since I knew the route vaguely. I had only heard that the forest rest house was located beyond Garbeta, near Dhadika Bazaar on NH 60, which connects NH 6 with Raniganj. However, I said nothing to my family members, who were enjoying the view of the lush green countryside.
NH 60 was being repaired — there were large potholes every few metres and the surface had been dug up at several places. This slowed us down and as a result, it was dark even before we reached Garbeta. Soon, all the lights went out. That was the proverbial last straw. We had to drive up and down in the darkness for an hour before we could reach Garbeta. I learnt Dhadika Bazar was 5 km ahead, but nobody knew where Mondal Pushkarini was.
Ignoring the stares from my family members, I drove straight on desperately hoping to reach Dhadika Bazar quickly. My prayers were answered. A sign glowing in the darkness on the left of the highway informed us that we had reached Dhadika Bazar.
Mondal Pushkarini, we were told, was another 1.5 km ahead and there was a signboard pointing to the forest rest house. It was pitch dark. Naturally, we missed the signboard and shot ahead by at least 3 km. We were wondering what to do when a man materialised out of the darkness and gave us detailed instructions to the rest house.
Following his advice, we left NH 60 to take a kutcha road lined with tall trees. We could see by the car’s headlight that there was not even space to turn around.
After a few minutes, we could see a solitary beam of light moving towards us. The source turned out to be the torch of Mantu Roy, the beat officer of Mondal Pushkarini. We had finally reached our destination! The rest house generator was turned on and the place ceased to appear as mysterious.
A cacophony woke me up next morning. It took me a few seconds to realise that it was actually birds singing at daybreak. I came out on the lawn. Tall sal trees greeted me silently, shedding yellow leaves. The rest house was in the middle of a sal plantation. There were so many trees that the branches formed a canopy over the roof. Blackberry and piyal punctuated the rows of sal. The sound of vehicles on the highway seemed distant.
The rest house had two rooms — Doyel and Piyal — with attached bathrooms and a comfortable drawing-cum-dinning room.
Snakes, deer, boars, hares and jackals are the main animals in the forest. Between October and January, a herd of elephants come down from the Dalma range to feast on the paddy. They often destroy the mud houses of the tribals in search of the local brew.
I started walking towards NH 6. In 15 minutes, I was sitting on a khatia of a roadside dhaba sipping my first glass of tea with the dhaba-owner’s dog.
Later, we set off for the 700-year-old temple at Bagri on the north bank of the Shilabati river, near Humgarh, about 15 km away. The sunset over the river was beautiful. We stopped over at a Dol mela on the southern bank of the river on our way back.
The next day, we drove 20 km to Bishnupur and spent the day exploring the famous terracotta temples.
We also visited Gangani, a gorge that shines like gold in the sun. Unfortunately, the sky was overcast and it started to rain as we turned back towards Midnapore.
Garbeta is about 250 km from Calcutta. It is well-connected by road and rail. Dhadika Bazar is 5 km from Garbeta and Mondal Pushkarini is another 1.5 km ahead on the NH 60 towards Raniganj
Forest Rest House of Rupnarayan Soil Conservation Division (Rangamati), West Midnapore.
Contact Divisional Forest Officer, Rupnarayan Soil Conservation Division (Rangamati), West Midnapore.
Ph: (03222) 275494.