It is 5 a.m. in the morning – the train is honking loud while it slows down preparing for a halt ahead. I look outside the window with my fatigued eyes, gripping on each and every bit of sight it can. My mind is all excited about how this new place would be like. The train stops.
Yes, this is the place.
I get down the train and start walking outside the station. There I stand clueless, sipping tea from a “Kulhar” (Terracotta cup); I see a neat edifice portraying art and historic values at every glance, the word “Gitanjali” inscribed beautifully on it in its finest form. The warm summer breeze has blown me here and time marks my first few steps at “SANTINIKETAN”.
I had always wanted to write something about life outside home. I got the reasons more intensified when my Geography teacher from school messaged me a few days back saying that he would want to read “something on Santiniketan from the eyes of a hill’s person”. As I felt honoured to have this opportunity to pay him a small token of gratitude, for all the love and support that I owe him.
This article is dedicated to him and all my school teachers, who helped me shape into being who I am today.
I am sure majority of us must have felt what I felt on arriving at Santiniketan, and much like everyone else, my first impression of the place was below expectations – dull and barren.
Little did I know that you take time to penetrate the outer surfaces to submerge yourself into the pacifying undercurrents of the place. Later to realise that everyday and every season unearths with it a different layer of happiness. Every person you meet gives you a different story, and every place you visit has an untainted element of nature in it.
Of course you miss home, especially when you have nothing to do or you are having that “mayalagdo mess ko food”, but then there are things that can cover all the inconsistency. How Sikhar Cigarette for the smokers becomes the biggest gift from home, and how the everyday ignored food items at home become a treasure here.
“Achhar” in all its form becomes the bride of all the meals – be it “mula ko achhar, taaba ko acchar, newari acchar, nutrella ko acchar or any other accahar” that can travel down from your home with you in a jar. A ‘Dalley” on your plate gets your friends to raise questions if you had visited home recently.
Food is just a part of the good or bad emotion that you somehow tend to cultivate at this place. There are things that you know you would have missed if you didn’t land to this place. Forming a community with people having various mindsets and living together as a family, developing a tradition of togetherness and promoting the same through the years – These are a few things that shape your character for the years to come.
The Kulhars/cups of tea that you enjoy with your friends every evening cast eloquence to your soul. Birthdays are another thing you can get excited about. A group of folks sitting in a circle, be it on a terrace under the starry nights brightened by the moonlight or be it inside a room, passing glasses and bottles of cold drinks and “stuffs”, followed by well defined moments of music and dance are what describe birthdays most of the times here.
Knowingly or unknowingly, you go on to build up strong bonds. You get sick, you have people to look after; you go home, you have people to see you off. Everything starts bringing itself to equilibrium and then you know that life is good. The talks last long……. They last just a bit longer at night than the chain of cigarettes that get passed among a bunch of friends (for those who smoke).
Even if you fail to learn anything at this place, you are atleast sure to learn to ride a bicycle.
Bicycles have set them deep into the culture of Santiniketan. So, you shouldn’t be surprised if you are going around Santiniketan and see Guruji Rabindranath Tagore’s pictures, posters or idols everywhere; you see a lot, a typically designed leather or jute bags; you see school students having classes under a tree; and college students going around dragging or riding a bicycle, mostly with a pair of slippers on. Sometimes you also get to see a person sitting down in the middle of road sketching down something.
Evenings escalate more quickly here and there are hotspots around where you see most of the folks hanging out, places where the evening enjoys spending itself.
Now talking about the things to worry about – The food, if you’re eating at the hostel mess; Waking up early for class; the weather.
The weather here is the most obnoxious thing or you may either say “kachkure khaaley”. It definitely takes time for a person from the hills to get into that “Challenge Accepted” mode. The summers are really hot, the winters are cool and the rest of the year is just a little less hot than the summers are. During the summers, a person is either inside his/her class, inside the library or inside his/her room. A full stretch of wandering around during a summer noon and you won’t meet a person outside, not even dogs. Surviving a few minutes of time outside at the noon requires ample of experience and a lot of tactics. You enter your room drenched in sweat; cursing the sun, the place, the heat, the warm water and everything else that can bring you across any sign of summer.
Rain however has an enigma in itself. At the moments when you are troubled by the roasting heat, rain somehow comes to your relief. The Nor Westers (Kal Baisakhi) brings with it cool winds, dark days which often tend to adopt a reddish texture, lightening and rain. You find a refuge beneath those clouds for hours or days, just to realise that the winds of Nor Westers would soon follow its way ahead and won’t hide you from the sun forever. Things keep flowing in the same way, bringing in the monsoon to the place. However heavenly the feeling might be anyway, it however makes you miss home.
When it rains at Santiniketan, it rains different. The shades of waters are anyway the same; the emotions of relief are bit more intense. I always thought nature in its course would never differentiate in man and in blood. But it rains different at Santiniketan. I have always in vain hated this phase of the nature; the tears from the sky never attracted me. But then, now I love the tranquillity of the rain, and I would have loved it more back home. Because when it rains at my place, it rains different. The rattles of the rain are never heard on the roof here, that would inject deep sleep through the nerves back home, neither do I hear the water rush down the drains in all its might. When it rains at my place, it slows down the lives of the people, where people wait by the streets and let the rain pass by. Unlike the streets and places I’ve known around where rain and life go parallel and in patronage to each other. When it rains at my place, it rains feelings and emotions. The clouds at my place dwell among the people, with love and serenity, where the waters from the sky meet the soul.
Winters are hands down the best season at Santiniketan. You wake up to a morning embraced by fog and a mild smell of smoke in the air. The blades of grass are playing with the dew drops and your body feels the light shivers of cold mornings. Provided the winters bring with it the Poush Mela and bid goodbye with the grand celebration of “Dol” (Holi), how can it not be the best time of the year?
Santiniketan, even if it is not your home, has so many things to offer. Peace, serendipity, ecstasy and love are embedded inside every bit of the place.
It is no Kolkata, no Delhi, or on that case not even Siliguri, but then somehow it is the right place to be at. You eventually learn that it is your different home in a different world.