It was the 25th of May, 2020, Eid, arriving after a month of ritual fasting. In the last 15 years, I’ve never missed the opportunity to be in Baruipur on this day. Added to that, my mind was rebelling against this housebound situation in Bongaon. I went to live in Baruipur on the 20th of November, 2004. Ever since then, I’ve never been stuck in Bongaon for three straight months – thanks to COVID-19.
So I decided, I’ll go, any way I can, on a bicycle if I have to. The news was that the bus service from Bongaon to Dakshineswar would resume that morning. All set till Barasat then; from there to Science City, and then it’d be easy as pie to get to Baruipur. I chalked out the whole plan on the night of the 24th of May. It’d be a chance to meet Ismail, other friends, my brothers and sisters (TG), after a long time. I also needed to check out the situation of my house after the Amphan cyclone. Then there’d be the Eid feast, roaming around, so much to do!
Early on the morning of the 25th, after a quick tea and an omelette, I put on my mask, stashed the sanitizer and other things in a bag, and left around 7 am. What a sense of thrilling adventure I was feeling! But when my toto arrived at the bus stand, the sky, almost literally, fell on my head. The District Magistrate had refused permission, buses wouldn’t be plying. But some kind of stubbornness took over my mind – my heart said I shall not turn back, I must keep moving forward. My Bongaon home was 2 km behind me and Baruipur 98 km away. So be it, I’ll get there, somehow, tonight!
As I was thinking this, I noticed an auto-rickshaw returning to Chandpara. That’d be a further 10 km I could progress on my way, so I climbed in. When I got there, there was absolutely nothing to take me further, so I started to walk. Around 3.5 km later, there was another toto, another 3.5 km covered. The further I progressed, the further I travelled, the surer I felt. When I was walking, though, I often felt shaky . . . what’d happen, who knows how I’d do this, but I didn’t stop walking, I never turned back. So, anyway, after progressing 17 km, I reached Gaighata. From there, the back of an empty mini vegetable van, a 107, stuck in between huge empty vegetable baskets, got me a further 30 km to Habra.
After another 2 km of walking, I stopped for some water and a cup of tea. At this time, I was completely confident that I’d definitely get there; the only calculation was about when I’d get there. But, after a long wait at the Habra No. 2 rail gate, without any sign of further conveyance, it was getting harder to convince myself. I kept telling myself, a few minutes, that’s all, something would come by. And it did! I found an auto-rickshaw to take me a further 8 km, all the way to Guma. Guma provided me with a returning Ola cab that took me the 50 km to Barasat. The rest, I knew, was easy. Simply take a Calcutta State Transport Corporation (CSTC) bus to Patuli. And from there to Baruipur was but a hop, skip and jump, so easy and familiar.
The day was cloudy; there was a nice breeze, so it wasn’t too hot. And the mind was pretty happy in anticipation of winning the battle soon. I reached Patuli. As I stood waiting for a Howrah-Baruipur CSTC bus, a medicine van, a 407 stopped in front of me. They were going towards Baruipur too, so I got in. Mallikpur already? Well, I was almost there, could’ve just hopped home from there.
I got an auto-rickshaw and reached Ismail’s home by 2 pm! After a good meal of biryani and sewai, we went out for a stroll. I met everyone, finished a couple of chores I had, cleaned my house, did some repairs, and stayed on for a few days. Then I returned to Bongaon. By then all kinds of buses were running.
Ismail laughed that first day, when I got to his place finally. He joked, “So much trouble and such pains just to get here for a little biryani and mutton?” But we both knew, very well, the real reason for making the difficult but great journey . . .
This article was originally written in Bengali using the Roman script and submitted over WhatsApp. It has been translated into English by Jia Mata. Read Bengali version here, courtesy Prosenjit Pal – Editor.
Illustration credit: Ranjay Sarkar (artwork created with pen ink on art paper and Adobe Photoshop software). The route map is not to scale and makes no claim to accuracy – Editor.