Samsing in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas in north Bengal, India is a little hamlet surrounded by undulating lush, verdant tea estates and enclosed by misty blue hills at a distance The gurgling river Murti meanders along her course, strewn with pebbles and boulders. This magical little getaway in the ‘Dooars’ region is a traveller’s dream destination. With an amazing variety of our winged friends, one is never allowed to feel lonely in Samsing. A few days spent in the company of the simple village folk, strolling aimlessly around the village, watching birds and the beautiful wild flowers, or just sitting by the river, can be an extremely memorable experience. This is one place where one doesn’t have much to ‘do’ but just to unwind and relax. And since this place doesn’t boast of too many hotels and resorts apart from a government run tourist accommodation, the few ‘home stays’ of the common village people offer a different kind of vacationing altogether.
My one-day sojourn at upper Samsing some two years ago is fraught with memories very pleasant and unusual. We had put up at a 'home stay'-TEMPULA INN-in the residence of Mr.Kamal Giri--a prominent personality of the area, running a business in drift wood. His home is aesthetically pleasing with pieces of antique furniture and numerous soft toys made by his wife. Apart from their residential quarters there were two well- appointed rooms on the ground floor of their two-storied house and two separate cottages on the adjoining ground. It was a delight having lip-smacking meals at their own dining room, served by the mistress of the house. A great cook herself, Mrs.Giri personally cooked, served and supervised the breakfast, lunch and dinner of the guests....a gesture that exuded warm hospitality. The pleasant afternoon was spent walking in the sprawling compound which ended as if on a precipice which went down to the Murti river right from his house. The garden with a huge variety of trees and shrubs could be a botanist's delight. We loved the evening at the balcony with Mr.Giri talking to us over cups of steaming hot tea and crispy pakoras straight from Mrs.Giri's kitchen. Talking to him was enlightening as we could have a peek into the lives of the common people of that region--so very close to my heart. The charm of a home stay is precisely this where one can stay with a family and get to know their lifestyle, culture and food habits closely.
Coming to his immediate family we found it to be quite a big one. Along with three sons( two of them adopted) there was an old mother and an even older aunt who suffered from severe dementia, four dogs, numerous cats, scores of cocks, hens and chicks and pigeons and a tank full of fish(not to be consumed, for sure)! But more than all this something quite unusual suddenly attracted my eyes. It was a bird's nest jutting out of a corner of the ceiling above the entrance to the impeccably maintained, spic and span living room. On being asked what it was, the lady, with a disarming smile, said that it was a swallow's nest which existed there long before the ground floor was renovated and thrown open to the tourists. They had taken extra care to keep the nest as it was, without destroying it and plastering that particular corner. What was even more surprising was the fact that they had kept four glass panes open without glass so that the birds wouldn't face any hindrance flying in and out of the nest and the house. The swallows fly off to some unknown destination for five months every year but come back again without fail. We were witness to the flurry of activities of the swallows--flying out and flying in with twigs and leaves and food for the young ones. I was overwhelmed by this apparently 'small' and inconsequential gesture and was left wondering how deeply they have ingrained this bonding with nature. When the world is rent by violence, cruelty and exclusion of every kind, this family stands apart with its philosophy of inclusiveness. 'Live and let live' is the motto they have imbibed and profess through their lifestyle. We city-bred wretched souls who suffocate and run after lifestyle mantras and inner peace may take some lessons in simplicity in life and harmony with nature from this remarkable family.