Travels in Mallarpur: The Middle of Nowhere

5th Dec 2010
Photo of Travels in Mallarpur: The Middle of Nowhere 1/5 by Sarbajaya Bhattacharya
Photo of Travels in Mallarpur: The Middle of Nowhere 2/5 by Sarbajaya Bhattacharya
Red Road
Photo of Travels in Mallarpur: The Middle of Nowhere 3/5 by Sarbajaya Bhattacharya
Photo of Travels in Mallarpur: The Middle of Nowhere 4/5 by Sarbajaya Bhattacharya
Photo of Travels in Mallarpur: The Middle of Nowhere 5/5 by Sarbajaya Bhattacharya
The Walk

It's around nine on a cold December night and the chill has begun to spread to our bones as the car takes a sudden turn. The ride is bumpy, to say the least, the road lined with trees, and the only source of light are the headlights of the car we are sitting in. Even as we alight, and stretch our legs, I can see nothing. The headlights have been switched off. And then, from somewhere, a source of light in the form of a swinging lantern. Slowly, the world around me reveals itself. A moderately sized hut, with a small, fenced courtyard. A friendly smile greets me as I step inside. It belongs to S, one of the workers at the NGO we have come to visit. The hut where we are staying is the office. 

But this story is not about the NGO (although it probably should have been), it is not about the indomitable spirit of a community whose hardships are beyond description. This post is not an exercise in locating the 'exotic' in rural Bengal. This story is about a place that can change you, for several reasons, and among them, simply for being itself. 

It is almost impossible to describe what it feels like to stare up at the night sky- so vast-like nothing you have ever seen before, shining, dazzling with stars. And there is literally nothing around you. Your phone can't pick up a signal. You've fallen off the map. But you've gained your footing somewhere else. Travels to such places literally and metaphorically open up horizons. 

Photos by SDC.

Mallarpur is a little town that lies somewhere between Bolpur and Rampurhat, in the district of Birbhum in West Bengal. It's a little over 200 kilometers away from Kolkata. But this story is not going to be about Mallarpur, it is going to be about a tiny, tiny village called Garia, which you won't find on GoogleMaps. It takes about an hour by car to get to this village from Mallarpur, which is the nearest town. Garia is perhaps typical. Typical in the sense that there are hundreds of villages like Garia scattered throughout the state of West Bengal, throughout India, in fact. For someone like me, born and bred in a metropolis, visits to this place were unique experiences. The village can be covered on foot in a couple of hours. There is nothing to see. There is nothing to do. But there are vast, open fields. There are mountains in the distance. There are people waiting to become friends.