It was exactly one year after. The suffocation had started. Memories rushing in, jostling for space. I needed time out. Needed to go somewhere which was uncharted, far from everything I had known. I needed to go far from the Madding Crowd.
A friend had magnanimously offered her beautiful and quaint homestay in Chel Chitong. This is near Gorumara, in a place called Paparkheti.
I decided to pack my bags and leave. I have been travelling quite extensively (extensively for my humble soul, anyway) for the last one year. Something was driving me away from the city, from the known memories, from the life I was living here. Trying to get over the betrayal from so-called friends, of women bringing women down, being portrayed as a typical Bollywood vamp… I was trying to get over a lot of hurt and lick my wounds in private. I needed to go somewhere and gather myself; I was tired of putting up a brave front.
Me with the kids, though Kriti no longer a kid – rather has become a confidante, and Shraboni – my friend turned sis, boarded a train that took us to New Mal Junction. We were met there and started our journey towards Chel Chitong. The serene mountain air, the pines, rhododendrons and the sharp bends were most exhilarating.
We reached Chel in an hour. The homestay is almost in a private gorge. Walking down steep stone curved stairs, we could hear streams gurgling forth. The two rooms currently available are straight out of a fairy tale book. Windows opening up to endless green, colourful and twinkling bamboo lights gently swaying in the wind, tiny fireplaces! Table laden with simple yet delicious food, laid out in the open… under the sparkling blue sky that became overladen with grey clouds when the mountains were sad.
I sat under a tall pine tree and read books. A small waterbody, where Boogie and Homy threw stones to create ripples, the crickets and birds keeping me company. And when the wind blew… the dried leaves made a strange rustling noise… dead leaves being blown away like doing away with all that is redundant, all that is inessential.
We would walk to the private waterfall every day. A narrow, up-hill-down-hill trek leading to the waterfall.
Clear, cold, bubbling water that, perhaps, could mirror your soul. We would lie down on a carpet under a small shed and listen to the sound of the water. Eternal and elemental. Far above, trucks like the ones Boogie played with when he was little, would move by a winding road. Time would pass slowly. Kriti would hum to herself, Boogie and Homy would bring bouquets of unknown small flowers for us. I would lie there with my eyes closed, rewinding life, and then open them to see that the world hasn’t changed. It’s only me, who’s trying to come to terms with the changed times.
Darkness in hills come down suddenly, like a blanket thrown on you. We would light a fire and toast our cold feet or we would have bonfires. Under the clear, starry, inky black sky, we would tell each other ghost stories; every small sound here and there would be like someone walking over a grave!
I have been to places, and I will be going to other places. Chel offered a balm to my soul. It’s that gem that is tucked away in your heart, the memories remaining precious forever. The time spent would be like an album, of which I will keep turning the pages.
I will go back to Chel every now and then – to be at peace with myself when the burden of the world becomes a little too much. I will go back to Chel whenever I can. Because I found myself at Chel. Because you find yourself at Chel.
Thanks to Brinda Sirkar, Shraboni Bose and Purba Ray Chaudhuri. Couldn’t have made this trip without you.
Love & light.
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