Sukalpa Dhar: It was the end of June 2002 and my summer vacation got started. I along with my parents flew all the way from Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi Internaional Airport of Guwahati to Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport, Agartala. From the airport we went straight to the hotel named Royal Guest House in the afternoon. It is located at Kamalasagar Road, Palace Compound, Indranagar. We stayed that night in the guest house. In the following morning we started our journey for Udaipur by a car. It took us about an hour to reach our destination. As far as I can remember the journey was a very pleasant and enjoyable one. Greenery covered a lot of area on both sides of the road. We saw thick mud walled houses and sometimes thick forests on our way. At places there were shallow water bodies where people threw fishing nets riding on tiny boats (dingi-nauka).
The house where we stayed at Udaipur had lots of plants and trees. Some of them were neem tree, guava, lemon plant and among flowers bougainvillea, rose, shiuli, tulsi etc grew around. The house was surrounded by a wall. A road passed by the wall and the opposite side of the road had a small pond. The pond was surrounded by trees such as coconut, mango, betel nut etc.
Near our house there was a large almost rectangular lake named Jagannath Dighi. It was encircled with paved roads and flanked by residential houses all around. The next day in the early morning my mother and I just had a casual morning walk encircling the Jagannath Dighi. We found many women busy washing their utensils in the ghat of the Dighi. The dighi was quite a large one. In one side of the dighi there stood tall deodar trees in a row. On the opposite side there were many other trees. Some of them were Sonajhuri, Kanchan, small white Drone flower, etc.
I was used to see crows in our regular life at Guwahati but there I saw and heard the sound of common raven or jungle crow for the first time. In our house there we had wide windows through which birds could easily enter into our dining room. One morning a funny incident had happened, a common myna (Shalik bird) entered our house and sat on our dining table and had started eating bread kept on the table. The next day we had brought some green grapes and kept it unwittingly on the dining table. The Shalik that day left the bread untouched and started having the grapes. In general, Shaliks are very cute and they make different kind of sounds. It was the first time that I saw a Shalik entering in a house for having breakfast with breads one day and grapes the other day. It indeed was a magnificent breakfast for it.
It was summer time but it felt as if it was spring as the Koel was often heard. There was a big field just in front of our house. A few cows grazed there. Opposite our house there was a big school. The school timing was 11AM to 4PM. Children used to play in the field during the tiffin hours. So the day time used to be a very vibrant and jolly one.
By the evening the locality was equally quiet. Fireflies could be seen and the waxing and waning of Crickets were heard. I always tried to catch the fireflies. Street lights were scanty. I couldn’t enjoy this utter silence and quietness.
In the adjacent portion of our house lived a quiet and jolly Bengali family. The elder son of the family was Tonu who was almost of my age and he had a younger brother named Argha.
One fine day my mother introduced me with my new friend ‘Tonu’. One afternoon Tonu came near our window and started calling me softly ‘Sukalpa… Ei Sukalpa… you won’t play?’ I was practicing with my Arithmetics. I didn’t notice the sound at the beginning. My mother could hear it and asked me to go and play as it already struck 4 o’clock on the clock. I said ok first let me complete the sums she said that I can always do it in the evening hours. So I went off to play in the field with Tonu. Argha was too young to play. We played football with some other boys of our locality. It was rainy season so most of the time the field remained wet and damp. Playing football with friends in a wet field is indeed a very unique experience of joy, fun and fulfilment. At times I used to go in the field bare footed but one day Tonu asked me to wear my sandals. He felt that playing bare foot won’t be good as any hard substance might prick the feet. I never dreamt of making such a nice friend within such a short span of time. When I told Tonu that earlier we used to live in Dimapur, he said, ‘Dimapur ki Dim er Moddhe Pur?’ I laughed. As we didn’t have television in our house I went to Tonu’s house to watch my favourite shows ‘Shaktimaan’ and ‘Junior G’. During that time Doordarshan was very popular. People used to wait for the shows to start in Doordarshan. Cable channels could be found only in a few households.
One fine Sunday we visited the ‘Neermahal’ the Lake Palace. This palace was situated in Rudrasagar Lake. We went to Melaghar Rajghat and we waited there for the speedboat to get filled up by other passengers. After a while many more passengers came along with their children. I was very excited. We bought tickets at Rs 10 per head. We boarded our boat and sat on the last row. The palace in the middle of the lake was looking very beautiful from a distance. When we reached there I found some Touch-Me-Not plants or the Shameplant. I went close to the plant and touched its leaves and to my surprise I found that as soon as I touched it the leaves got folded inwards and drooped.
But it re-opened a few minutes later. The palace was the summer resort for the members of the royal family of Tripura. It is quite large with a unique architecture such that most of the rooms with balconies and bay-windows have an overlooking view of the lake. It has an underground bay where the princely boats were anchored for the royal inhabitants to travel. There is a constant cool breeze blowing around the palace which keeps it cool like an air conditioned place. When we were returning our ferryman told us that the depth of the lake is 20 feet. Everywhere was water and water.
That very day after returning from Melaghar we went straight to the Tripureshwari temple by the side of Kalyan Sagar, another lake of massive size. Tripureshwari temple is popularly known as Matabari. We reached in the noon. At that time bhog was to be offered to the Goddess. So we were lucky enough to get the darsana of Devi Tripureshwari. In Kalyan Sagar we could find many turtles and fishes.
Next Friday Rath Yatra took place. The raths were pulled through the street in front of our house. There were three raths. The first one was of Jagannath’s, the second one was of Subhadra’s and the last but not the least one was of Balram’s. I and my mother joined the entourage for some distance. The priests were throwing away bananas and raw rice from the rath. We had to be careful over our steps and save ourselves from sliping over smashed bananas and banana peels. A small but lovely fair was held surrounding the rath yatra. One could find many kitchen utilities, dolls, ice-creams, balloons, toys, etc in the fair. Many children bought small models of rath and pulled them with the help of a string. I had bought a beautiful orange coloured fish made of sponge. It priced only Rs 10/-. All the items with this vender was priced the same that was Rs 10/-.
Very soon our sojourn came to an end and it was time to say goodbye to Udaipur. I was very happy as I made a new friend within such a short span of time. We returned to Guwahati but unfortunately I, to my dismay, lost all connections with Tonu and Argha as we didn’t have mobile phones and internet facilities at the time. I often think about them and the fond memories we shared together. I’m hopeful to meet Tonu and Argha some day in near future if our destiny reunites us somewhere some fine day. I will also be very glad if ever someday Tonu and Argha come across this article of mine with a lingering hope of reuniting with them.
Photo | Representative Image