A visit to Shantiniketan, the town made world famous by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s university Vishwa Bharati, had been a childhood dream. And although we went to Kolkata every alternate year when still in school/college, we never got the opportunity to stop by Bolepur, the station that connects to Shantiniketan. This dream became a reality this winters when we went to Kolkata in December. Targeting the famous Poush Mela, we had made reservations three months in advance in order to get the best train ticket and hotel booking.
Yes, although Shantiniketan is a little more than 200kms from Kolkata and would take us about 6-7 hours by road, we had decided to take the train in order to save time. And booked ourselves in the Shantiniketan Express (Train No — 12337) that leaves Howrah Station in Kolkata at 10.15 am and arrives at Bolepur station at 12.25 am. Just 2 hours. Perfect, wasn’t it? Well, when the train (which is a complete chair-car train that plies the dedicated route of Howrah-Bolepur, and back only) just about left behind the city limits, we, for once, regretted not having taken a car. For, the roads looked beautiful, and the country-side, even more beautiful. We wanted to run into the fields!! But no, our regret was short-lived. Shantiniketan Express had much to offer. We discovered….
Music. But of course. We had boarded a train that was taking us to the hallowed home of one of world’s best poets, whose thousand songs are anthems for many. Wouldn’t there be preludes on the way then? The 2-hour train journey was replete with music and songs, both from Tagore’s repertoire and of the much-loved, Baul (Begali Folk) singers. There was this man with a Harmonium who sang Tagore and we sang along. “Gram chara oei ranga matir poth…” is the patent and you can perhaps want to sing it even in your sleep. Look out of the window and you could tell where the Bard’s inspiration came from. And then came a man with his Flute and transported you to a world of thatched homes, earthen courtyard, children frolicking in lotus ponds, acres and acres of rice fields. I closed my eyes. Why do we unnecessarily burden our lives with so many cares? Can’t we be as free-flowing as the music coming from the flute? I opened my eyes. No, worldly cares abound. Strike a balance, urges your inner soul. Abandon the rat race, you hear it implore. As you nod your head in obedience, you hear the Baul singers singing Lalon, the mystic singer who didn’t care for caste and creed, and who thought that the world could be conquered with love and love alone. Herein lies peace, see? And the conversation with the inner soul continues…..Awaken, and you can tell, a spell had been cast on the entire compartment!! Even the kids are quiet, bound by the music, mesmerised.
We couldn’t help but record this Baul song. For our readers, here’s Lalon’s soul-stirring song straight from the Shantiniketan Express!!
In between the live, unadulterated music came vendors selling a variety of snacks, boiled eggs, peanuts, chips, biscuits, chocolates, magazines, tea. Munch on some nuts and ask for tea while listening to the music or simply looking out of the window. Why there was a young lad who showed a few magic tricks as well. Youn couldn’t have asked for more in a 2-hour train journey, could you?
The train stopped for about 5 minutes each in 3 stations. And reached Bolepur dot on time. 12.30. Absolutely a no-hassle train, there couldn’t have been a better orientation to our Shantiniketan sojourn.
Plan a trip to Shantinektan during Poush Mela in December with our compilation of itinerary, sight-seeing suggestions, Mitali homestay review, shopping and food recommendations. Read the posts in the link — Best Shantiniketan Itinerary and Blogs