Or, shall I say – When we wanted to lose ourselves in a village in Shantiniketan? On our way to Kankalitala, we crossed this beautiful village that had children swimming and fishing in a pond on one side and seemingly endless rice fields on the other. We asked our driver, Topon, if we could stop by for a while. He suggested we go to Kankalitala as planned in order to beat the morning rush of devotees, but promised to come to the village on our way back. We nodded in agreement.
And so, after the quick puja at Kankalitala, Topon got us to Adityapur Gram (Adiyapur Village), the village that had caught our fancy. Excited, we got out of the car, crossed the road to get to the village with the Lotus pond. These aren’t Poddo (Lotus), Topon corrected us. They are Shepla flowers. But they are beautiful nonetheless, we declared, and hurried down the slight slope to enter the village.
The Shepla Phhol pond seemed to be the centre of every activity in the village. Women-folk washed their utensils and clothes here, and then bathed themselves at the same place. Little boys got to the middle of the pond with the help of a raft and a long bamboo stick for an oar. On the other side of the pond were men catching fishes as if with a vengeance. Jayant almost ran up to them, thrilled. It’s the Bengali blood that can’t contain itself when it sees fishes!! Sensing his eagerness, the villagers allowed him to cast the net so that he too could feel the adrenaline gushing by upon getting his catch. I was happy to see his squeal and take pictures.
Ridi, in the meantime, had been chasing hens, chickens, cats, goats, pigs and ducks. Oh what fun!! Where do you see them in the cities? Amidst the thatched houses, women lay grains to dry in the sun, and farther away in the ponds and fields, men caught fishes or ploughed the fields. She realised that she was in a world so completely different from the one where she lived. And did her best to live it in the few seconds we had.
I, on my part, observed and clicked, struck up a few conversations with the men nearby. They told me that it was a village of about 10,000 people, and that revenue came from selling the produce of the fileds and the catch of the ponds. The women gave me amused smiles. Although I was dressed exactly like them, in a saree, they looked at me curiously. Perhaps they thought I was from the film world, with that camera hanging around my neck. No, I am like you; I belong to the normal world; I wanted to tell them. Like you, I too manage the home and hearth back home. And like you, I too have aspirations. But perhaps the similarities ended there. I wanted to ask them, Like me, do you too have the choice to do what you want? Do you make your own decisions? Are you in control of your life?
Happy to have stopped by, we left hoping Adityapur Gram stays self-sustained. And allows its women to make their own choices.