Rides of a fellow in West Bengal | Milaap

Rides of a fellow in West Bengal

The place where I had to go for my field visit was of around 3 hours journey. I rushed to reach the station on time. Fortunately the train was also late by five minutes. And so my ride began. Train Ride:The sun was bright and since the weather was extremely humid, everyone was sweating including me while waiting for the train. I usually get in after the passengers in hurry to keep my camera safe. My colleague books a seat for me most of the time by getting in before me. And due to her kind nature, I always get a packet of cake, which I eat embarrassingly since all eyes of nearby people are on me that time. The shifting, squeezing and adjusting starts within few stations when more passengers start to come in. And so does the vendors, that too in big numbers. From fruits, kacha aam (raw mango), peanuts (badaam in bengali), namkeen, wafers, sweets to household items, duplicate cadburys, scissors (without its holding thing), chai, other handmade eatables, gamcha (towel), you name it. Some sell it just by telling the product's name, some take ten minutes to explain. There are entertainers and beggars also who come to earn money like eunuchs, singers who come with speakers with extra sound effects added and kids performing acrobatics while their mother plays an instrument. Somehow the train ride ends by looking at all these, the beautiful view outside and other passengers; some of them who always stands out from the others.[caption id="attachment_7471" align="alignnone" width="900"]Small girl begging after performing acrobatics Small girl begging after performing acrobatics[/caption]The experience is quite similar to the local train ride in Mumbai where there are more people and less vendors. People in both the places are good in terms of talking, behaving and adjusting. And just like in Mumbai people in West Bengal have 'train friends' whom they see regularly although Mumbai has more strong groups and in bigger sizes as far as I can tell. Needless to say the stations are dirty where there are semi open urinals, the stinking smell which one has to face while crossing it.Magic Ride:'Magic' is the name of a van which is used to carry passengers. And as far as I remember its in West Bengal only that I rode on it for the first time.So, it was a one hour journey that I had to make to reach my destination after travelling in train. I sat on the front thinking that it would be crowded behind. For some time it was fine when there was only one more passenger, after it one more was added and things started becoming uneasy. The gears were being changed between my legs now. The road was not so great and the back part of my seat was moving, so I didn't have a proper support. Things became more awkward when one lady joined to sit in the already packed place. There were four people now in place of two. I tried to focus on the trees, ponds and people passing by. One other interesting thing about the ride was that the conductor of the van makes a catchy sound in every time he sees a potential passenger and tries to squeeze them as much as or more than possible.Toto Ride:'Toto' is the name given to a battery powered van used to carry passengers. It is not very common in Kolkata and especially in the village in West Bengal were we had a ride in it. We had hired it to meet borrowers in a village. I was happy because it was at least better than cycle van. People were turning their heads to have a look at it as if it was a Lamborghini, some started talking about it as it passed by, some were laughing on seeing it, children were running behind it, and even ladies including old women were smiling at it. I later came to know that  since there were only 2-3 totos in the whole village, people were curious about it. I was happy to see people excited about such a small thing. Such things can happen only in villages. Some roads were in a very bad state and were continually bouncing in between so much that my colleague  said jokingly that her lungs might come in place of her heart.Cycle Ride:[caption id="attachment_7472" align="alignnone" width="700"]Children playing in the old ruins Children playing in the old ruins[/caption]It was evening when we had finished meeting borrowers. We came back to the branch office and after few minutes of rest, I thought of exploring the nearby places by walking. So, I asked the staff in the branch if there is any nearby place that is worth seeing. Looking at the opportunity to go out, they got ready to go out with me and asked me if I can ride a cycle. Although I hadn't ridden one in many years, I was confident that I would manage. With few twists and turns I did manage and the riding turned out to be more joy giving that the short trip. After seeing an old palace which was in ruins, we went to each borrowers house to tell them that we will be coming tomorrow for interview. I realized the hard work people have to do to arrange meetings in villages as many people don't have phones and those that have share it with other family members. We stopped for a 'liquor' tea (black tea) in between and ended the day with special chicken curry which the staff in the branch luckily managed to finish cooking as the gas cylinder was almost finished and had to cook in slow fame it was giving. We had to wait one more hour for it but it was worth it. On saying that they don't need to give me special treatment, the branch manager said laughingly "Mehmaan ka naam, humara kaam" meaning that they can also enjoy the benefits in the name of the guest.[caption id="attachment_7473" align="alignnone" width="700"]A common view at evening in the village. A common view at evening in the village.[/caption]