You forget to pack your slippers. The thought of packing eyeliner comfortably recedes to oblivion. You even do pretty well without your watch for a good two days’ time- something you never could have imagined. All you clearly remember to pack is the novel you currently are reading, your Lennon shades and a desire to seize every moment you spend during a two-night trip. These are not features peculiar to the trip to Shantiniketan that my mother and I undertook during the five days of Easter break this year, but they apply to every other short trip which is planned one day prior to setting out for the destination. There still is something which allows this trip the status of a bookmark between pages of hindsight. It shall remain, I am sure, a reference point I will inevitably have to return to during every other trip henceforth.
On the third holiday, I had been whining about getting bored through the Easter break when Maa casually proposed that we could spend the remaining days at Shantiniketan. I was nowhere to be seen in that room soon after; I instantly began to choose the clothes I would take. The next morning found us in the train to Bolpur, undertaking the first ever mother-daughter trip of my life, because Baba could not manage a leave. I had Murakami’s storytelling to kill time, but I realised that neither an iPod brimming with The XX and Lana Del Rey, nor that science fiction in my hand, were at that hour required to keep company. There is something about train journeys- something that never quite lets you get tired of the greenery you see out of the window. So I decided to give in to the strange demand of the moment. This was only one of the series of lessons I learnt through the trip.
Unlike in other trips where Baba being the strongest out of the three of us, carried most of the luggage, it was me doing so this time. The customary visit to Shonajhuri through “ranga maatir poth” (the road with red soil), as Tagore put it, had me singing a Rabindra Sangeet or two to the very discomfort of Maa and the driver. (I carried on with my torturous singing though.) Having reached the place echoing with chants by Bauls(folk singers of the region) and having bought some fancy embroidery and junk jewellery from the haat (Bengali for a temporary physical market), Maa and I wanted to click pictures of ourselves against the diffused light of sundown, but realised that there was nobody who could capture a decent frame of the two of us. Thus, we resorted to dualfies. Such little things that mark this trip as being distinct from any other I have ever taken.
Next morning, we strolled through the Visva Bharati campus- the open-air university which Rabindranath Tagore had envisioned. It is a precious experience to travel with the woman who held your hand as you once toddled into the richness of Bengali literature, to the abode of the greatest bard that Bengal has ever produced. As we visited the museum which curates as artefacts physical remains of the life of Rabindranath Tagore, I could feel that Tagore is not a poet from an earlier century, but my personal source of mirth when I have had enough of a bad day. The atmosphere bore him in a way which is hard to get rid of. I could not have had a company better than Maa who, through her mesmerizing elocution, has made Tagore a part of my consciousness while I was unaware of the same. This trip was the three hundred and sixtieth degree of my discovery of Tagore through Maa. The bard is my very own now.
The trip ended with a visit to the Kopai river, adjacent to which is a crematorium which forces one into a quick transition into a contemplative state of mind.
This is not a guide to a perfect mother-daughter trip. Nor is it a travelogue about Shantiniketan. I am sure you will find that elsewhere. This is my attempt to discover the universality of an experience which is special, not owing to its peculiarities of time and date. In fact, it is difficult for me to track down at this point such exact details about the trip. I only want to look back at this years later as a trip with Maa to the dream of Rabindranath Tagore- as a milestone at the age of eighteen in my journey of finding myself.
Here are some more frames from the trip.