The Costly Rain

I have heard you several times, I have stayed up to catch a glimpse. Saw you, one winter morning; And named you 'Shuri' since.

All that an eleven year old girl has to do, is - study, listen to her elders, go to school, enjoy her holidays and play. My final term exams had just got over, 'was promoted to a new class and now, I was enjoying my summer vacations. My hometown is in a place where the difference between summer and winter is frustratingly extreme. You have to experience both in order to realize, how bad or good it can get. The house in which we stayed had a total of fourteen rooms. Behind the house there was a huge well, used for our daily washing, drinking and cooking requirements and further beyond was our garden, some 4500 sq ft in area. It had several seasonal plants and trees, including mango, pineapple, guava, sweet potato, lady's finger and many others, whose English names I do not know.
I used to spend half my holidays exploring various things and places all over the big house. I was at the attic, doing what I was not supposed to do, exploring my uncle's secret drawer. There I had found the previous afternoon, a real pair of binoculars. I went up to the terrace last night and watched the moon with it for a very long time. It looked beautiful. I had a toy binocular, which my mama had given me, but this one was real.
"Mouri !!", called my mom from the kitchen. Mouri is my pet name. It was time for shower, then lunch and then a well-deserving afternoon siesta.
I dashed downstairs.
After having finished with the shower and lunch, I went back to the attic, took out the binoculars and gazed through it, at my latest interest, out in the garden. Well, to tell you about that, let's take you to last winter.

I was getting ready for school and was already running late, when I heard it for the first time. I paused, and then I heard it again. “Mouri, hurry up, or you’ll miss your school bus”, interrupted my mother. I had forgotten about it completely when everything repeated itself the following morning. It was coming from the garden and I promised to investigate the next day.
Next day was Saturday, a weekly holiday for me. I woke up early, perched myself on a stool out at the small terrace leading to the well from the first floor, which looked out at the garden. Yes, I heard it again, and this time I saw it. It was tiny, beautiful and was blue in colour. It was a bird, which had the most tuneful voice I had ever heard. I kept staring at it and named it Shuri.
Spring followed the rough, cold winter and Shuri was joined by her male countepart. He was a very handsome looking bird as well, having a brighter and a more attractive plumage. I named him Shur. In unison they were called Shur-Shuri. My eldest cousin gave me a big Milk chocolate because he said he really liked my christening abilities.
After a few more days, I could no longer find Shur. Shuri was all by herself and she was preparing to build her nest.
“Has Shur died?” I asked the elders at home one day. To which, my grandma said “Spring is the season, when one has all the choicest of friends around, it is only when the tough summer draws nearer, you get to realize who is worthy enough to be even called a friend”.
Needless to say, I did not understand what she wanted to convey.

I went to the garden one evening last week and to my utter joy, found a tiny nest made out of twigs, in between a v-shaped branch on the guava tree. It was built on a low stem, so I could clearly see two small off-white coloured eggs kept at the centre of the nest.
I ran back home and told my grandma what I saw and she asked me “ So, what will you call the two tiny birds once they’ve hatched?” I thought for a while and said “Katu and Kutu”. This time I got two milk chocolates, one from my cousin and the other from my uncle whose binoculars are coming very handy for the last two days. Now that the summer had set in, I was not being allowed to go to the garden every now and then in order to inspect the nest. Since yesterday, the binoculars have solved my problem.
I felt sorry for Shuri because I thought it was wrong for Shur to have left her all alone.
The heat was getting unbearable, the loo during the early afternoons was suffocating and one person died of heat stroke two days ago, I read in the papers. Obviously everybody was thirsty for the monsoons, I’m sure, so was Shuri.
While I was still gazing at the nest through the binoculars, I heard a loud banging noise right next to me. The door to the terrace that stood ajar shut hard because of a gush of wind. I heard someone scream from downstairs, “ Someone go to the terrace and see if the doors and windows are shut properly, it is the Kalboishakhi (norwesters)”. I had just turned around, when I saw my uncle staring at me. He had come up to check whether the shutters were closed, I was still holding his binoculars. I knew I would never again find the binoculars there at the attic. Little did I know that I would not be needing it anymore.
I kept the binoculars in place and ran downstairs to welcome the moisture-laden clouds.

“Aye brishti jhepe…dhaan debo mepe
Aye rimjjhim borosharo gogone re e e
Katfata rodey agune , aye brishti jhepe aye re.
Haye bidhi boroi daarun…
Pora mati kende bole,
“Phoshol phole na,
Ki debo tomare, nai dhaan mor khamare , mor kopal guni”.

It rained for an entire hour, giving water to the dried up land and to its beings.
Ma said from the small terrace that a few flowerpots were overturned during the storm. I jumped at the thought of what could have happened to the fragile nest. I rushed to the garden bare footed, the humid air feeling wonderful as it touched my skin, the grass under my foot was wet and cool. As I reached the guava tree, I spotted Shuri, perched on a Shiuli plant on the opposite side of the garden, all wet and untidy. She gave out a cry, this was not as sweet as her usual tone, it was abrupt and short.
She was no longer thirsty… but it came to her for a price – a few meters away from my feet, lay her nest and the broken, off-white coloured shells of the two eggs, of Katu and Kutu.

A weekend trip to Mukutmanipur

General Description :-
The ancient town near Mukutmanipur is Ambikanagar(4 km away). The Maharaja of Ambikanagar, christened Mukutmonipur after his beloved queen, Mukutmoni. There is a giant water dam at the confluence of the Kangsabati and the Kumari rivers. It is the second biggest earthen(man-made, mud-banked) dam in India. The nearest railway station is Bankura (55 km from Mukutmanipur).

Transport :-
Train services are available from Kolkata(Howrah) - Rupashi Bangla Express leaves the Howrah station (new platform) at 6:00 a.m. and reaches Bankura at 10:20 a.m. If you have your train reservations done, you need not worry, however, if you are travelling by the general compartment, you are advised to board the rear half of the train, since the front half is Dhauli Express, which goes to Bhubaneshwar. This switching over takes place at Kharagpur station, where the train stops for about fifteen minutes.
After reaching Bankura, you need to hire a cab for Mukutmanipur( 1 and a half hour journey). Bus services are also available.
Howrah-Bokaro passenger is also available from Howrah ( Dep time - 22:40) reaches Bankura at around 3 in the morning. Bus services available from Machantala bus stop (at Bankura) from 5 in the morning.
You could also take Satabdi Express (Dep time - 6:05 a.m) or Black Diamond Express(Dep time- 6:15 a.m) from Howrah to Durgapur and take a bus to Mukutmanipur.
Personally, I would suggest you to go by car from Kolkata to Mukutmonipur. After you reach Mukutmonipur, you would find your car very useful, since your local conveyance would be a motor-pulled cart, which will be available only till about 11 a.m in the morning and then from 4:30 p.m to 8p.m. at night. There are very few such vans available in the area.

Hotels :-
  • Hotel Peerless - Booking at Kolkata Peerless Hotel, Contact- 9748401084 (Accounts dept).
  • Hotel Shonajhuri - Booking at Kolkata, West Bengal Forest Developement Corporation, 6A Raja Subodh Mullick Square, 7th Floor, Kolkata-13. Near Hind Cinema, Landmark- Dharamtala Post Office, Phone - 22370060/61. Booking time - Till 3:30 p.m.
This hotel is built atop a hillock covered with green trees. The view from the cottages Haritaki and Amlaki is very picturesque (first picture at the top). Book well in advance.

  • Hotel Amrapali
  • Hotel Aparajita- Has an in-house restaurant and the food here is delicious. Contact - (03243)253355, 9434224674, 9434480632.
Places to visit :-
  • To visit the dam, you would have to take a motor-pulled cart and travel the 7 km stretch of road along the Kangshabati river. Go during the sunset. It is breath-takingly beautiful during this time of the day. On the way, you will also see the Pareshnath Hillock.
  • You could take a 3 hour long boat ride, in order to visit a Deer Park.
  • Ambika Devi Mandir is situated in Ambikanagar, 4 km from Mukutmanipur. The shondha-arati begins at 7 p.m. If you set out early, while there is sunlight, you could also visit the Rajbari of Ambikanagar.
Ideal time to visit Mukutmanipur :- During the monsoons, July and August, the time of the year, when the lock gates at the barrage is opened and also when the mud-dam at the Kanshabati can be easily seen. Or during the winter, end of November - January.

You can always matter what :)