Sankarda: Where Time Stands Still
By Nishi Pulugurtha
Most of us look for a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. In our search to find such a place to unwind for a couple of days from the “fever and fret of life”, we landed up in a small village tucked in the Dalma Hills in the state of Jharkhand. A short train ride takes us from Howrah to the steel city of Tatanagar in Jharkhand. Fifteen kms away from Tatanagar is the small village of Sankarda. This was to be our place of stay from the next three days. As we move towards our destination, small little villages are left behind. One catches my eye because of its name, Pichli. We cross Kudada and reach Sankarda. Located in the block of Potka, this small village is like any other village one might come across in their travels across India – small houses, some made of mud, a few of brick and mud, cows tethered in the yard, a bullock cart left outside, and people at work. The bare fields lay with stubble left; many are charred after having been burnt post harvest. There is a small pond at either end of the village, steps leading down to the water, an indication that locals use the water for their daily chores. There are also deep tube wells, the source of drinking water and a school in session. The bright sun adds warmth to a winter day.
Our place of stay was a resort tucked away at one end of Sankarda that stood out from the rest of the surroundings because of the sheer opulence of the delightfully maintained gardens. Nestled amidst expansive gardens, immacutely maintained and cared for, this oasis was our place of rest and relaxation. There were beautiful flowers of all kinds in full bloom – roses of myriad colours with intoxicating fragrance, dahlias, marigold, and many more. A sheer riot of colour and brilliance nurtured with great care by the owners of the place. Apart from the flora, vegetables were grown all around the gardens that added to the greenery of the place and gave us, city souls who carve for the green, a sight that calmed the eyes and the taste buds, too. One just needed to say what one wanted to eat; a swish and the vegetables landed in the kitchen.
Beyond the well-maintained gardens, there are fields that stretch into the distance. The sparse trees break the monotony, flanked by the hills in the distance. We decide to explore a few nearby places. As the car trundles along the twisting road, more villages pass by. We encounter a hill, referred to by the locals as Paharbhanga, literally a broken mountain. This is a favourite picnic spot for the city folks from Tatanagar. Despite the litters left behind by picnics, the place is beautiful. As a small river, Gorura, passes by quietly, with rocks jutting out from its bed, a certain serenity and languor pervade the place. During the rains, Binay, our driver tells us, the place gets even more beautiful as the water in the river rises considerably and small springs appear. A local legend has it that raja of Potka had a huge stock of ammunitions and cannons and he often used them to fire at the hill. As a result, the hill has innumerable holes and is broken in places; hence the name, Paharbhanga. Not very far from the place is a temple, which is dedicated to Rankini Devi, revered by the locals. Located along the national highway, passing vehicles stop here as drivers pay their obeisance to the goddess. By the time we return to our resort, it is dusk and and a lovely hue colours the sky.
The resort folks suggest to us about a half-day trip to Chandil Dam and Dimna Lake, which are tourist attractions for those visiting Tatanagar. A longish drive from Sankarda takes us to Chandil dam built across the river, Subarnarekha. Here the landscape is framed by a beautiful and the spot is often used by locals for picnic. We see tall trees lining the bank, hills in the middle of the river, scattered birds, and a speed boat that wheezes across Chandil. The Dimna Lake is artificially made, close to Tatanagar and a source of water to the steel city.
We head back to Sankarda for a late lunch, take in the afternoon sun, and decide to explore the nearby villages. A local working in the resort accompanies us as our guide. Mahi is given an early release from work and we begin our slow, leisurely walk. As we walk down, we see the women resting after the day’s chores, children playing in the yards and fields, a small sweet shop, a shop selling onion pakoras, a fish vendor, a bullock cart outside a hut. A lane leads away from the main road lined with houses. Mahi answers the village folks’ questions about us. Mahi leads us on to her village, Kashidih, neighbouring Sankarda. A doctor’s clinic and a post office greet us as we enter Kashidih. The inhabitants of Kashidih are Santhals, who not only speak their language but are equally fluent in Hindi and Bengali. The houses in the village are all brilliantly painted in earth colours with the entrances to the houses decorated with rangolis. The village folks greet us warmly; little smiling children come forward to reply to our queries. There are pumps that supply drinking water to the villagers; for other needs, the villagers use two ponds nearby. The village has solar lights, too. Mahi takes us to her home to introduce us to her family. The mud house, painted in earth tones, is very clean and a row of periwinkle plants line the entrance. The villagers in Sankarda and Kashidih are dependent on rain water for cultivation and last year, we are told, had been a bad year for crops. Sankarda has a high school and children of Kashidih, Sankarda, and other nearby villages attend the school. There are brick kilns close by and many of the locals find employment there.
As the sun sets, we head back to the resort. Walking back, we are taken in by the colours of the setting sun that lend the place a beautiful aura. Our holiday was coming to an end. As we spend the last morning, we decide to just soak in the quietness, the calm, and the serenity of the place. Sitting in the gardens, looking out towards the fields and the hills in the far distance, we are moved by the quietude that nature offers. Time, it seems, stands still here. Unaware of its passing, we soak in the beauty and charm of the little village and its environs. The flock of birds suddenly flying high up remind us that it is time for us to leave. As we begin our return journey, we take back wonderful memories of a beautiful place – the quietness and solitude that fill our senses, the wonderful smile on the faces of the little children busy with their play, the school-bound kids riding cycles, some walking down to school, the village folk at work, ready to break into a smile and conversation, boys playing a game of football, the beautiful colours reflected in the pond near the village, the smiles on the faces of Surbali, Parbati, Gobindo, and many others we meet here.
It is a slice of India that charms and, yet, eludes us.
Dr. Nishi Pulugurtha is Associate Professor, Department of English, Brahmananda Keshab Chandra College, Kolkata. She is an academic with varied interests and writes on travel, too. Twitter: @nishipulu
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