Lataguri. A tiny hamlet in the Dooars --- located near the “Chicken’s Neck” of West Bengal with Bhutan in the North and Bangladesh in the South.
While exploring the green forests of Dooars, we had set up our base in a Lataguri resort. Oh what an exquisite place it was! In the midst of greenery, water bodies, coconut trees and flowers stood five wooden cottages. And the dining arena was located right in the middle of the resort with just a thatched roof above and open on all four sides. While we used to have breakfast and lunch by appreciating the surrounding greenery, birds, butterflies and squirrels; the buzz of million insects and the cries of animals used to render natural music during our dinner!
We went on visiting the reserve sanctuaries of Gorumara, Chapramari and Jaldapara. A tour to the Indo-Bhutan border, with the Jaldhaka river as the dividing line, was also in our itinerary.
While we enjoyed the virgin forests, gurgling streams, tea plantations and animal life of Dooars to the extreme; no less enjoyable were the delicacies offered to us at the resort. Apart from regular non-vegetarian food, we were served a number of delicious vegetarian items also; which were not only unique to Dooars, but resourced from the fresh produce of the kitchen garden of the resort itself and that made it doubly tastier.
It was the last leg of the tour. After again enjoying a delicious lunch, we were ready for our home-bound journey. It was time to pay a bit of tips to the resort staff, as a token of gratitude, for their warmth and hospitality.
The most senior member of our group asked about the whereabouts of the cook. Yes, where is the cook? It is the duty of us to personally offer thanks to the person who have pampered our taste buds throughout our stay by remaining outside the limelight!
In came that cook and stood right in front of us. A very simple sari-clad middle-aged lady with divinity written throughout her face! On hearing praise about her culinary skills, the lady’s head bowed down in humility, as if she had committed a great “sin”! During our conversation with her, we came to know that she lives in a nearby slum with a teenage daughter. Her husband was murdered during the “anti-foreigner” agitation in a neighboring state. Now she has settled in Lataguri and cooks in the resort as her source of living!
What a tragedy! A vulnerable displaced widow was all along cooking delicacies for us with so much pain in her heart and Himalayan responsibility of nurturing her daughter all alone on her shoulders; in this heartless turbulent society full of sharks always ready to devour the weak! So much cries, tears and sighs were embedded in our meals!
All my luxury of “romancing” the forests came to an abrupt end. The resort, which resembled so beautiful in my eyes, suddenly started to look dull and I resumed my return journey with an extremely heavy heart. Never never would I forget that lady who recounted her horror and tragedy with such a far-distant look in her eyes, stoic face and without hatred in the tongue!
Also I have learnt big lessons in my life. Natural beauty simply possesses no value unless the children of God are gifted their due human rights, honour and respect. And all slogans of “nationalism” and “religion” are bogus. Perhaps that neighboring state is also an integral part of India and that Bengali family was also Indian! Moreover the husband of the cook and his murderers also shared the same religion called Hinduism. Yet our Indian and Hindu brothers did not hesitate a bit to break the world of that lady whose family also shared the same nationalist and religious vintage!
Yes, hatred does not respect any national or religious affiliation as its vitriol engulf the whole society. When will we learn to accord supreme respect to humanity so as to render the society as beautiful as Mother Nature gifted by God?