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TAKI, HASNABAD: The story shall be called Ichhamati

This is a story about Taki, Hasnabad, but the story should be called “Ichhamati

The banks of my pleasant Ichhamati are dotted with tiny villages, wildflowers, green trees, and bird nests. In the past five hundred years, so many fishermen have cast their nest’s on the river, so many houses have been built, so many babies came in the arms of their mothers to take a dip in the river and then in the old age found their last bed near cool water of the river.  I can visualize the countless who have approached this peaceful river bank through centuries. I shall write a story about all this. This story shall be called Ichhamati.”

–        Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay (1940s)

I think I was in high-school when I first introduced to ‘Ichhamati’, by Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay, one of the most important and celebrated novelists of Bengal in the post Tagore period. Bibhutibhusan started his journey with “PatherPachali” and “Ichhamati” were published in the same year when he left us. I am sure we all know about PatherPachali, Satyajit Roy made a trilogy on the anchor character of this novel, named Apu. From PatherPachali to Aranyak to Ichhamati is full of forests, rivers, trees, or kaashbons. I think that is why I fell in love with the writer and the places his novels based on.

Now, when I got myself stuck in the daily hussel-bussel of the busy city, I feel like Grant Saheb, who found himself at the core of India when he visited Ichhamati. Being inquisitive about the life on the both the banks of Ichhamati, I always felt this place is a museum of memory.

Taki, Hasnabad

Let me take you to a journey to Taki, Hasnabad; a small village situated at the Basirhat subdivision of North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal state of India. Hasnabad is situated on bank of the beautiful Ichhamati river. Ichhamati is now plays a very important role for the modern world. In one hand it carries the legacy of the human history for hundreds of years and on the other hand it is now one of the most important international borders between India – Bangladesh. Cyril Radcliffe drew the partition line through the Icchamati river to divide states of Bengal as part of the Partition of India. Till now, the two states share the same collective memory of the river and celebrates the festivals of together.

The celebration of Humanity

It was the month of September 2009; my friend Sayan (Dutta), called me and asked if I am interested to visit Taki, Hasnabad to experience the visarjan of Durga Idols. The next morning, we got on a train from Sealdah Railway Station towards Taki. Both of us were into photography and caring our cameras to capture the feel of one of the stunning human interaction which overcomes all the political ‘boundaries’.

Like all Bengalis, Taki emerges itself into the celebration of Durga Puja like its counter Satkhira, a district across the border in Bangladesh. Upon reaching Taki, we headed straight towards the ferry ghat. People from nearby places of the border villages gather to observe the durga visarjan (the immersion of the idols). Not only the locals, many people from Kolkata, and other places visits to witness this festival of culture.  The ferry ghat was full of people, waiting for their designated boats.

We were struggling to find ourselves a boat. It was really expensive for us to hire an entire boat just for two of us to see the durga visarjan from the middle of the river. We were trying to find a boat to share with a small team. And after sometime we found such a boat. It was noon and we were hungry; we had some basic food from the roadside shack and went back to the ferry ghat. The ghat was full of idols, various local clubs are placing their idols on to the respective boats. It was a sight to witness.

Then the time came, we board our boat full of strangers. The boat reaches the middle of the river, along the international border. With a few meters between the boats the neighbours’ wave at each other, exchange greetings and toffies. I was feeling goosebumps, witnessing this beautiful human interaction, which goes back several decades.

The boats immerse the idols together and shouting “Asche Bochor abar hobe!” – Until the next Year! While few boats of border security forces float between them. These boats and the flags floating on every boat was the only identifying marks, which remind you about the importance of the place in the modern world. One day each year the citizens of the two countries, divided by a simple line on the paper, come together to celebrate a shared culture and the passion of being a human being.

Until very recently (2000) the people of both countries were allowed to cross the border and dock boats to the neighbouring country to shop and socialize with each other on the day of immersion. We saw small pandals on each side of the banks they were awarded the best idols and the clubs. One of our boatmen told us that there were many incidents where people find their wedding matches for their sons or daughters.

Durga Puja is a Hindu festival, but not only Muslims participate in large numbers in the celebration but the pandal is made by them. There were Hindus and Muslims gathered from both sides. There was no conflict but only pure human bonding and unadulterated love and respect for each other. The festival of durga visarjan becomes an excuse of brotherhood. 

If you look at the human race you will find the festival has always been more social than religious affairs. The hospitality was heart worming from both sides, unknowingly we became part of the crowd.

But, the recent changes in the political position of the two nations have impacted the festival. It seems only customary now. The only regret is that my daughter will not be able to experience the same feelings.

When we attended the Bisarjan in Taki, Hasnabad in 2009; as photographers, it was quite an event for us to experience. I know the images can’t do justice to this year-old tradition and the feel of it. But our cameras didn’t stop. It was one of those moments in my life when I felt the “NOTHINGNESS” from inside.

If you want to visit the small border village of Taki, Hasnabad, and experience a boat ride on the river Ichhamati; Do read the blog on Taki, Hasnabad before you plan your weekend trip.

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