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July 2020

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It’s raining in Kolkata. I am going through my old photographs stored in my Laptop with a cup of tea. Since COVID-19 has paused the travel, I travel through my old pictures. I love to visit those old lanes, been in the same place, in the same moment with those people again. It’s like reading an old book or watching a movie again. Each and every time you go through them, you learn a new thing again and wonder how you missed this point last time. Amazing human mind. I find some pictures of Juniang, a 64 years young dreamer. I met her in Ghoom station in 2019 and clicked these pictures there.

One evening, I was idly roaming around in Ghoom, then I sat on a bench. A tea seller gave me a hot cup. On the other corner there was Juniang. I did not notice her until she spoke.

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Juniang – The Dreamer

“where are you from?”. “Kolkata” I said. It was evening, she was sitting alone. So, I asked, “do you stay nearby?”. She said, “not very near. But this place is very close to me”. There was a debt in her words. She meant it and I felt it.

I asked, “what’s the story?”. “Do you have time?” she asked. “I am tourist”. And we both laughed.

“I am 64 years old, name Juniang. I have three sons and two grandchildren now. But every day I walk here, sit here and see them again. I was 13 years old, on my way to school, I saw a rush. We are hill people, our life is very difficult, but generally we go slow. But that day was different. I got to know Rajesh Khanna is shooting here. I have seen one of his movies, and my father used to play his songs on tape. It felt like I knew him really well. Like many I reach to Ghoom. I see a big crew, set up, a jeep, few people are around that jeep, nothing is really visible. And I never had experienced crowd like that before. I tried to make my way, tried hard to see the Rajesh Khanna.

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And Rajesh Khanna Happened

But for a long while it was just pushing, film people and police managing crowd. I gave up hope. But then somebody from some corner shout clear field. I saw him for the first and last time in real. He was looking at a mirror, one was fixing his green sweater’s collar, one combed his hair and placed a cap over his head. The man put some red color on his lip and powdered his face. It was clear like day; I can see him clearly. He is Rajesh Khanna. In one take, the director shot his portion of “mere Sapno ki Rani”. I was mesmerized.

When I went back home, I did not tell anybody at home that I bunked today school for cinema shooting. But you know what was more amazing, when I see Sharmila Tagore in the song too. She was never here. Her portion was not shot at Darjeeling. But how magically they placed her in the song. I felt like I lived a dream. This place became the magic place for me. Since then whenever there is a shoot in Darjeeling I go. I live my dream.”

“In my lifetime, I have seen a lot of stars here for shooting. Devanand, Dharmendra, Shahrukh Khan, Ranbir Kapoor. Even I have seen Hollywood films getting shot here. But I don’t know the actor actress name. But each and every time when I managed to see them, I felt like I Am living my dream”.

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The Mastro Stroke

I was looking at her, attentively listening to her words. She stopped for a while and looked at me and said, “do you know, in the same bench I had seen Satyajit Roy sitting, sometimes he used to sketch, sometimes he used to write and sometimes just sit and smoke”. I felt a chill in my spine.

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PC- Neel

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than trees.” -Henry David Thoreau

No plan is the best plan. Connect to the primitive. We have heard these kinds of phrases so much that it became generic statements for us. It starts losing impact on us. Until that one-day comes in our life, when we understand the real meaning of these phases, and we adsorb the thoughts. The excess greenery does soothe the eyes and mind. When you can hear your breathing sound, the sense of alive overpowers your mind, then you can understand yes, sometimes the obvious works wonder.

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Walk in the woods lamahata
Walk in the woods PC-Neel Malakar

Why The Realisation:

In Darjeeling I got bored. Next day the plan was to move to Sikkim. So in between, I got an unwanted spare day, which I did not know how to utilise. Post breakfast, I started walking on random roads. It was 8:30 am and cold. I thought I would spend my day doing Dandi march. In a few minutes, I saw a little crowd. Few car and drivers were waiting and calling for the passenger and few people were getting on the car. “Lamahatta for 100 rupees”. I moved towards it. I asked them about the place and hopped in the car when they said Lamahatta is 45 minutes away from here. New place, about an hour’s journey, I could not think of much except one thing: No Plan is the best plan. The car started in 15 minutes.

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Time spent among trees is never time wasted
Time spent among trees is never time wasted PC- Neel Malakar

The Moment Of My Existence:

I reached Lamahatta. It was 10:15 am when i checked my watch. Before I moved away, the driver said, it might be difficult to get a car in return. But they could wait for me if paid 1000 bucks for up and down. I smiled and moved away. I did not know at that time, whether to keep the car, or not. One thing that I could feel is that I did not want to think. It’s okay to go with the flow. Let the time come, I would figure out. That’s all I could think that time.

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walk solo lamahata eco village
walk solo

Walk In The Woods:

That moment waited for me. Sometimes we wait for some moments and sometimes the moments waiting for us. Those tall green trees were everywhere. Big rocks and hills peaks were peaking behind them. I never had seen such fresh greenery and such peace. Yes, here you can see peace. It looked calm, pure, mature. I sat on the rocks, stood on them, spread my arms and then again I sat down quietly. It was the moment when you had to do nothing, just exist. We travel abroad, spend a fat amount to get this kind of peace and happiness. Trust me sometimes the unexpected thing fulfil all your expectation. I did not compare my busy city life with that peace. I just let it flow, let it go.

For hours it healed my soul and mind. I was feeling calmer. There was no smell of worry. The place looked so primitive yet so modern. I walked on those woods for hours until the sunset. Walk in the woods is not a journey, but a feeling. You live it once but carry the sense within you until you die. Words won’t be enough to describe but definitely, it is a worth sharing story.

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Lastly, when at 5 P.M I started getting off. There it was dark and no conveyance. But strangely I was not worried about my return. As I started walking, I heard a car. It came from behind and stopped near me and asked, “Sir, it is hard to get anything to return. Can I drop you somewhere?” I smiled.