Neelanjan Chakravarty, a 58-year-old Kolkata resident recollects his stint on the Indian Audit & Accounts Division as one which concerned quite a lot of journey. Right here’s the place he first developed a love for exploring locations.
Chatting with The Higher India Neelanjan says, “I’ve all the time been an avid trekker, my favorite hang-out being the Himalayas. On these journeys of mine, I’d discover heat within the type of homestays and welcoming households. I’d benefit from the time I spent with them, promising myself that in the future I too would welcome folks in a homestay of my very own.”
In a bid to put the inspiration of this dream, Neelanjan bought 1.25 bigha of land in South 24 Parganas, West Bengal in 2010.
Within the time to come back, Neelanjan’s labour of affection — the Bongheri Homestay — would welcome vacationers from throughout India, giving them respite from the cacophony within the metropolis.
The land lay as is till 2017 when Neelanjan determined to launch his dream challenge; he opted for voluntary retirement from his job to do that.
“I might now pursue my lengthy cherished ardour,” he says.
Dwelling life on the sting within the Sundarbans
Bongheri Homestay nestled within the Kaikhali Village within the Sundarbans is a deal with to each the eyes and the thoughts. Life right here is devoid of the standard hustle, and even the clocks appear to tick at a slower tempo.
Yearly this UNESCO World Heritage Website sees vacationers thronging the world marvelling on the 1,40,000-hectare mangrove forest, one of many largest on the planet.
The area has been acclaimed as a “labyrinth of water channels with distinctive biodiversity”, and rightly so. Anybody who braves the deep waters and thick foliage of the Sundarbans has an imposing sight awaiting — an opportunity to view globally endangered species in shut quarters. These embrace the Royal Bengal Tiger, Irawadi dolphins, estuarine crocodiles, and even the critically endangered endemic river terrapin.
So when Neelanjan managed to accumulate a bit of land proper in the course of this haven, he was thrilled.
“I began the homestay with the intent of giving company an genuine rural expertise,” he says including that being proper in the course of the fascinating Sundarbans solely added to the appeal.
All through the development of the homestay cottages, Neelanjan would shuttle between his Kolkata residence and the positioning of building. The method of constructing was sluggish, and at last, Bongheri Homestay was able to welcome its first vacationers in 2018.
“Initially there have been solely two cottages,” recounts Neelanjan. “I geared up them with all needed infrastructures like a kitchen, eating, a king-size mattress, bedside desk, wardrobe, dressing desk, tea desk and western-style loos. In the course of the lockdown interval, I had two extra rooms constructed such that at this time, 12 folks could be accommodated at any given time.”
However whereas creating a house away from house for company, Neelanjan additionally needed to supply a livelihood to the native girls round South 24 Parganas. And he did. So while you’re on the homestay, the whole lot proper from the meals to your sightseeing will likely be taken care of by the group of eight locals who are inclined to the place.
One might marvel, what residing in the course of one of many world’s greatest biodiverse areas entails.
“Lots,” says Neelanjan.
A rendezvous within the wild
The couple says that the principle draw right here is the property’s proximity to the Matla River, a fisher’s haven. A fishing expedition right here has company returning with nets full of molluscs, prawns, crabs, and the native Koibol fish, which the ladies on the homestay will likely be more than pleased to cook dinner to your subsequent meal.
Neelanjan additional shares that lunches and dinners are a hearty affair right here, with an array of seafood, spiced with secret Bengali recipes by the ladies, and accompanied by greens, lentils, and naturally the staple rice.
Sangeeta Kar, a visitor who visited the homestay in January 2021 says, “It was a really peaceable and quiet setting. The hospitality of the workers right here could be very welcoming and the meals was scrumptious.”
After company have been fed and watered effectively, there’s a myriad of journey actions that await. The preferred one is the boat safari by the Sundarbans. “Visitors don’t must pay something extra for these actions. Whereas on the expedition, they’ll uncover the mysteries of the mangrove forests, spot tigers, reptiles and different uncommon fauna,” says Neelanjan.
“We additionally organise a neighborhood fisherman’s boat trip at Matla River and close by creeks. There’s a tailored boat trip whereby we go alongside the watch towers of the Sundarbans,” he provides stating that that is extra of a leisure trip and the journey is right for hen watching.
“Those that want to sit again and calm down can stroll by Bengal’s rural fisherman villages with their tiny hamlets. Visitors may sit by the river, and the dawn is an added bonus,” says Neelanjan.
However for him, one of the best half about having company over is to observe them marvel on the place.
“It provides me immense pleasure and makes me really feel the journey was price it.”
Exploring the agricultural model of luxurious
It’s fascinating, the couple says, to observe company being taken care of by the locals, who previous to this didn’t have any formal coaching in hospitality.
“I skilled them myself,” says Neelanjan. He says these “good, form and easy folks” needed to be a part of the homestay, and the sensation was mutual.
“However as a result of the place is situated in a distant village in South Bengal, the life-style right here is completely totally different from city life. So, together with coaching them within the every day maintenance of the place, I additionally educated them on primary etiquette like the best way to behave with company, cooking procedures, sourcing the highest quality uncooked meals supplies and spices from the market, serving the company professionally, and so forth.”
Because the couple says, regardless that the world is an journey zone, there’s a form of magnificence in sitting again.
“When company get up within the mornings, there’s a lot that the place affords — the inexperienced fields, the open clear sky, a flower backyard and a pond with geese. There’s additionally a child’s play space with a swing and a barbeque space that has a bonfire. Visitors can verify on the seasonal greens which are grown on the homestay backyard too,” says Neelanjan.
“Sundarbans is a spot the place everybody could be totally aware, away from the hustle and bustle of on a regular basis life,” he provides.
Neelanjan says the homestay welcomes round 30 company every month, the worth per couple being Rs 3,700 for an evening, inclusive of meals and lodging.
Because the solar units on the Sundarbans, it colors the panorama in hues of orange. A lone tiger someplace within the distance will get its night drink on the river, whereas a mangrove whistler (a typical hen on this area) provides its symphony to the night.
The magic of the Sundarbans lingers within the air.
Guide your keep right here.
Edited by Pranita Bhat