Every one in our class knew that Manasi is the descendant of a Zaminder (landlord) family in a village called Ramnagar, not very far from the city of Calcutta. When the question of spot for our picnic came up, nobody expected that Manasi herself would offer their paternal house at Ramnagar for the same. It was, no doubt, a beautiful idea to for picnic to an old Zaminder’s house near the city.
Manasi lives in Calcutta with her parents, because her father is a famous doctor in the city, attached to a renowned hospital, as a heart specialist. And her mother, too, is connected with many social welfare organizations.
We fixed the date for our picnic on a Sunday, and for the purpose, a private bus was booked. Two cooks were also engaged by our two teachers. We raised sufficient funds for our picnic party and were eagerly counting the days for our thrilling adventure. It was decided that the bus would leave the school compound at 7 A.M. and the students would return by 7 P.M. Accordingly, the guardians, would be waiting in front-of the school to receive their wards in the evening.
The bus stood waiting for us in front of the school gate on the fixed day from 6-30 A.M. Most of the students reached in time, except a couple of girls who lived at a distance and faced difficulty in getting suitable transport in time, and therefore, they were a little delay.
Our bus left at about 7-15 A.M. for Ramnagar, a place which was still a dream before our mind’s eye. No one, except Manasi, knew where it was. She appraised the driver about the route to Ramnagar.
The bus took G.T. Road through Howrah and accelerated its speed, being on the highway. A strange sensation was felt by me, after leaving the city atmosphere within an hour or so. Fresh and cool breeze entered through the windows of the bus that soothed my ears and eyes, flowing my unruly hairs in a careless manner.
The sights of the villages and towns on both sides of the G.T. Road pleased my eyes. Our friends began a chorus song, being led by one of our teachers. The journey had thus become pleasant and enjoyable due to the joint efforts of the students and the teachers. The teachers had perhaps then forgotten their identity as our superiors, as they had also freely joined in joyful screams and hearty laughters along with us.
It is really difficult to express in words the exact nature of the wonderful experience or unique type of merriment that we enjoyed inside the running bus on the highway that absorbed magically about thirty youthful hearts.
For the time being, it seemed, we forgot our individual existence on earth, as if being flown away to a dreamland, which was absolutely strange and quite unknown to us.
At about 11 -30 A.M. the bus took a turn to the left by a narrower road that ultimately led us to the Ramnagar Zaminder’s house. It was an old two-storeyed white house with a palacial gate, now almost in broken condition due to lack of supervision. An old servant or care-taker came forward to receive us’ as he was informed beforehand by Manai’s parents, of our arrival for picnic there.
We entered the house through a large courtyard, on the other side there was a huge tank. It had a ghat. The water was not’ however, clean. It was partly covered with shrubs and creepers. We entered into a hall on the ground floor of the house, which, it appeared, had been recently cleaned’ expecting our arrival. We sat down on a fine mattress laid on the floor in grand style of older days. Then the caretaker asked his men to bring green coconuts to serve fresh water of the fruits of god. We relished the drink with great pleasure. We understood that the coconuts were from the adjoining gardens.
After some time, we were taken to a spot in the garden of the house, where various types of trees bearing fruits and flowers attracted our attention. The teachers selected a particular place which was comparatively cleaner and suitable for cooking food- And the cooks were soon engaged in preparing the meals.
The menu included, fried rice, bhaji, dal fish cutlet, chicken korma, chapati, chatni, papad and sweets Some of the students, who had interest in cooking, went near cooks and voluntarily helped them in their job, while some others went freely in batches to see around the garden and the house compound.
Myself and my three intimate friends including Manasi sat on sat on the steps of the ghat of the tank, and watched the beautiful ripples water’ as breeze passed over the leaves of the trees surronding the tank.
The reflections of those trees fell on the bed of the water, but they sometimes overlapped on one another, when breeze flowed. We were engaged sometimes in meaningless talks, as perhaps our subconscious minds were submerged in a peculiar romantic mood of imperceptible experience in that particular tranquil atmosphere.
We do not remember how our time passed. We were alert by the loud call from our teachers for food which was then ready. We left the ghat most reluctantly, just to join our classmates in our picnic feast.
The food was good and tasty. By 2 P.M., we had finished dining. Then some of the students were asked to dance and sing, which they gladly did. Some recited poems, and some related the most exciting incidents in their life. In this way, we passed time till 4 P.M. when our teachers told us to get ready for the return journey.
Some of the students grumbled, and expressed reluctance to return so early. As the spot was so much attractive, even some shy girls came near Manasi and tried to become friendly with her so that she could help them to visit Ramnagar with their family for a picnic or otherwise.
Some of the students suggested that it could be a nice location for film-shooting. Some said that the house could be used as a guest house for holiday stay. Manasi perhaps did not like such unwanted suggestions and analysis of their ancestral house that lay neglected by the descendants who were busy otherwise in the city for earning more money than by idly spending the days in the old paternal house with the consolation of their past glory.
However, we got into the bus at about 5 P.M., and left Ramnagar with a gay heart. The bus moved along the village path laid through the paddy fields and peasants’ cottages.
We saw on the way the cattle grazing in the green fields and the peasants ploughing lands for sowing seeds there, and the people going to the local bazar with their merchandise in bullock-carts or afoot. The bus returned by the same route to the city, and reached the school gate in due time.