Our third and last destination of our Dooars' trip was Chilapata which is a dense forest near Jaldapara. We drove through Hasimara past the Airforce Station and halted to buy some local tea. Surprisingly, where our driver stopped the car, all the teashops side by side had their signboards in Telegu. We bought two varieties of tea, one for flavour (the costly and recommended one) and another to which milk can be added (the way I like tea personally). However, to tell the truth I did not quite enjoy either type once I got back to home.
Soon, we reached Chilapata and after querying some locals, we made our way to the forest rest house. Unlike Jaldapara, this place again has only two rooms at the bungalow and no ready ration for the guests. The caretaker took some money from us and went to the market which is a few kilometers away. However the bungalow is quite well maintained. The beds rooms and bathrooms are spacious, the living room is very well furnished and on the top of it, it had a television with satellite connection. This is the first time we could watch TV during our trip to Dooars and my aunt fully utilized the time watching the daily soaps (including repeat telecasts) that she had missed in the last few days.
Lunch was simple comprising Khichdi and finger chips and we settled for a jungle safari in the late afternoon after a quick nap. Our car and guide came to pick us up at 4 o’clock. The guide enlightened us that the name Chilapata has its origin from Chila Ray, a general of Coochbehar after whom the place was named. Very early during our trip we could locate a deer in the woods from some distance and hoped that we would be able to see many animals there especially since it is considered as an elephant corridor and sighting of elephants are almost regular according to my research before the tour. But alas, during the entire safari we were not able to see any other animal except for some wild pigs and wild hens. The guide did not seem to be quite competent and we figured out that he was living in the area only for the last five years after his father, who works in the forest department, got transferred to Chilapata. The driver was in fact more alert and interested to make us see some animals and sensing our disappointment drove farther to what is common and allowed but to no avail. However, the drive through the forest was quite fascinating in its own. We halted at a couple of places in between.
Our first halt was at Nalraja Garh which is a fort built during the Gupta period in fifth century and only the ruins are left now. That too our guide only showed us what used to be the front gate of the fort and convinced us not to go any further inside as it was not safe. Later I learnt that many people actually take a tour inside on foot. Most part of the gate had been buried under earth and one has to actually bend quite a bit or crawl to go to the other side. Our guide actually told us that the fort is going beneath the ground inch by inch, which is quite possible and makes sense, but the reason he told was a bit over the top. His justification was that the destruction of the fort was in fact due to a curse on the Nal kings.
While we were coming to terms with this explanation of history, he showed us some trees and told us yet another enthralling story about their origin. The myth goes that while the fort was being destroyed and buried due to the curse, some faithful guards favoured to be associated with the fort out of their loyalty and were transformed into trees and since then there are still guarding the ruins of the fort. And the bizarre thing with these trees is that they bleed just like humans if they are cut. Actually, I found some dark marks and dried up sticky liquid on the trees which is very similar to blood clot. The guide even volunteered to make a fresh cut and let us see for ourselves but we decided in the negative since we were not experts to come up with any scientific explanation and from my earlier conversation with the caretaker at the forest bungalow, I knew that what he was talking about blood like liquid secreted by the tree was a fact. I don’t remember the name of the tree now but the guide told us that that species of tree is available only in that place and there are only a few of them and any attempt to grow it elsewhere had failed.
Our next and last stop was a watch tower just beside the Torsha river. I had fallen asleep on the way and just as the car stopped I woke up and screamed in enjoyment seeing an elephant. But soon I saw the chains around its legs bound to a nearby post and realized that it was not indeed a wild elephant but a trained one, one which is called “kunki” in local terms and there is not much excitement in sighting one. The watch tower again was a disappointment as there were no animals in the vicinity. The guide showed us some unraveled grass along the river bed and explained that that must be the doing of the rhinocerous who might have gone to Jaldapara. However, in spite of the discontent of not seeing any animal from the watch tower, we were happy to witness the sunset across Torsha.
As the sun was going down, I became conscious that my vacation is also coming to the end and was saddened by the realization that it was time to go back to the busy routine of city life.