After getting stuck at J. B. S. Haldane Avenue (Parama flyover towards Park Circus from Science City was no entry, alas) for one and a half hour, having started from my hospital as early as quarter past four, I finally crossed the Dankuni Toll Plaza at 7 PM. I was supposed to join my friends Dr-Suvodip Chakraborty and Syamantak Basu, the former playing host to the latter, at Burdwan Medical College, and go to a wedding reception. As is the norm nowadays, it was a WhatsApp invite. It didn’t matter though, as the friend to be sacrificed at the altar of marriage is close to us.
It was the first time I was driving on the Durgapur Expressway and I was thrilled. The well maintained four-lane national highway is in top-notch condition, a driver’s delight. Anxious that I’d be late, I drove on fast, maintaining 100 to 110 kmph, touching 120 now and then, going upto 140 once. The Bridgestone tyres chewed the roads quite well and the other cars literally ate the dust. Once I entered Burdwan town, the roads became narrow and crowded, and Google Maps ceased to be of much help. After nearly getting lost in the lanes and by-lanes, I somehow managed to reach my friend’s hostel at quarter past eight. I learnt that it had rained there heavily in the afternoon and could see small puddles in front of the hostels.
At this point, a realization struck us. We didn’t have the address of the reception venue and our friend’s phone was unreachable. The most we knew was that he would always get down at Guskara station when we would return from college during vacations. There was no one else we could call as who would know more about him than us, his best friends? Instead we opened his Facebook profile to glean some information but found nothing useful. We spent some time debating what would be the best course of action and it was already 9 o’clock.
We took a leap of faith and decided to drive to Guskara where we would hopefully figure out something. On the way, we stopped at a fuel pump where I filled the tank and then at a liquor store where we took a bottle of whiskey, a gift for the groom. The whiskey was nothing exclusive, as we were not sure if we would at all be able to make it to the wedding! The Suri Road was a good highway to drive on. We drove at 80-90 kmph, slowing down to 60 at some sharp turns which came along the way. After driving some 30 km, we reached Guskara, when it was ten on the clock. The stores had downed their shutters by then and not many people were on the streets.
It was then that a friend of mine had a revelation. He recalled that a batchmate of ours had once taken his cousin sister on a trip to our college campus. He also remembered that she happens to be a neighbour of our worthy friend whose phone, by the way, was still out of reach. Best part, he still has her phone number saved. The lady proved to particularly helpful, after all these years. It turned out that we were in the wrong place altogether. The residence of our friend would be at Debpur, about 10 km from Guskara. But she could not confirm the venue of the reception. There was a lone fruit seller, the last person to shut his stall, who directed us towards a way to Debpur.
The sky had cleared by then and it was a moonlit night. We could clearly make out the paddy fields on either sides of the road. We could not go fast as the track wasn’t smooth all over and was riddled with potholes. The road was however absolutely empty. It went on straight ahead, not a soul in sight, painting a desolate picture. Several times, we debated going back to the hostel. We were not certain if we were on the right track. We weren’t even sure if the wedding was taking place in Debpur. We also feared that the party would be over by the time we reached and there would be no food left for us. My friends were inclined to go back and open the bottle for themselves, but I drove on.
After five kilometres, we saw some people sitting in front of a godown who readily identified the name of the our friend’s father and confirmed that the wedding reception is indeed held at Debpur. We were filled with renewed zeal upon hearing this. The track became smooth thereafter and we zipped through the night.
From some hundred metres away we saw the lights. Such big lightings as those usually grace Puja pandals. Nearing further, we saw a big crowd and were relieved to see that they were not leaving – most of them seemed to have just arrived. We asked a man who confirmed that we had come to the right wedding reception. We parked the car and got down, smiling like victorious soldiers.
The well decorated corridor led us from the entrance to a large floor where scores of people were dancing to live DJ music. The mood was upbeat! The party was in full swing. Crossing the floor, we spotted a high stage where the bride was found sitting on her chair, busy posing to the camera. Our friend was nowhere to be seen and none could tell where he was. We finally saw him emerge in the middle of the crowd, when he was raised up in the air by his peers. From his high position, Abhijit Karmakar saw us and to say that he was shocked would be an understatement. He never expected us at that hour! He descended to the ground and we exchanged pleasantries (read, expletives). Apparently, the bugger had forgot where he kept his phone and it had run out of charge. The mandatory photo clicks, the customary greetings followed and the gift was delivered. There was a bar room where we said hello to Abhijit’s friends. Without further ado, we proceeded to the dinner. We were famished!
As it was late, the buffet counter had closed and we settled for the plated table service. To begin with, the fish kebabs were very well prepared – juicy, with just the right amount of crunchiness. We took generous helpings of the salad too. The waiters had to work overtime at our table as we kept repeating our orders. Next up, it was baby nan and chilly sweet, of which the latter was particularly delectable – we couldn’t stop licking our fingers. Mutton biriyani and chicken chaap came in next. The biriyani was well done and the mutton pieces were succulent. The chicken chaap comprised only leg pieces. After having two leg pieces, I was comtemplating a third one, when Suvodip warned me not to eat much as I’d be driving back. Papad and chutney ended the grand meal on a sweet note. This was of course followed by more sweet dishes- chhanar payesh, rosogolla and pantua. We felt full and satiated. The long drive and the night adventure was well worth it.
On the way back, we took a more direct route, as Abhijit had advised us to do. This road was definitely better than the one we had taken earlier but it was narrower and went in a sinuous trail through populated localities. That wasn’t any hindrance as there was no one on the roads at that hour; it was way past midnight. After driving 17 km, we were back on the highway called Suri Road. Once again the tarmac became a driver’s delight. We were back to the BMC campus at 1 AM but we decided to drive around a bit. We drove towards the station and Suvodip showed us around pointing out the prominent buildings and landmarks. We finally decided to return and called it a night.
Saturday morning began with a breakfast in the BMC college canteen after which Suvodip had to go to his work at the hospital while I went to see some of my friends there. Dr. Basu and I also ventured out to get Mihidana and Sitabhog, which Burdwan is famous for, from a reputed sweet shop. Suvodip joined us for lunch at the canteen again. The food was homely and really well done. The fish preparation was proper. So were the daal and vegetable. The amraar chutney left us wanting for more.
Post-lunch, three of us started our return journey. It was a relaxed drive on the way back. We were in no hurry and I kept speeds of 80 kmph. We stopped at Shaktigarh for tea and lyangcha. The rest of the journey was uneventful. We were glad to be back home after spending an eventful weekend.