The cottages dotting the huge premises of Bawali Farmhouse (near Budge Budge) had poetic names. We were allotted to one named Jagari while our friends Anoma and Ganesh were led to one called Byapti. Climbing up a flight of stairs to reach our moderately sized room, we dropped our luggage and stepped into the airy balcony. It overlooked a sparkling aquamarine swimming pool and the fields and trees outside the compound. A few minutes later, we took a stroll around the pool. My daughter Nirjhorini sprinted along the potted shrubs of pink oleander arranged in a row by the water. Lawn umbrellas dotted the strip of green flanking the pathway running along the pool. We heard the sizzle of noodles from a standalone kitchen nearby. We ordered two plates of Chinese food and once they were ready, we settled under one of the umbrellas to eat. Since Nirjhorini stopped eating after two spoons, we took her to the Bengali restaurant and coaxed her to eat some rice. We were joined by Anoma, Ganesh, Anoma's uncle and aunt. Ganesh was having a harrowing time too, trying to make their two-year-old son Bikarna have his lunch.
I somehow managed to feed Nirjhorini a reasonable quantity of rice, and as I walked to the basin at the back of the restaurant, to rinse my hands, I noticed the pond behind it. The water was entirely covered with a pale green film of algae. The edge facing the restaurant was lined with large baked clay pots. Looking closely, I found each pot was a mini pool, water peering through a garb of lotus leaves. On entering the cottage named Byapti, we became aware of the presence of another pond. It lay just behind the back wall and we could rest our eyes on the water through the windows. The farmhouse also consisted of a shaded nursery. A variety of plants, some laden with tiny fruits and some tipped by bright flowers, grew out of soil packed paper cups.
The inviting waters of the swimming pool embraced us into a world, untouched by the heat of the sun. Nirjhorini plopped on the steps and flailed her legs to rustle up a steady gush of spray. I picked her up and took her for a ride across the pool in my arms. Similarly, Bikarna, too traversed the waters while clinging to his Mom and Dad. The pool was truly a kid's delight with a cement crocodile glaring at the swimmers.
The velvety evening rippled with unbridled laughter. Lively conversations flowed, unabated by the munching of an assortment of tasty snacks like French fries, pakoras, crispy baby corn. The bonhomie peaked at the dinning table even as we gorged on delicious tandoori items. A brief visit to the pool side presented me the chance to glimpse it under the sheen of garden lamps. The reflections of pink oleanders blended with the purple lights tinting the waters.
Before retiring to bed, I went to the balcony to collect the clothes I had hung on the railing to dry. There was not a single house in sight. The lights around the swimming pool had dimmed. The meadow beyond the compound lay like a palette of dried black paint. Long, skeletal branches of trees poked at the blanket of darkness. Amidst all the revelry, I was quite surprised to feel a sense of chill. At the same time I was overwhelmed by the view; it was so different from one I see from the balcony of my house in a congested locality of Kolkata.
The next morning, before leaving the farmhouse, we let our gaze linger over the fresh saplings in the nursery and trace the dense foliage crowning the tall, majestic trees. To our delight, we are asked to take a part of the greenery back home in the form of a potted plant. As we water the plant everyday, we feel the splash of the water in the pool and the rush of joyous memories.