All hell breaks loose when it’s your daughter’s birthday party and for me, it was no different. Planning for weeks, calling up relatives and of course meticulously planning every minute by minute activities. We were having this birthday party a day after her actual birthday since the weekend would ensure good attendance. All shopping was done, the menu for the evening planned but there was just one problem, my office picnic was also scheduled the same day. The saving grace was that the picnic was in the morning and the birthday party was in the evening. But on the other hand, so many activities would for sure make me dog tired.
One of our senior colleagues stays at Deulti which is around 60 Kilometres from the city and also a good picnic spot. For many times we had been invited by this colleague of ours to visit him but that never materialized instead the office picnic gave me a good opportunity to visit Deulti.
Deulti is a small village on the banks of the River Rupnarayan thus the waterfront forms a good picnic spot during the winter season. Deulti has a good train as well as road connectivity, by train just get down at Deulti Station itself and by car take the Mumbai – Kolkata Highway. Our designated picnic spot happened to be right next to the house of famous Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. For long I wanted to visit this important heritage landmark but for some or the other reason, this did not materialise. In case you are wondering who he is then to put the matter to rest he is the very same author who wrote classics like Devdas, Parineeta, Srikanta etc.
It took roughly two hours for us to reach Deulti and we were, of course, travelling on a private bus. Just before reaching Deulti we took the left lane which would take us below the flyover towards the right. If you are coming by train then get down at Deulti station and walk around 5 – 6 minutes till you reach the bridge underpass from here you can take an auto which will take around Rs. 6 (INR 2018) per person to Mellack (Samtaber). The road is well demarcated with pointers so finding out the house of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (Sarat Chandra Kuthi). If travelling by auto/minivan then you will be dropped at the main crossing and you would need to walk another ten minutes to reach the house.
The day we reached the villagers were celebrating Sheetala Puja – Redhay Khawa (Cook & Eat) and during this, the villagers do not lit up their stove in their own house instead cook at the village temple. The open space around the temple gets converted into multiple mud stoves wherein the women of the house cook food which they eat after offering to the gods. The children were seen eating puffed rice and batasa (sugar candies) at the temple courtyard. The villagers even offered us to join them in their feast.
The picnic spots are right next to the house of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay with some payments basic arrangements are provided like toilets, covered seating area, table, chair and covered cooking spot. Electricity is provided by means of mini generators. This is a fairly large are thus do not be surprised if other groups also come to the same place for the picnic.
My colleagues got busy with the morning snacks while I took off to check out the house of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. It was just a short 2-minute walk and by then, most of the villagers had gathered around the temple to cook their lunch.
The house of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay located right next to a large pond which I came to know later also belonged to the author. In fact, many surrounding properties were once part of the author’s family. The house is actually a private building and owned by the nephew of the author who now resides in Kolkata. The gates open at around 10 AM in the morning and closes at around 5 PM with a one-hour lunch break in the afternoon. There are no official guides but a person who has been appointed as the caretaker looks after the property.
The government of West Bengal had renovated the house completely a couple of year’s back thus the house is in quite a good condition. Once you enter the gate you will find a marble bust of the author to your left and an old dead guava tree in the front. Apparently, this guava tree is the very same tree that gets featured in the novel Ramer Sumati.
The whole building is a classic two-storied structure with a terracotta tiled roof. The walls of the building are 40 feet in thickness thus even during the peak of summer you will find it cool inside and during the chilling winter season, the house would still remain warm from inside.
All around you will find furniture of Burma Teak something which was classical of that era. The first room to the left is where the author would sit and write, the Writing Desk has an adjustable inclined tray. Right next to it you will find the Plantation Chair which has a photo of the author and his wife in a frame. Other objects include a plaster of Paris statue of the author, a Book Rack and a photo of the author’s own brother.
The main room on the ground floor was the main Drawing Room. In those days there were no sofas and guests usually rested on a raised platform which was more of a small bed with big side pillows. This room also has a Cupboard full of books, and a Wooden Trunk, a Coat Hanger in the shape of Star of David, a Book Rack which can be accessed from all four direction, a traditional Indian Hookah (Shisha), a Writing Aisle and a Japanese Wall Clock which according to the caretaker needs to be wound once every week.
The room next to this room also doubles up as the deity room with a marble deity of Radha and Krishna which according to the caretaker was given to the author by Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das just before he was arrested so that the author could take of them and perform regular pujas.
The author was also a practising free Homeopathic Doctor and this room also served as his chamber. This room has a cupboard with Homeopathic ampules however not sure if these are the original ones or just kept for representation. Two more interesting objects that you can find in this room are the two Charkha (Spinning Wheel).
Coming back to the front courtyard on to the right you will find a big caged portion which once housed a pet peacock. Apparently, the author was an animal lover and you will find two more cages on the first floor and one of them still have Budgerigars (Bodri). The big pond at the front of the house had giant Catla and a Rohu fish named Kartik and Ganesh. Apparently, these fishes had gold nose rings. These two fish also features in the story of Ramer Sumati.
Up on the first floor, the two rooms remain closed for direct access and can only be seen from the windows on two sides. These rooms were once occupied by the author and his brother. From the first floor you do not get a clear view of Rupnarayan River now but previously the river did flow very near to the house.
On the left side of the house, there is a Thakur Dalan or a place where puja would have been performed. For three years Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay conducted Annapurna Puja here.
On the left outer limits of the compound are three memorials to the author, his wife and his brother.
By now it was almost lunchtime and the caretaker informed that he will now close the gate for an hour for lunch break. I thanked him for his service and handed him some money as a token of appreciation for his service which he gladly accepted. I asked him his name and mobile number to which he replied that he was Upal Chandra Manna and he did not have any mobile number. Anyone who comes to the house will find him at the house always.
Since it was late afternoon so even I was hungry by now and at the village temple the women had already started preparing lunch. For me, I had to reach my picnic tent where hot fired Hilsa fish was being served. As a Bengali, you can never say no to fish and if it’s Hilsa then its crème de la crème. I had nearly four pieces of the fish and almost skipped the main lunch just a spoonful of rice with some mutton curry.
The rest of the team members were to return by bus in the evening but I could not afford that as I had to rush back to my home to see through the final preparation for the evening party. I returned to Kolkata by train and rushed back to the house in time. The birthday party was one of the best that we ever had in recent times. All together it was a really wonderful day being able to visit the house of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and also to meet cousins who I only get to meet during special occasions due to our work timing and lifestyle.
Location on Google Maps
Important Contact Details
For Picnic Venue – 8609854148 / 9732540748
Generator, Sound System, Cooking Utensils, Tent etc.- 769012544 9134341258