A night in a quiet forest village - Sasafu
Usually I prefer to travel alone whenever I find a place to spend a night in sojourn. One such place I had heard of during my last visit to Jayanti was a lone village amidst forest at the foothill of Bhutan Himalaya. The name of the village is Sasafu, located under Kumargram block number#1 of Alipurduar district. It is part of Buxa Tiger Reserve
Depressed dusk was approaching on the bed of river Jayanti with cool breeze engulfing the area. Even the old Himalayas had called it a day and preparing its rest at night. The jeep I had arrived by, has been parked for night under a tree. The river is now full of sand stones.
River Jayanti has hard time now to find its way through the heap of stones. River bed is in complete silence other than a faint gurgling sound of the stream flowing through it. I started walking towards right as the Sasafu village is located on the other bank of river Jayanti opposite to the forest settlement of Jayanti village.
After walking for around half a kilometer amidst forest I spotted a two storied building made of woods. This is the first house of the village which is going to be my resting place for the night. Practically there are only six houses in the village with a population of hardly 40 villagers. I crossed the thin stream flowing in front of me to set my foot in the village.
View at Sasafu, Dooars
A well built man was approaching me with a genuine warm smile on his face. The house owner of this home-stay greeted me, took my bag and started leading me towards his home. He and his family live on the ground floor and three cozy rooms for guests are on the first floor. For me the best room was allotted facing the riverside. Double bedded room with attached bath built in western style.
There was no electricity in the village, instead solar lantern was provided. As soon as I entered my room, a cute little girl hardly around 16 to 17 years old knocked at the door. She was the daughter of my host and brought some hot water in a bucket along with a white towel. Then she asked me politely,
-Sir would you like to have tea or coffee?
I was thrilled to hear that! What a surprise!
-Coffee is available here?
-Papa has arranged it for you specially. Would you like it black or with milk, sir?
-Black and only one spoonful of sugar. Thanks a lot and what’s your name dear?
- My name is Pema Chhetri, sir.
-Don’t you go to school?
-Yes sir, I read in class 11 and now our winter vacation is on, so I am here.
She gave me another nice smile and departed. I freshened up and started unpacking. Having changed my clothes I came out of my room with a plastic chair and sat on the balcony. It’s little chilly now. I wore my shawl a bit tightly to make myself comfortable. Continuous hums of beetles were creating an excellent ambience. It sounded like priests were ringing bells in unison. The occasional chirping of night birds were adding spices to the background score.
Later I heard just few years back there used to be a sounder blend with this ambience and that was roars and gags of Royal Bengal Tiger. Nowadays one can hardly find any tiger in this forest. It was a perfect forest evening to spend with ones innersole.
My host Mr. Bipin Chhetri arrived with a tray in his one hand and a folding plastic table in the other. On the tray was a bowl of hot noodles and a tea pot covered with tea cozy, a cup and a saucer. He requested me to have the noodles quickly before it gets cold.
-Sir, what will you like to have for dinner, boiled rice or chapattis?
-What do you people have normally in dinner? I enquired.
- Oh that’s great. I will have it too.
-Thank you sir. Please have your tea and enjoy the nature in solace. We will talk later. I have few things to take care of.
-Ok, no issues, I’ll be fine here.
The noodles prepared in a simple manner tasted excellent. When I started eating, I realized how hungry I was. A perfect forest night engulfed the village slowly and silently.
View at Sasafu Village, Dooars
Dawn breaks. There was a knock on my door. Pema was standing with a cup of smoked tea, undoubtedly the flavor was of Darjeeling Tea. My urban ears were being soothed with the chirpings of numerous birds that I never heard before. I was shrouded amidst a different kind of happiness. Looking straight ahead I found a thin devious path lost into the forest and on the right river Jayanti was flowing perhaps since eternity. I had a feeling that time has frozen here for me.
After having breakfast Bipin Dazu took me to a jungle trail (dazu is elder brother in Nepali language). We took the path I had seen from my balcony earlier.
-Bipin dazu, what kinds of animals exist in this forest?
I couldn’t stop myself from asking this.
-Sambar, spotted dear, barking deer, wild boar, sometime bisons and Himalayan black bear.
-Aren’t you people afraid of them?
-Yes of course! But they are not the problem. Usually they too try to avoid us. But the real danger is a herd of elephant. Especially during the season when we harvest crops. Forest department normally helps us to ward off the herd, but still…
Bipin Dazu maintained a long silence. Apart from the chirpings of birds only continuous rustle created by our steps were audible. After a brief silence Bipin dazu once again started like a soliloquy without even looking at me.
-The most dangerous of all is a loner.
-A rogue elephant that left its herd or got lost. They are very dangerous. Last couple of months ago one of our villagers died. He was killed by a loner.
Now a newly built watch tower was visible. Bipin Dazu told me it was a project of forest department. We ascended to the top. The spectacular panoramic view of the forest and the canopy of trees from there was really mesmerizing. Bipin dazu drew my attention. Following his gaze I noticed a large group of spotted dears drinking water at a water body located near the watch tower. I started clicking my camera immediately and that resulted in the group disappearing into the forest. The fault was entirely mine. I apologized to Bipin dazu.
After spending another half an hour we decided to get back to the homestay. Today is my last day, after lunch my jeep would come to pick me up. With a heavy heart I promised to myself that I would be back again. And next time I would spend at least a couple of nights to better experience the life of these people who have been living in a forest village which has been hardly known or heard of.
Home Stay Contact
Binda Home Stay, Bhutia Basti (Sasafu)
Contact: Arun Chhetri
Phone: 0 9197206474; 9593826563; 7063394988