I have been traveling from Kolkata to Siliguri and vice-versa in train regularly for three years. There has always been a struggle booking tickets owing to a large number of tourists visiting North Bengal and you know well why. And therefore I have turned to General compartments, generally ladies-less money and fewer inconveniences in booking tickets.
I found a different atmosphere there. You see the real picture or a part of the real picture of India. Yes, they belong to the lower strata of the society, the working class of India. Unsurprisingly,the Indian Railway has its master plans to make the 12 hours journey uncomfortable for the ones ‘who pay less’- Lesser space, miserable seats. In Ladies compartment,t it seems you are stuffed in a small cargo box to be transported to one of Hitler’s Concentration camps. Anyways, what you see are a section of Indian society or a section of people living in Bengal and its hinterland.
They are Bengali, Nepali, Bihari but you will hardly find a Rajbangsi. Their count is really less. Say, out of 100 only 10 in the general compartments or 5 out of 50 in ladies compartment (Reserved compartments-the number of passengers are too large to assume).Approximately 1/10 of them are Rajbangsi in both these compartments traveling to Kolkata to Siliguri and vice-versa.
The most predictable reason to this may be that we are comfortable in our blissful North Bengal. The weather conditions, the natural ambiance and productivity of the soil in Dooars and Terai areas have ensured our long stay in North Bengal. Our ancestors have for this reason hardly ventured beyond the regions of Siliguri, Jalpaiguri or Coochbehar. Also its location in the hinterland, thick forest cover, poor infrastructure, possibly added to this timidity. There is a tendency for us to limit ourselves to this region still. Moreover, our kith and kin (shagai ,shodor) are located in and around this region, which cancels further possibilities of traveling as shagai shodor.
But what about education? Students generally study in the local colleges. North Bengal University and Panchanan Barma University are there to cater the remaining needs. Students belonging to different communities living in and around North Bengal are moving in Kolkata and opting for renowned universities. There are Rajbangsi students surely but the count is again very less. I have seen very few traveling and number of girls are even low. The question remains that are we too comfortable with our present situation, with no enthusiasm and zeal that we choose not to move out and explore new things? Or are there very few students belonging to the particular strata generally the working class? And where are they? Are they working as laborers or tilling lands? And Why?
You can find men, mostly laborers or few working men traveling short distances say from Kishanganj to Siliguri , but women between the age group of 30 and 60 are scarce (I am focused on the condition of general compartments and mobilization of a particular section of the society). Women from other communities are there, you see them, you hear them but no Rajbangsi women will be there to speak or take a look at you. Moreover, the problem in recognizing them becomes very difficult for they do not speak in our tongue-desi.
Mostly Rajbangsi women are involved in domestic chores, sometimes in agricultural or economical life. You can see them in markets or haats selling vegetables or rice flakes but not moving in Kolkata to do the same business. They are limited to certain areas. They break stones in balason and work as house maids, but are not ready to move out for a better life. They are afraid. Why? Maybe they fear their ignorance or their lack. Then where lays the darkness? I think, within us.
-NABANITA ROY (NOYA)