Deserted Paths of North Bengal

Tejaswinee Roychowdhury

Paths, whether footbridges or dirt roads or railroads, indisputably exist with a purpose. They were never intended to be deserted when they were created. But paths are deserted, as though such a fate is inevitable.

I often wonder: Do they face existential crises when they are deserted? Do they continue to stand alone with hope and faith or do they continue to stand out of helplessness?

But the question that haunts me is this: Are they wary of the indifference of their surroundings? To me, the word ‘empty’ signifies emotional emptiness, and the word ‘spaces’ means physical places; but when I put the two words together, ‘empty spaces’ remind me of the indifference of the universe towards deserted places.

Through this photograph series, allow me to take you to three deserted paths I found during my 2020 pre-pandemic trip to the northern districts of West Bengal in India – or as we collectively call them, North Bengal. There were tourists around me, albeit a handful, yet these paths stood deserted either completely or for a moment in time.

Suntaleykhola, a village and tourist attraction in Eastnar Forest (Gorubathan, Kalimpong District in West Bengal, India). A footbridge stands over a stream, alone and drenched in rain while the hills and her trees remain indifferent.

Jaldapara National Park, home to the largest population of the nearly extinct Indian one-horned rhinos, at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas on the banks of the Torsa River (Alipurduar District in West Bengal, India). A dirt road stands in the middle of a clearing, alone, while the forest and her creatures remain indifferent.

Ellenbarrie Tea Garden, a privately owned tea estate between National Highway 17 and the Teesta River (Malbazar, Jalpaiguri District of West Bengal, India). A railroad stands in the middle of a tea garden, alone while the tea plantations and their underpaid workers remain indifferent.

Tejaswinee Roychowdhury is an Indian lawyer, writer, poet, artist and photographer. Her works have been published worldwide and can be found on her website. Twitter (@TejaswineeRC).