We just returned from our trip to Maheshganj Estate, Balakhana staying at the place (6thJuly 2018 to 8thJuly 2018) with my elder brother and his wife and of course my wife on the occasion my wife’s birthday on 7thJuly 2018. As I was familiar with the route to Krishnangar, Beharampore and Murshidabad, it wasn’t difficult finding the estate. Local people know it as ‘Ila Palchowdhuri’s Estate’. I came across this estate in the process of penning my latest thriller “Conundrum” while digging into heritage of Bengal.
The present descendent of Nafarchandra Palchoudhuri, Ranojit Palchowdhuri (ex-St Paul’s Darjeeling) and his good Gujrati wife (ex-Loreto) welcomed us cordially. On hot summer we were accompanied to our room. The cordiality of both then and during our stay was excellent. With my humble homework in relation to my novel on the background heritage of the Palchowdhuris, I had a rough idea of their background. Ranojit topped me with further details both verbally and with some Xeroxed literature he provided of their rich heritage. He is an excellent talker and it’s a pleasure to sit with him and talk on any issues. In Bengali we term it as “Nirvejal Adda”.
Of the acres now under his care, he claimed Palchowdhuris were left with14 acres now, of which the building frontage and small portion of the well-kept gardens is a feast to the eyes, sitting in the wide balcony with cane easy chairs and marble tables. I would say the best part of the stay there. Both husband and wife were sophisticated in their demeanour, polite, courteous and hospitable. This is the positive aspect of the estate.
Now, coming to its negativities. Despite the room rent of Rs 5000/- a night for AC, considering the rooms of that era with high ceilings, there was one 1.5-ton AC which could hardly quench the extreme heat and humidity outside. Such a room would need at least two of that sorts for basic cooling. He explained, since the property was centuries old, it needed more electric power, which would cost another 5 lakhs, which he wasn’t prepared to shell out. If there is a power-cut you are in shit having paid Rs 1000/- for A/C. No backup. The room had three beds, an old lounger with pre-historic curtains. No television anywhere. There was a WiFi, but not for all, password restricted, not disclosed to us, when even inferior standard hotels provide a free WiFi these days. The bathroom had a geyser (though we didn’t need it, run by gas), one I had first seen with a short telephonic shower hard to water the body unless you lean on shower curtains. The overhead shower was badly maintained with water trickling. In the end I had to fill the bucket for the bath.
Now coming to another vital issue – food. Included with room booking is morning tea (no room service) with biscuits in the veranda. You need to amble to veranda for morning tea. Breakfast (included with room rent) was in dining room with ‘one’ spread of milk & cornflakes, bread with butter/jam, eggs made to your choice, ‘poha’ or ‘upma’, fruits and coffee. And ample stories of heritage repeated for mesmerisation. Buffet lunch or dinner (non-vegetarian) costing Rs 500/- per person contained dal, lal sak, kumro katua data, jhingey-posto one piece of homely fish/meat (chicken or mutton) and dahi with one variety sweet.
My wife was lucky, as a celebration on her birthday, Mrs Palchowdhuri made a cake in her honour with it being cut and distributed as a desert.
If you are thinking of a trip to Maheshganj Estate, think of the following:
- · An undercooled room with basic amenities (TV, Wi-Fi, fridge, room service missing, non-smoking), substandard AC, shelling out Rs 5000/-
- · Whether the meals are worth Rs 500/- per person without a variety. I think this meal cannot be more than Rs 250/- at todays escalated rate.
- · Whether you are prepared to shell out Rs 5000/- per day + Rs 2000/- (for meals of a couple), i.e. Rs 7000/- per day for this ‘heritage’
- · If you compare with Mayfair Group of Hotels, you could get at 60 variety spread of breakfast with all meals included with the quality of their rooms, free all-round chips, tea/coffee, fridge, room service at Rs 7500/-
Only Mayfair doesn’t have a ‘heritage’ to sell except service.
If you are looking at ‘heritage’ and ‘price’ look at Itachuna Rajbari, Bawali Rajbari, Jhargram Rajbari – all have their humble history. When you want to spend the weekend outing does it matter which history is more glorious?
Choice is yours. If you decide to be there, you pay for the heritage, not comfort and quality. I consider the value for money prime in modern society than being swayed into past, losing track with reality.