- posted 15 years ago
Santiniketan (or Shantiniketan - don't get me started on the vagaries of transliterating Bengali into the alphabet that brought you this message) is where Rabindranath Tagore spent most of the second half of his life. His artistic and philosophical legacy is enshrined there in a number of physical and institutional forms. The village is about two and a half hours from Calcutta by train, and it's a popular trip.
Traveling there is different from riding other trains in India. There are tourists from all over the world, lots of whom are young and footloose. There's live music from buskers of the Baul ethnic minority. Once the train gets under way, it's as if a party has begun.
There's tea on the train, but it's different, too. No milk tea on the Santiniketan Express, but a lemony infusion. What's really unusual about it is that it's dosed with a mineral known as black salt. I haven't found out exactly what black salt is, but I learned enough for my purposes about the tea made with it from the first sip. You'd probably enjoy it if you sincerely love rotten eggs. I found the sulfurous taste loathsome, and was glad that, as always, railroad tea was served in three-ounce cups.