Delhi, Oct. 13 -- Like dry earth lapping up the first rain, we sat with our eyes glued to the glass window of the bus, drinking in the passing scenery as the bus sped along the highway. The blue sky dotted with scraps of cotton wool clouds, the green expanse of paddy fields with ears of corn turning golden, tufts of 'kaas' (Saccharum spontaneum) nodding their feathery white heads in the wind - after over seven months of pandemic-induced confinement, we could not appreciate enough these eternal images of autumn breaking over rural West Bengal.

The world has changed since we travelled last. Gone were those carefree days when you could just put a few clothes in a bag and set off overnight. Now it was all about choosing less crowded areas, p...