district: south 24 parganas
state: west bengal
location: some 150 km from kolkata via NH 117
average cost per head: rs 1000 (in a group of seven)
mode of transportation: chevrolet tavera (ac)
stay: hotel ananya (ac room, rs 800 for double bed occupancy)
food: local bengali cuisine at a restaurant
fame: beach, mangroves, deltaic islands
|route to bakkhali|
“Chotu jaldi kar” Krish da told me with a frenzy that I had to stop submitting the jobs one after another and readied myself to leave for his place. I was in hastened mood because I had to generate a print but the jobs just wouldn’t stop abending. The morning of Friday itself Pinaki da had asked me, “Chotu impression?” to which I said, “Bad!” and I didn’t want to repeat the same on Monday too. It was already 7 in the night and the next day, early the morning of Saturday I had to embark on a day long journey to Bakkhali, a sleepy beach washed by the waters of Bay of Bengal. I was to stay at Krish da’s place for the night and since it was a good 2 hrs away from office we had to leave early. I couldn’t have gone to my home and taken the car from Salt Lake early the next morning and moreover it had been ages being to a Bengal village and having the luchi tarkari. We reached his place near Amtala quite in time taking a route where I had been for the very first time. The bike ride was awesome and as we neared his place the air became fresher with the smell of tree blossom and the sky clearer revealing thousands and millions of twinkling stars. I had a nice dinner and a good sleep and woke up early to find the place much more beautiful than I had imagined it in the dead of the night.
|a village pond in bengal|
Bakkhali, one of the numerous deltaic islands, is located at the western fringes of the Ganges delta in the district of South 24 Parganas and the world famous home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, the Sundarbans isn’t far away from here, a few miles towards the east. We had planned a trip to Lothian wildlife sanctuary too later in the day but I knew it looked a distant possibility owing to time constraint. Vineet bhaiya who had sounded the laziest on Friday actually turned out to be the most active and even before I could open my eyes on Saturday morning I got a call from him saying he had already set up from Salt Lake to pick up the rest. Krish da and I were reluctant to wake up and dismissing Vineet bhaiya’s call as a prank got some more sleep and readied ourselves at a snail’s pace and by the time we reached Amtala bus stop Vineet bhaiya, Saurav da, Nilanjana di, Piyush bhaiya and his wife were already waiting with the Chevrolet Tavera for almost half an hour. We set off on the trip with much enthusiasm and the greenery on both the sides of NH 117 was too beautiful to miss.
|a delicious hilsa catch|
The highway was narrow and the car drove slowly but the green fields, the trees, the passing villages and the sleepy crowded towns more than made up for it. The weather played hide and seek with irritating spells of rain and intense sunshine but we seemed to mind little inside our air-conditioned car. The seven of us ate, joked and made great fun. My eating habits and photography skills, Krish da’s obsession with girls, Bollywood and its music, Saurav da’s onsite trips and his love for Barcelona and Venice, etc were the topic of discussion. Time passed quickly and we reached Namkhana where we had to cross the Hatania Doania creek on a trawler and that was certainly an experience. I could see boats full of delicious hilsa fish and flags furling high in the sea breeze. Namkhana was very close to sea and the air was high with humidity and salt but nobody seemed to mind the discomfort. Vineet bhaiya was curious why there wasn’t a bridge crossing the busy creek to which I said, “huge ships keep passing” to which he replied, “can’t they make a Tower Bridge kind of thing here?” We laughed to the proposal and continued on our way to Bakkhali after having being ferried across the creek.
|the hatania doania creek at namkhana|
We reached hotel Ananya sometime when the sun was just overhead and saw scores of mighty windmills seeing which I showed the enthusiasm of a child. I was seeing them for the first time after all. We took rest for a while and off for the beach. I had decided not to go into the sea and do photography instead but the mighty waves quelled the promise I had made to myself and I just couldn’t resist the invite. I had to walk all the way back to the hotel for changing and the pucca road baked by the scorching sun burnt my naked feet but I took some good photographs on the way to the hotel and made it a point to return to the beach on a van. The sea waves weren’t strong enough and failed to impress me the third time in a row after Mandarmani and Tajpur. Digha is still the only beach where the waves were magically dangerous.
Vineet bhaiya bathing in the sea with his specs fixed was a sight to see and after almost an hour of fun in the water we went back to the hotel, got fresh and had our lunch at around 4pm. It was a fantastic spread of rice, dal, sabji, sorsher ilish, chicken, chingri, salad, papad and chutney and I ate like crazy right till my neck and I could take no more. We had masala pan and left for Henry Island, a landscaped resort of sorts that got inundated at high tide. It wasn’t technically an island and had a beach too, more beautiful than we had at Bakkhali, plus mangroves, which I was seeing for the first time in my life. It was an amazing place for sure. The beach had hundreds of red crabs (species still unknown), a crocodile carcass, some sea birds, a beautiful rainbow, the amazing patterns made by the sea water hitting the shore and a handful of beautiful girls. The faint rainbow across the vast endless horizon over the sea is one scene I would never forget besides the windmills I saw in the open green fields. It was a memorable trip. By the time we left Henry Island it was already dark and we were quite late. We had some tea, packed our bags and off to the City of Joy.
We were all very tired but still managed to have enough laughs on the return journey which mostly centered on Krish da and the mindless songs that came from the CD which he had got from Diamond Harbor. We had a brief stopover at DH from where the view of river Hooghly was amazing to say the least. We reached Kolkata at around 11pm and everyone kept getting down at their respective places. Vineet bhaiya and I were the last to get down at Salt Lake. It was almost the middle of the night so I decide to rest my tired soul in the air conditioned room of Vineet bhaiya. It was one of the finest trips I had and being with such awesome seniors made it all the more memorable.