Thursday, 16 July 2015


It was ten minutes to 5 in the morning when I woke up. The room was already in a mini scurry by then. Everyone was putting on their beach clothes and was as ready as ever to explore the beach at dawn. Sitting up groggily on the bed, I stifled my yawn and tried to look very excited. Truth be told, I'm kind of a late riser. Everywhere I'd visited, I'd never woken up at dawn just to look at the sky except when we had to go somewhere special. So what was different this time? I smiled, chanting the promise I'd made to myself before setting on this tour. From now on, I would enjoy every bit and second observing the nature around me, and keep the sleeping part for when I get back home.

Fifteen minutes later I was walking by the paved path of the resort towards the beach. The sky was a deep shade of blue and black. Clouds were storming in more than ever. There goes my chance of seeing the sunrise, I thought sadly. But I tried to keep my spirits uplifted. Anyhow we wouldn't have got a good picture of sunrise even if the sky was clear. The Sun rose from the exact opposite side of the sea, that is, from behind the line of resorts on the beach. That was truly surprising, but I was nevertheless happier seeing that I hadn't missed much after all.

It was, what you could call, a romantic weather. The sky was threatening to pour on us, but we knew there was fat chance of that happening. The wind was on the verge of blowing us away, and I was sure the breeze had got stronger than last night. Early morning trekkers were hurrying past, breaking the solitude. It still amazed me that we were the only persons out there. It was Friday, and I knew that people would be arriving around noon to convert that situation. But as long as that was not happening, I was loving it. Seemed like Mandarmoni was a rare tourist spot right then, instead of being one of the most popular. I was contemplating this while getting on a trekker, my eyes always set on the vast unfurling turmoil taking place in the heart of the sea.

The sea side in early morning, with the Sun creeping out from behind the resorts

The trekker took a few minutes, but we finally reached what was the end of Mandarmoni beach, the mouth of Jolda river, entering the sea.  A mohana was one of my favourite kinds of places. It didn't look deep, there was a boat on the far side, and my mom wondered whether we would be able to walk barefooted through the river. But a woman who was selling tea in her stall on wheels said that the river was too deep in the middle, nearly neck-height, and anyway there was quicksand beneath the water. I found myself recalling the proverb, looks can be deceiving. Having a wonderful tea in the blowing salty wind made one of my best spent mornings ever, and I was glad I had woken up.

Jolda river and a boat. The other side of the river is Tajpur.

The Mohana

There was a surprise in store for us, in the form of beautiful red crabs scuttling across the sand. I was delighted. I saw thousands of them, peeking through holes in the sand and creeping back into them whenever we drew near. They were quadrangular in shape with little claws through their sides. Their colour was more beautiful than blood red. Only nature could gift such a perfect colour to the ones she shelters. From their front two antennas stuck out, which also seemed to have white eyes on their top. Most were shy, some had the courage to approach us, and one posed for a considerable time for us to take its photos. On the far side of the river, I could see even more red crabs sitting on the sand enjoying leisure. There was a reason trekkers were not allowed very near the river. The oil and heat and smoke and more importantly, the noise scared the hell out of them. I wondered if the sand near our resorts had crabs too, and if they were too scared to come out.

Posing for a photograph, the Red Crab is one of the most endangered species out there

Returning to Digante, another bath in the sea was necessary, and it was as much fun as the last one. In the back of our mind however, we knew he had to change resorts that day. It was the perk of booking hotels in the last minute, and unfortunately for the two days we spent there, we had to sleep at night in two different resorts. Around 11, we arrived at Marino Beach Resort, and I found myself coming back to the exact same spot where I had been that morning. It was the last resort on the beach, and across the river, I came to know that it was no longer Mandarmoni there, but Tajpur.

People bathing in the afternoon in front of the resort 

Marino Beach Resort

Marino Beach Resort was just as great as Digante, if not better. Owing to the extreme heat, we could only explore the surroundings in the afternoon. There was a small park and I sat on the swing, staring into the sea and occasionally chatting with my sister. Some minutes later, we were yet again on a trekker but this time, it was to go water sporting. This was one thing I hadn't done before and I was excited. We went on a Gemini Boat Ride, 8 people in all, into the sea. The sea had turned so greenish there that I was sure grass would sprout out of the water anytime. The surface didn't look like water, rather a thick green carpet flowing indefinitely creating waves and turbulence all over. I was mesmerised, and a few times I shouted in pure delight. It, though, was nothing compared to the amazing parasailing we did on the beach. Me and my sister, hooked tightly to the parachute, screamed loudly as we took off from the ground, and within a few seconds, we could see kilometres of sea on one side and fresh green agricultural lands and mud huts on the other. Yes, I'd never dangled before from such a great height, but the beauty of the scenery whipped away all the fear from my mind. We landed near our hotel, happy and content. Once in a lifetime experience, and I was glad I didn't miss that opportunity.

In the garden of Marino Resort

Gemini Boat Ride


We spent the rest of the evening sitting in the little shack beside the resort entrance, laughing and discussing what a beautiful trip it had been. After all, we would have to pack our bags and head home the next morning, and secretly I was wishing to stay a few more days. The rest of the evening was uneventful, with me and the other children in the tour watching TV and drinking soft drinks and playing games. Night came, like the next morning, and this time I slept till 8 am. My body had already begun to show signs of fatigue and I didn't make myself do anything more than I wanted to. Breakfast and lunch passed in a blur, and suddenly it was time to go home. Bidding goodbye to the sea, and promising to come back in the future, we made way to our ride back at Chaulkhola. On the way, I was surprised that the sea had come so close to the resorts. It was the mother of high tides! The half kilometre we had to walk the other day, just gone, disappeared underwater! People were bathing nevertheless. Just a day, and the population of Mandarmoni had soared by some hundreds. One could think it was Digha, not the quaint beach I'd seen this morning.

At Chaulkhola, I couldn't put a finger on what seemed lacking, inspite of all the fun we had. Once we were on the bus, I suddenly got the answer. It was the absence of laughter, of glee, of undiluted happiness and a sense of fulfilment on everyone's face. Going back when nobody really wanted to, kind of established the fact the amazing time we had down there. In our busy scheduled life, it was a forced decision to go out and enjoy some free time, only later it turned out not forced at all, but straight from our heart. We had been longing for freedom, and a little burst of that brought out the best in all of us. Yes, now I had to return to college, but I wasn't feeling sullen. I was refreshed and charged. Irony, isn't it, how a tiring trip can energise you?

I smiled thinking, hell yes, Kolkata, here I come (back)!
[Information for some of my friends:
Bus for Mandarmoni left from Dharmatala Bus Terminal. Estimated bus fare depends. Varies from 300 to 500 rupees.
Trekker from Chaulkhola took 600 rupees to transport 13 of us, one-way to Mandarmoni.
Hotel fare AC rooms, which I suggest one should take during summer, varies between 2500 to 3500 rupees for one night.
Gemini Boat ride takes 8 people on board and charges 1000 rupees. So does Parasailing, but only for 2 people. The rest of the water sports, like Banana boat ride, or speedboat, or waterbike charge between 600 to 1500 for multiple persons.]

Sunday, 28 June 2015


A valley of yellow greeted our eyes as we got down from the trekker. There was a row of small one-bedroom houses, all coloured yellow, except for the reception and the restaurant, which were brown. On the far side of the row, there were four two-storied guest houses with balconies in each of them. Unfortunately due to our late booking, we hadn't acquired the top rooms. But we weren't complaining. The only thing we direly required was cool shelter from the Sun.

Laying on the bed in our air-conditioned room seemed like the only option at noon. Outside I could see what seemed like blazing fire, accentuated by the colour of the resort houses. It was so bright and so hot, we all became a tad disappointed at our opportunity of going to the beach being crushed.

Somehow we made ourselves go outside and trot towards the restaurant for lunch. We were hungry no doubt. A full Bengali meal was promised and delivered and that too to our heart's content.Once we were full and nourished, I began to observe the resort with more attention.

There was a small rectangular water body situated within the confines of the houses. The body was surrounded by two rows of shrubs well maintained by the resort workers. I could hear ducks quacking without pause and assumed they were somewhere near the water but couldn't see them. A paved path lay between the water body and the houses, the reception being at the end of the path. The reception with its roof thatched with hay, was clearly the midpoint of the whole resort compound. Two rabbits were sitting in a cage there, nibbling at anything they found interesting. The children ran to the beautiful creatures and tried to touch them, squealing in delight.

We did manage to find the ducks later though

The other side of the resort compound was made to look almost like a beach. Tall trees dotted the sandy area with hammocks suspended between them. It seemed like a fun place to be, but alas, the intolerable incorrigible heat! We decided to go out when the heat had ebbed a little, and that was when we could go to the seaside.

Children on the hammocks

We crashed into our beds and didn't wake up until 4.30. The weather was a little better by then and this was enough reason for us to change in our beach clothes and rush out together through the resort gate.

Clearly, it was low tide because we had to practically walk half a kilometer before we could reach the edge of the shore. The water was warm and caressed our feet as it broke around us in the form of greenish blue waves. Being a Thursday the place was nearly deserted; there was only one other family beside us, as far as our eyes could go. It was a splendid opportunity, we realized, and spread out as wide as we could to brace the incoming waves.

Beach at the time of low tide

I need not describe the sea to anyone; it's the same as in any other beach. One thing we did sorely miss was the sunset, courtesy to the tall columns of clouds which were suddenly rushing inland. After half an hour, we could feel the level rising and water reaching further towards the beach. The low tide was ending. Still we sat, feeling the force of this vast sea on our bodies as it rushed above our shoulders  and heads, drenching us fully in salt water. The sky had turned a mixture of orange and blue with pale clouds lingering below it. Behind us, motorbikes and trekkers were moving past the seashore to their destinations and I wondered how far they would go. A hint of darkness had slowly begun to creep in and we got up reluctantly, not really eager to be pulled away in the increasing current of the sea.

Having fun at the beach

Darkness began to descend 

Night-time was basking with the silver glow of the Moon as we had our snacks and swung comfortably in the garden hammocks. A part of me wanted to swing like this forever, looking at the sky and watching the moon looking right back at me amidst the swaying tree tops. Looking for a way to mobilize our feet, we went to the seashore once again.

The sea was roaring with life and a strong gust from the sea hit us, removing all traces of the hot weather we were actually in. The Moon overlooked the long sea beach and shone down its silver glow on the crashing waves, spluttering water all around. It felt like the silver water drops were flowing out of the sea and making their way to the mysterious sky, as if sending offerings to Heaven. For a moment, we all forgot our lives and just stood there, taking it all in. That moment made me believe that magic did exist. The beauty and vastness of Nature was magical itself, functioning in tandem with our heartbeats, yet beyond our contemplation and leaving us in awe. The silver sea etched a deep place in my mind and heart and I knew for sure that I would never forget that wonderful night by the sea.

Towards the resort gate in the evening

The Moon over the treetops

Monday, 15 June 2015


When you hear Mandarmoni, what do you envision? Somewhat like New Digha, but way cooler, fancier and kind of top-notch. You are not far from the mark actually. It is way cooler.

Decided just 5 days before our short trip, we weren’t sure if we could get any reservations in a bus or a seaside resort. Luckily through some old connections, we got reserved seats on an AC Volvo from Dharmatala Bus Terminal. Preparations were in full swing after that, but we still didn’t know what to expect there. Sure, I’d been to Digha, but I had no idea whether this neighbour would be any different. Plus, what with the sun raining heat waves upon us and frying us to death in Kolkata, we couldn’t imagine what the weather would be like at Mandarmoni. The seaside is supposed to be pleasant, right?

Following a tasty breakfast of luchi-ghugni at the bus terminal with family friends, we waited for the bus to arrive. The temperature had already begun to soar by 7 in the morning and we all wiped our faces in a futile attempt to keep ourselves sweat-free. The bus honked on its arrival and we climbed aboard. My first thought: Could any measure of gratitude BE ever sufficient for the cold hit of the air-conditioner on a day as hot as that? (Chandler-style)

Around 10, we got down at Chaulkhola. It is a junction village between the roads that lead to Digha and Mandarmoni, and is 14km away from the latter. The bus would continue to Digha and we would be en route to Mandarmoni on a trekker.


 We hailed a trekker from Chaulkhola

I am going to state directly: it was bloody hot out there! Without the humidity quotient, we felt like we just got out from the frying pan and went willingly into the fire. The trekker with its cool shed providing momentary relief, made its way through the village and vast farmlands (also an amusement park-under-construction), carrying 15 people in it, until we finally saw the horizon. Where land meets sea meets sky.

I thought we would stop right there, near the beach, but the trekker surprised me by turning and slowly launching itself on the yellow sand. Driving on the beach itself was something entirely new to me, not having that experience in any other beaches I’d visited (which were few to be honest). We could barely contain our excitement. After excitement, came pure joy as we banked right and directly entered the Digante Seaside Resort. I’d known we would live close to the sea, but this close?  This was amazing!

Mandarmoni boasts of a 13 km long motorable beach, probably the longest motorable beach road in India.


Digante Seaside Resort

Monday, 18 May 2015


Piku......motion se hi emotion

And its true to a T. As everyone has a rough idea, Bhaskor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan) has constipation. Piku (Deepika Padukone) is his working daughter, who takes care of his medical needs, his complaints, suggestions and erratic whims. Even after being irritated in her workplace meetings and date nights by Dad's complaints of colour and consistency of constipated stool, she puts up with him ------ how can you possibly make your big baby understand that what he's doing is irrational? He wants her to be a strong independent woman and not marry somewhere from where she couldn't take care of him during his needs. She wants him to stop whining all the time worrying unnecessarily about his health conditions (which seem normal except for the disturbed motion of the digestive tract).

Bhaskor Banerjee in many ways is a regular 70-year-old disease-riddled hypochondriac dad. His complaints and childish tantrums and weird discussions in front of other people gets to her daughter. But she remains silent; however her eyes scream in protest. After some time, her lips bend into a smile and she shakes her head, thinking about his silly notions and whimsical behaviour.

Then there is Rana, the cab company owner who drives the father-daughter duo to their hometown Kolkata. During their road trip, as Rana's twisted logic and cracky solutions begin to soften the bickering between the family members, the constipation condition starts to get better. Dad becomes better to reason with. Daughter opens up and relaxes. In many ways Rana acts as catalyst in the rebonding of emotions between them.

The famous cycling of Bhaskor shahib in the streets of Kolkata follow. He feels at home. He feels energised. He becomes happy. On returning home, he proclaims that it is his best day ever. And as you guessed it, is emotion se bhi motion juri hui hain. Best day ever equals know.

What happens in the end? I'm not going to tell that. That's for the viewers to find out. Dining table discussions of shit, road discussions of get the general idea. Shit is everywhere. It is a very light hearted film  with a very strong delivery of unconditional love. Yes, that kind of love does exist. For inspite of many flaws, Bhaskor Banerjee is Piku's best man ever. Every person watching this piece of art will definitely identify himself or herself with it.

Another thing of mention is the flawless acting by the best of actors in this age. I'll be surprised if one of them doesn't win an award for this. Shoojit Sircar has once again delivered his level best, and we as hindi cinema fans are grateful for his filmmaking gifts. Anupam Roy wins our bong hearts with pleasant naturalistic music in The Journey Song and Bezubaan.

It's a perfect movie for a weekend watch. Missing it would be a considerable loss. Grab your family, your friends, or just grab yourself and a tub of popcorn as you laugh and say "aww" and wipe a tear away. You won't regret it.