Monday, May 19, 2008


My first trip to the sea was as an almost-eight year old. My parents, my brother and I went to stay for a few days at Digha, which perhaps is the beach-with-the-most-Bengali-footfalls. In the early 1980s, it was also the only beach-developed-as-a-tourist-destination in West Bengal. We boarded a WBTDC (West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation) bus in the morning, and, after a couple of stops (one for food, one for a breakdown, both accepted as ‘nothing out-of-the-ordinary’), reached Digha after sundown. Though my father took us to the beach and pointed out towards the sea, my journey-tired eyes saw only darkness and heard a muffled, equally-repeated roar – my first sea-sensation.

The next morning, after an impatient breakfast at the guest-house where we were staying, we went down to the sea, carrying towels and expectations. And though I think we lost the towel during our stay there, my expectations were more than met.

Digha is a very ordinary beach along the Bay of Bengal – brown waters, small waves, brown sands. Nowadays it is spoilt by erosion and by hordes of hooligans who go there to get always-drunk and sometimes-drowned.

But in the early eighties, there weren’t too many people around. The repeated roar of the sea was companioned by the ceaseless whispering of the casuarina and pine trees lining the beach. The middling brown waves thrilled my new-to-the-sea eyes and I loved jumping up along the wave’s curve in waist-deep water, before the foam broke some distance away and rush-rolled onto the sand. My brother was too young to enjoy the challenge of the waves, though, and started screaming when I went into the water, fearing maybe that I would drown.

The brown sands were prettified by thousands of tiny, pastel-patterned shells in pink, yellow, peach and green – all scattered here and there for me and bhai (brother) to find and hoard.

Mornings were for bathing and building sand-hills-and-caves. In the evenings, we would stroll on the beach, collecting shells, drinking coconut-water, watching the sun set slow-and-orange into the sea. And sit quietly, gazing out into the distance, wondering about the other shores that the water touched, feeling the cool-salty breeze, listening to the loud-faint-loud-faint rumble of the sea…till it became too dark to see the waves.

That sound stayed with me, captured in a large, orange, conch-shaped sea-shell (purchased, not collected). We did not have a camera, so there are no photographs of that trip, only seashells and memories.



Lazyani said...

I have lovely memories of Digha too. Of its ebbing tide and the normal small friendly waves during high tide. There are memories of nightlong bus trips from Durgapur and the lovely 'illish mach' being carried back. Overall, it is a quiet calm warm memory.
However, i still remember one night during one such trip when nature showed its strength. The normally friendly sea blew up waves of immense proportions which lashed the stone bound shore repeatedly with a sound that was heard from a distance. It was a full moon night and it felt eerie and intimidating to be standing there.
These days I prefer Shankarpur and Mandarmoni.

Random me said...

Living on a small Island the sea was never far away so I have no memory of the first time I saw it. I do remember going to the beach and playing a game which involved jumping over the waves as they came in, and being absolutely freezing because no matter how warm the weather the sea around the Irish coastline is icy!!

mm said...

My first encounter with the sea was at Digha- but I have no memories. I was perhaps only a year and half and so I have only
heard it being mentioned by my mother.
Later on in life I remember our trip to Goa and that was when I was about 8-9 years old.
But no details in my memory either from this trip.
The trip that I remember was when we were in Bombay - we went on a trip to the Elephanta caves and were caught in a
storm on our way back. It was somewhat scary - we were not sure whether we would make it back home in time.

Aleta said...

Oh, how absolutely lovely ~ you paint a sweet picture of memories.

I remember going to the beach with my family. My father knew someone who owned a condo on the Gulf Shores. We would go there during the summer months. My brother and I would walk in the tall sand dunes and later fly kites on the sandy beaches. Thank you for the delightful memory recall!

PaUnCh said...

Hey nice blog...enjoied reading it.

life is good said...

i remember goin puri ...atleast 7 times...and the memories ...some are funny ...some are touchy ...some with expression ...some without one
loved the post

Piscean Angel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Piscean Angel said...

Tho' I'm from Calcutta too & as u rightly pointed out Digha's the beach with the most bengali footfalls ... my 1st trip to the beach was when I went to Puri at the age of 9. And Puri, if I'm not wrong, can claim to be the 2nd beach with most bengali footfalls. :) It was a great trip since we were a huge group of abt 12 ppl including me, my mom & a lot of mom's extended family consisting of several didas (maternal grandmoms) & mamas (maternal uncles). We had booked a holiday home & sometimes one of the dida's cooked delicious food for us & sometimes we ate out. It was a wonderful holiday !!! Special mention is the sea at Puri which is a little more rough than the one in Digha ... but absolutely splendid !!!

tina said...

i remember brief scenes from my first family outing to the sea. i was five or six years old, wary of the tide that lapped at the wet sand but still going out to meet it nonetheless. once or twice my mother carried me into the water like a baby about to be christened; the seawater caressed my head as a fond godmother would greet a favorite child. lunch was a feast of large crab and various kinds of broiled fish and cooked vegetables, as well as the requisite platters of white rice; my family and my father's relatives crowded around the split-bamboo table with gusto, and after the meal was over all the children were warned to stay out of the water for a full thirty minutes to prevent indigestion. i contented myself with playing in the sand and watching as the waves sheepishly reached for my legs and retreated hastily, never quite meeting their goal.