Mandarmoni-a rhapsody on sea
The car lurched down the steep stony embankments and suddenly before my stunned eyes a rhapsody on sea –the beachside hamlet of Mandarmoni burst open in its full splendor and glory basking in the afternoon sun.
As the tyres spin their way through the longest motorable beach you have a dejavu feeling of a set of a Bollywood blockbuster as the sun kissed beach lapped by the gentle surf shimmers- trying to embrace the distant horizon and as you are cruising on the beach, you wonder at the creative power of God Almighty.
If you have planned for a quick weekend getaway from Kolkata, to shed the drudgery of everyday grind at a place unfettered by hustle and bustle of metro life, Mandarmoni is the place to go. Situated at about 175 Km and a three hour leisurely drive from the heart of Kolkata and with a galaxy of beachside hotels lining the small sleepy hamlet it is an ideal weekend getaway. Book your stay online on a host of travel portals offering you rooms ranging from 1200/ to 2400/ on a twin sharing basis and depending on the amenities, be sure it is a beach side property to stay next to the sea. Be sure to carry cash instead of plastic money as most of the hotels do not have a card reader and also load your favourite beverages if you worship Bachus as they are available at a premium around the roadside shacks where the quality is a suspect. A set of sunglasses, sunscreens, wide brimmed hat, swimming shorts, loafers and a soothing calamine lotion to soothe your sunburn completes you itinerary.
Have a leisurely breakfast and set yourself on the road to Vidyasagar Setu, and as you cross the engineering marvel latch on to Koyna expressway and head for NH6 as the expressway gently curves towards the left just before the over bridge to Dunlop and head straight for the sixlane highway to Kolaghat.As soon as the thermal towers of Kolaghat starts looming in the horizon- indulge in a delightful gastronomic spread at the Shere Punjab joint before you hit the road to Contai via Tamluk. As soon as you reach Contai be sure to tank up your car and cash as you get neither of them till you reach Mandarmoni. As you reach the hamlet of Chawlkhola on the Digha Contai road take the left turn towards Mandarmoni –a 13km drive weaving through the lanes and bylanes untouched thankfully by the tourism department of West Bengal where the villages are still warped in an era of fossilized fantasy. Huge speed breakers to be negotiated with care lest you lose your undercarriage, giving the right of way to the ambling ducks with their ducklings and goats, giving the speeding tuk-tuks and urchins a wide berth-you sometimes rue your decision for the weekend misadventure till your car hits the sea beach and suddenly your tensed up mind is wiped clean, the brow creases flatten out as you are into a rhapsody of sun, sea and sand.
The beach is a mixture of sand and clayey soil making it hard and motor able and it was heartening to see that the seashore had still maintained its pristine virginity uncluttered by sea of humanity and the sea of nonrecyclable garbage that inevitably follow them. Gentle waves breaking down into a gentle surf as if the sea is whispering into your ears and the beach slopes down gently into the sea and you could walk almost a km inside the water which only rises waist high. The sea water albeit has not escaped the vagaries of mankind with the oil spill from the passing seafaring vessels making it albeit a little muddy and oily.
Most of the beach property hotels are located idyllically facing the sea with huge French windows providing a picturesque view of the whole scenic panorama, try to choose one as near to the sea as you can. Most of the hotels have well equipped dining hall and we just gorged ourselves with the hot fresh authentic Bengali cuisine of hilsas, crabs and prawns. A host of shacks and eating joints have also sprung up outside these hotels and therefore when you book your rooms do not include the meals as then you have the liberty to saunter out at ease and have a sumptuous meal of crabs and local snacks of puffed rice and pakoras at a very nominal rate.
We got up early in the morning to catch the first glimpse of the rising sun and the creator came out to oblige us with an array of paint brushes as the darkness gave way to shimmering light and as the morning sun made its way up from the shimmering waters the world stood still in the bright golden glow of its ambient light. The gentle whisper of the surf , the salty cool early morning breeze, the silhouetted fishing boat against the huge ball of fire with cool seawater swirling at your feet with the crustaceans, starfishes and shells nibbling at your feet you feel you have attained salvation. You do not want the magical moment to pass by as your reverie is broken suddenly by the shout of the fisherman winding up their huge Chinese fishing nets, the shout of the ‘tuk-tuks’ and the SUV’s serving as supply chains to the beachside resorts.
Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge engrosses us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among the seaweed and whitened timber like the homesick refugees of a long war.Therefore do not forget to carry your shell collection bag and as the day warms up the seashells are there on the virgin beach in abandon to take a pick and with the slithering worms, the lazy starfishes and the busy cormorants propelling their busy legs like a helicopter propeller you have lots of company as the breakfast time approaches. Alternatively you can take a ‘tuk-tuk’ to the nearby delta or mohana as the local dialect goes for a meager Rs.100/ and enjoy the estuarine tributaries and the red crabs.
A generous swathe of sunscreens, swimming trunks and after a sumptuous breakfast you are ready for an exhilarating bathing session. Gentle surf, gentle waves gentle sloping beach where you can walk for a km inside the sea with only waist high water leaves you wanting for more till you spot the omnipresent ‘dabwallah’ strategically placed with his wares at your exit point to quench your parched throat- rejuvenate yourself and dive back for another swimming session till lunch. If you are outdoor sports type, you can carry your Frisbees, cricket and football set to enhance the thrill. Be sure to take an after bath in the hotel foyer to wash down the sun and the sand or you are bound to make your room a mess.
The sumptuous lunch, early morning antics and mid morning swim will lull you into a deep dreamfree afternoon siesta and you wake up rejuvenated to take on the evening.The evening hours unlike the morning is a bit crowded at the beach with burgeoning water sports like zipping around in sandbuggies at a cost of about Rs.500/ gives you an added touch of adventure with beachside shacks doing a brisk business ,having exotic items o their menu list.
Again it was time for the creator to come out with his paint brushes as the setting sun gradually settled down to be devoured by the sea in the far horizon.The dark velvety night, punctuated by few shimmering lights of the passing merchant vessels, the gentle whispering surf and the dimly lit beach from the reflected resort lights beckons you to a lazy afterdinner walk where you are humbled by the enormity of the universe as the twinkling star canopied sky silently watches over you.
Next it was time to bid goodbye, and my ten year old son gave the ultimate tribute to the great weekend by asking me “when are we coming back Mom?” and I promised I will be back again soon because ‘The cure for anything is salt water-sweat, tears or the sea”