The Bong Getaway, photo essay by Akash Ganguly
After a long discussion over tea we finally reached a conclusion – Digha. Everybody was excited. Even Grandma, who, by now, knew Digha like the back of her palm. And why not! The entire family was finally going to spend some quality time together. Me? I was skeptical about what the place had to offer. Neither did I particularly like the name of the place and nor did my opinion matter.
I am the “guy with the camera” member of the family and photography is the only reason I had agreed to travel.
The next couple of days saw us get into bag-pack mode. Instructions were given and obeyed. Tickets were booked, rooms reserved and we were good to go. Digha is located about 200 kilometers away from the City of Joy and it is the third vertex of the Bengali pilgrimage triangle – Digha, Puri and Darjeeling. Any true Bengali would have visited these at least once in their lifetime. I hate belonging to that category.
Reaching Digha Flag Station was the first step to forgetting all negativities. The air had a freshness that could clean one’s heart of all skepticism. We reached the hotel and in no time I was out with my Nikon. The beach was littered with people, the sea was not blue and the sky had a whitewashed appearance to it. I liked it. The place had a rhythm of its own; everything seemed to rhyme with the sound of the waves rising and falling. I had to go and dip my feet in the cold water. One could sit on the beach and stare at the infinite expanse of water for hours and ponder about life. By this time, my family had also come to the beach and I was summoned to click some pictures. I did my job and left again to continue with my exploration. The beach and the streets were laden with small stalls selling tea and food. The crowd’s favorite is the “jhal-muri and chaa”. Coconuts too were abundantly available. Everybody has their share of the sweet water and the tender, creamy flesh of the tropical fruit on their trip to Digha. It suddenly is everybody’s favorite fruit. I laughed and bought one for myself. Photography is tiring, after all.
I had expected to see dogs, but I could find only goats wherever. I had expected to see dogs, but to my surprise I could find only goats wherever I looked. They were as abundant as the coconut stalls and gobbled up all the remains of the tender coconuts. Few people were scared of them and the stall owners tried to shoo them away with sticks with a lot of showmanship. To attract the attention of the probable customers, I guessed. They too knew that the goats will be back in no time. I located two crows perched on signboards with their breakfast held tightly in their beaks. Life in Digha seemed to revolve around the basics necessity- food. Oh, and selfies. God!
Post lunch, I found myself wandering aimlessly on the sands. I wanted to see the sun set; I had a few shots in mind. Two goats sat a few meters away from me. I guessed they were Bengali goats and were enjoying their daily dose of post-lunch siesta like everybody else. I stared into the horizon and lost track of time. The sun was setting and I saw it. The camera was in my hands, but I felt a sense of calmness watching the sun hide in the horizon with my eyes. I did not want to lose the moment in adjusting the camera settings for the perfect shot. This was perfect anyway.
As the evening began, the place began bustling with life again. I took a walk around the streets. There were lines of stalls selling the exact same things under the dim light of a single bulb. The bigger shops could afford tube lights. Showpieces and chandeliers made of shells dominated the display. The artistry was brilliant.
On my way back to the hotel, I looked up and saw the full moon shining down at me. The sea looked serene. Somehow, I did not feel like going indoors, inside the four walls that always surround me in the city. I returned to the sellers, the goats and the unknown people again. A sense of lethargy had come down upon the seashore. It was a lot quieter now. It actually felt good to be surrounded by faces I did not recognize. Amidst all the unnamed people, I could truly be myself. Far on my left, I located another guy sitting away from the crowds, on the rocks, watching the waves. I wondered about his story, about who and what he might be. Funnily enough, my thoughts had drifted from being about him to me without me even realizing it. The ring of my phone interrupted my contemplation and I was summoned back to my hotel room immediately. I had been away from their sight for a little too long.
As I walked back to the hotel, I looked back for the last time that day and smiled at the sea and its waves. I was just glad that I came and I could not wait for the sun to rise again.
(Written by Chandrima Ghosh)