BENGALURU: Mother nature overflows with mystery, inexplicable magic, mind-boggling serendipity, and intriguing oddities. Bakkhali beach near Kolkata has such fecund manifestations of nature that it gives you goosebumps.
It was here that I experienced something that I haven't before. Bakkhali is in the South 24 Parganas district and there couldn't be anything strange about it, right? It is almost four hours of drive from Kolkata and I was travelling with my parents and family friends. Though there are bus and train services from Kolkata to Bakkhali, the best way to get there is by car. The journey through Diamond Harbour and Kakdwip to Namkhana, where the car is transported across the Hatania-Doania creek in a ferry is mesmerising as you ride amidst the lush greens and blues. The ferry service is available from 7 am to 11 pm except during the lunch hour from 12 noon to 1.45 pm.
We left home around 7 am and checked in at a guest house in Bakkhali for a quick breakfast. We then went to the beach which was just a walking distance from the guest house. It seemed all pretty normal at first with the waves lashing at the shore in the afternoon. We returned to the beach in the late evening with plans to bathe in the sea after visiting a zoo in its twin city Frasergunj, which is just a few kilometres away.
When we returned, it seemed almost as if the sea had vanished in the darkness. The dead silence of the sea and the dimly lit shore was eerie. I couldn't see or feel the presence of water anywhere near me. The shore was poorly lit by the lights of the stalls where the fishermen fried fish for their customers. The customers were given the choice to choose the fish that they wanted. We got a few plates of fish fries ourselves and decided to stay back to witness the ambiguity of nature. That's when we learnt the mystery of the beach and the reason why people aren't allowed to be there after 9 pm. The water recedes from 1 to 4 kilometers during the ebbing tide. We weren't allowed to go further towards the sea as it was pitch dark and the sea is believed to get unpredictable. We strolled at a safe distance. The tide started increasing around 8.15 pm again and by 8.30 pm, we could see the sea foam slowly returning and moving towards us. The hawkers, visitors, all had to leave the beach as it is said to get dangerous later in the night. We returned to our rooms and changed our plans of bathing in the sea to the next morning.
The next day, we went to the beach at 7 am. The water in the sea had receded again. We could notice the wet sand and learn how far the water had got onto the shore the last night. We walked longer, a kilometre more than the previous day to reach the sea which was now still, calm and tranquil. There were no tides, no waves. It seemed like the sea had calmed down early in the morning after throwing a fit the previous night. We could see patches of land in the sea and it looked more like an island than any ordinary beach. The thalassotherapy (bathing in sea water), sight of water birds and plants were marvellous. There were very few people enjoying the sea bath like us. The rest stood as onlookers. They probably were afraid to get into the water. We were also asked to be at a safe distance as you never know when the waves would throw a tantrum and take you with them. At 8 am, the patches of land started disappearing into the water and the birds flew away. The water level started increasing and the sea got back to its usual self. It was surprising to note that nature kept its date with the clock. It is indeed very punctual where the tides are concerned. The same timings are followed everyday. No one really knows the reason behind this unusual behaviour of the sea. Some say it's because of the magnetic forces of the earth. We left for Kolkata soon after, so that we could cross the Hatania-Doania in the ferry before the lunch break and reach home early in the evening.
This beach is indeed a good spot for families for an excursion on the weekends. Pre-booking of the accommodations during the weekends and festivals will be helpful as finding a place otherwise could be difficult.
The fish is inexpensive here. The creamy mud pot tea is another speciality of the place which the non-Bengalis should especially try. You may also pack your own stuff for a barbecue on the beach.