A Trip to Cherish
by Suparna Banerjee
(Kolkata, West Bengal, India)
Last year our school arranged a trip for the teachers, far from the never-ceasing hue and cry of the city and closer to nature ー Digha. With the booking of the Hotel, our excitement reached its full bloom. Some were thrilled about the journey with colleagues for the first time. Some, for whom, the destination was unexplored, remained busy painting shades of the Sea in their imagination. Others were fully engrossed with the essence of freedom from the sameness of everyday life. Who couldn’t afford to think beyond the city, it was like a dream come true.
After a long turmoil of hope and despair, the night arrived, the night before the most awaited day. It was sleepless, burdened with weird presumed fearsー reaching late in the stationー name not present in the reservation list─ the absence of any of us─ forgetting the travel bag …
After boarding the train, all were too excited, until it was noticed that two teachers were missing. Tension started crawling. Trying their numbers were in vain; The train was to start in five minutes, a mobile rang; they were stuck in Tikiapara station (a station before Howrah), and there was no possibility to catch the train. Silence dropped down within us, a silence of uncertainty, like a falter between heartbeats...
With a jerk, followed by a screeching sound, the train commenced, and clicking of numbers in cell phones resumed. Finally, we came to know that they will be coming on the next train. We were disappointed and to some extent worried. With time, we got engrossed in the engaging view outside, but anxiety kept intruding.
Digha station was well crafted and surprisingly clean. We hired a Cart, somehow got ourselves seated in one, to enjoy every bit of the travel together, and headed towards the Hotel. As we reached, the hush-hushing of the waves mingled with the rushing breeze through Casuarina trees was intoxicating us, we dumped our luggage in our rooms and reached the beach. The panoramic beauty of the sea was depicting the wondrous artistry of the Creator. The never-ending rushing and ceasing of tides, the vast expanse of still and wavy surface, constant blurring and redrawing of the horizon, were beyond description. The beach was vibrant with joyful people, vendors calling out for customers, boat riders trying to reach the young sea-lovers, photographers clicking their perfect shots. Few horses and remote control cars were also adding to kids’ enjoyment. The water was pleasant, and a dip revived our freshness. Then our playfulness continued with hops and dips, moving too and fro with the waves, posing in front of the camera...
Two hours passed before being noticed, and we unwillingly returned to the hotel. By then the two teachers also joined us. Having lunch and little rest we were again up, to explore a new beach, Udaipur, which was a few miles away. We somehow managed to fit ourselves in a cart. We crossed the station, old Digha, a small over-bridge, a market and then reached a narrow muddy pathway bordered with countless Casuarina. The place was deserted. Its rustic and bewitching charm can easily add to a writer’s imagination to weave ghastly plots. Udaipur beach was calmer with a few groups of people barely scattered.
The beach was wet and muddy, intimating the presence of sea-water but the tides were far from reach. The dusk was slowly fading and we decided to return. As we were crossing each pathway and falling to another, the setting sun seemed to come closer, with its subdued charm. We were mesmerised and captured those moments. Our next destination was Old Digha. That beach was packed with tourists. We sat on the stone-cut stairs, enjoying the cool breeze and the soothing hum of the waves, some took a stroll on the beach. As darkness fell, the sea beach was hardly visible, except the pale grey foams of the tides. By then we were hungry, so tasted some road-side food and made ourselves busy buying Digha’s local produce.
After dinner, we planned to see the sunrise, so tried to get some sleep. It was already midnight.
The whole place was quiet and still, except the whispering of the sea-breeze and the hissing of the waving trees. Hours passed, as if in a blink, and the alarms started startling. We got ready and nearly ran to the beach with a fear of missing the moment of its first appearance.
It was too dark, as there were no traces of pre-decor of that grand event in the sky. Only reflections of few lights, far away, were making some of its portions faintly visible. The whole place was now desolate, still. Scary thoughts were crossing our minds, only two families seated far away and few tea vendors calling out, were adding to our courage. We had tea and waited patiently. As time passed, people started crowding, and the vendors became busy occupying spaces for displaying their products ー earrings, bangles, key-chains, neckless, coconuts… At six the sun finally revealed itself from the left horizon. Eyes were glued and the clicking started. Slowly as it was transforming to red-orange-golden, the colour of the sky and some stretches of the sea were changing their makeover dramatically, making the entire scenario magical.
It was time to leave, so with a heavy heart, we had breakfast and reached the station. The train was on time. All were quiet and gloomy. We were badly missing the sea and the enjoyment we had. Quite a long time passed in silence. Suddenly a noise of chattering and laughter startled us. A group of young teachers seated behind us were noisily planning for the next trip. With great excitement, we joined them in discussing - choice of places, days of stay, hotels, suitable time of visit, date… Once again our imagination started crossing edges and we were carried away by a new hope of exploring a new place. ***