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Too early for tomorrow... our pet project

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trip to মান্দারমনি, an experience to live with.

The trip to মান্দারমনি with Sarbartha and Shinjan was my first without my parents. We had taken ample precautions so that the things fell in place naturally. And some of them, I now feel, were unnecessary. We could have easily got seats on the bus from Esplanade on spot. We didn't have to get them reserved 2 days before hand. In the process, we had to shell out quite a bit extra. (Thank the gods that the CSTC is ancient enough not to do return reservations from Kolkata). Then, we could easily have got to মান্দারমনি from চালখোলা without having had a car booked to carry us. There is a good trekker service running there. However, we didn't do very bad for our first time.

The first thing that strikes one on the 14 km drive from চালখোলা to মান্দারমনি is the stark low socio-economic condition. Hardly any brick house is to be noticed. Ramshackle mud houses peep out from behind trees. And through them, along the patched metalled road drive the upper class snobs in the latest fancy cars. I was prepared for the last part of our drive along the beach itself. The compact sand of the beach makes allowances for such practices. However, one must keep along the track followed by the locals to escape getting one's car stuck.

Along the beach, the only brick houses were the hotels and resorts. The locals all dwelt in mud houses. On the one hand we had the 7 star resorts and on the other the houses of the poorest of the poor. Sharp contrast at its prominence. It is evident that developmental activities have steered clear of this part of the state. A perfect breeding ground for Maoists, mind you. And the locals live for the day when the road will be completed, and the electricity lines will go live. (Ah! yes, there is no electric supply yet. Either you depend on solar power, or generator power. The fans work only when the latter is functioning).

The one thing that will shoot you through the head (and also the pocket) is the high cost of the place. The lowest room rates is ~500 INR. And you can expect no more than the lowest services for this. The meal charges at our hotel was a whooping 80 INR. (But I must mention that the food cooked was extremely palatable and hygienic). You can get cheaper meals at the shanties along the beach. But I will not vouch for the hygiene maintained.

Sometimes, you may feel that you are the only person on the spot. Such is the desolation. When we jumped into the sea at 7:30 in the morning, we were the only 3 persons who did so. There was not a living soul along the shore. Only the shanty keepers went about their chores far away along the edge of the beach. I just wondered if we were too early or were the only people around.

Every shanty keeper that we cared to stop by tried to push sell chilled beer to us. And indeed, booze was freely flowing all along the beach. Men and women of all ages got drunk with ease.

If you just want to while away your time on holiday by walking along the beach thrice a day, then you may visit the place any time. But if you want your tour to be productive, do visit during the full moon. I have never seen the sea clean sweep out of sight during low tide as it did here. It surely went back by more than a kilometre. And, what an experience it was to walk over the sea bed. I can hardly describe. Sea-organisms of all kinds were swept in durng high tide, but they failed to move back during low tide. As a result they lay on the virgin beach. I had never seen star fish, jelly fish, sea-cucumbers, sponges, live oysters and slugs all lying on the beach. And there were fish-spawn scuttling about in the small puddles made by the tides. We actually walked along a strip of land jutting into the sea over a colony of red crabs. And there was sea behind us. We were approaching the local delta when we decided that things were getting pretty dangerous with our feet sinking in the loose sand. If we got burried in the sea bed, there would be no one to even call back home and say so. So we returned, with a lifetime experience.

We also tried a bit of beach football and beach volley, but the wind was so strong that we were soon running all over the place to catch the ball. And finally when Sarbartha further twisted his already twisted knee, we gave up.

The one thing that strikes a cord with every heart is that the place has not yet been touched by the vice of commercialisation. The shanty keepers have set up their shanties only to eke out a living. They are willing to open up and have a chat when approached. The people are willing to help you out when you ask. You don't have to be on the look out for conmen waiting to dupe you at the first chance. As the place develops, there will surely be better facilities. But then, we do know what may become of a commercialised place.

A few tips for those planning a trip to মান্দারমনি:
  • You don't need to get seats reserved on the bus. There are too many buses leaving Esplanade.
  • You don't need to ask the hotelier to arrange to pick you up from চালখোলা, there is a good trekker service between কাঁথি and মান্দারমনি via চালখোলা.
  • You may carry as much breakfast material as you can to avoid steep food bills.
  • Do visit during full moons.
  • Don't ask the hotelier to drop you at চালখোলা for your return journey. Just hop into a trekker along the beach. চালখোলা is only 15 INR and কাঁথি only 20 INR.
(Ah! I happen to have just written my longest blog entry.)

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