Dancing with the waves

via Daily Prompt: Fishing

“Come on get ready quickly “, cried Anirban to his wife Sangeeta. “We have to start by 6 O’clock and Riddhi and Shinjini will be here any moment.”

Anirban was a doctor who had a flourishing practice in Dumdum. Although Sangeeta was well qualified and taught in a private school before marriage, she sacrificed her career in order to look after home as Anirban could hardly be of any help there.

“I’ll be done in 10 minutes “, she replied.

“No one’s going to look at you in Digha”, he retorted.

“Arrey, give me time to change at least. It’s not that I am decking myself up”, she answered back.

“Okay, hurry up”, he said as he moved towards his car with a suitcase full of their clothes needed for their four days stay in Digha.

Gogol, their 8 year old son was already ready and cycling in their driveway. Riddhi and Shinjini drove in a few moments later .Riddhi was Anirban’s best friend from their days together in kindergarten and separated ways after high school in pursuit of knowledge in their respective areas of study. Riddhi belonged to an affluent family and had inherited a portion of their family business but was by profession a professor of economics in a renowned university in Kolkata. He had aristocratic good looks and exuded an exuberant boyish charm which made him instantly likeable and popular.

“Hi! Riddhi, hello! Shinjini “, welcomed Anirban as he moved towards his friend to hug him when he got out of the car.

“Hi buddy!” said Riddhi as he embraced his friend. “I have two crates of beer stacked in my dickey. Help me load them in your car.”

“As I thought our ‘bottley Baba’ would never forgets his bottles”, laughed Anirban .

“Where is Sangeeta?” quizzed Shinjini.

“In our bedroom getting ready. I don’t know why she is taking so long. It’s not that we are going to attend a party.”

“Why are you so perturbed Ani? She is getting ready for me”, teased Riddhi with a mischievous wink.

It was 6.15 am when Shinjini walked out with Sangeeta. “Finally, get in, we are already running late”, hurried Anirban. Soon their SUV sped towards the second Hooghly Bridge and after crossing its length took to the Kona Expressway leading them through Satragachi where the roads became bumpy. Thus after traveling a few kilometers more they stopped by a roadside ‘dhaba’.

“I am famished, “cried out Riddhi who had by then consumed a can of beer.

“Why won’t you be if you start boozing so early? This is not right Riddhi .You should be more aware of your health “, reprimanded Anirban who had been at the wheels.

“Oh come on, don’t be a spoilt sport as it is Shinjini has been after me throughout the way,” complained he. “Come I’ll open a can for you buddy.”

“No absolutely not, I am driving “, he rebuffed.

A lovely stream flowed behind the joint which served as a ‘dhaba’ beyond which lay unending stretches of stark paddy fields; the crops of which had already been reaped. In the expanse of the horizon there were mango groves with coconut trees popping intermittently near desolate mud huts. A slight breeze blew shaking the leaves of the ‘pipal’ and ‘krishnachura’ trees which surrounded the ‘dhaba’. Sangeeta and Shinjini settled themselves on one of the ‘khatias’ strewn across the vast hard mud courtyard in front of the ‘dhaba’. A few trucks and tourist cars were seen parked inside.

After their sumptuous breakfast the gang proceeded onwards in their journey. But as misfortune followed one of the front tyres of their SUV got punctured hardly after a kilometer and they came to a screeching halt. Anirban and Riddhi got out of the car to see exactly what happened. A few locals and a man traveling by a cycle gathered around them in curiosity. The dark complexioned man clad in a white dhoti and kurta who was the owner of the cycle informed them sagely that there was a tyre repairing shop just a kilometer away from the location. Anirban took out the jock and spare tyre from the dickey and started removing the punctured one with an expert hand replacing it with the new tyre. Gogol who was for long inside the car got restless on missing out in the action outside and started nagging his mother to let him free.

“Gogol , can’t you see its hot out there and we are on a highway . There are trucks, buses and motor cars speeding by. It’s risky,” she scolded.

They found the nondescript shop a kilometer away just as the bicycle owner told them. It stood beside an old brick house which wasn’t plastered and was surrounded by thick vegetation. A scrawny boy who was busy fixing an old tyre in the shop scurried towards Anirban when he saw him getting out of his car. Anirban got the punctured tyre from his dickey and handed it to the boy after passing him some instructions. The boy immediately set on his work and within a short period the deflated tyre was repaired and handed over to the owner.

It was 11 o’clock when they reached Kolaghat. Riddhi took out his digital movie camera from his bag to shoot the picturesque view when they passed through the bridge over the meandering Rupnarayan river. The banks of the river, a popular picnic spot during winters, a pick season for revelers, bore a deserted look except for a few stray fishing boats kept tied up in the bank. As they crossed the bridge they entered the Kolaghat Township and the chimneys with thick smoke twirling out of the famous Kolaghat Thermal Power Station, the largest thermal power station of the state, could be seen.

“We will be in Digha within an hour”, stated Anirban.

They reached Contai Bypass road on the way, where they found the outer boundary walls of the houses and shops painted with various political party slogans. Roadside platforms were erected at different points serving as stages for holding political meetings. Flags and festoons of various political parties were also flying high from every nook and corner vying for attention. It was natural as the Lokh Sabha elections were held a few days ago and this stretch seemed more active and vociferous. “This area is really politically charged “, said Shinjini as their vehicle was stopped midway by a group of youths to demand ‘chadda’ (donations). Riddhi who didn’t want to spoil their holiday mood swiftly took out a fifty rupee note from his wallet and paid one of them. The youths started squabbling and demanded more money but he declined smiling. “I have given you more money than you expected. Now let us off”, he said. A few more words were exchanged and finally the boy holding the bill book scribbled the amount in the bill and handed it over to him. “This road leads to our political turmoil Nandigram”, informed Riddhi.

When they reached Digha they checked into their rooms in a hotel booked beforehand. They all had their bath and freshened up to gather in the dining hall of their hotel.

“I will place the order for Gogol,” said Sangeeta. “You go ahead and place ours.”

“Come lets choose Ani”, said Riddhi.

They decided on fine basmati rice, ‘shukta’ (mixed vegetable and bitter gourd curry), ‘moong dal’(pulses) , ‘potato fries’ , ‘posto (poppy seed) bada’, ‘pataler dolma’( stuffed prawns in pointed gourds), grilled Pomfret fish, steamed ‘Hilsa fish in mustard’, ‘Kosha mansha’ (spicy mutton curry),raw mango chutney in the main course and ‘misti dahi’(sweet yogurt) and ‘rosogollas’ as deserts in their lavish spread for lunch.

“The Hilsa is sublime, “said Riddhi ecstatically savoring in the aroma and taste.

“Yes”, said Anirban “Its quite a delicacy but I am enjoying my lunch from the very start the ‘sukto’ , ‘posto bada’ and ‘potaler dolma’ reminds me of my mother’s cooking.”

“Hmm”, said Sangeeta.” It’s quite surprising that they have arrangements for sweets under the same roof which is rare”, added she appreciatively.

“Yes you’re right Sangeeta I was thinking of that too “, stated Shinjini.

There was a huge in-built aquarium covering one part of the wall of the dining hall and that attracted the attention of Gogol who quickly finished what he had and ran to see it up close. The aquarium was quite a sight with a variety of ornamental fishes swimming around inside the serene but well decorated milieu. A beautiful red cap oranda gold fish captured the fascination of Gogol as it moved towards him flipping its tail and coming to a stop facing him with as much geniality and wonder as him. Its large round egg shaped body was totally white with a cherry red hood on its head which looked as if it adorned a cap which stood him out from the rest of the school of fishes. Its long split caudal tail fanned out gallantly as it came to a stop peering back at him.

“Look at this beautiful fish Mom, it wants to make friends with me “, he called out in excitement.” I want a same fish at home,” exclaimed he.

“Okay, don’t shout,” she replied.

They moved to their respective rooms to take a siesta or just relax after which they planned to go for a walk in the beach in the evening.

The beach was crowded .Gogol, Sangeeta and Shinjini played with the waves as they came rushing in and breaking at the shore. They wet their feet in the water. Gogol searched for seashells in the sand. He collected a few and ran to show them to his father who was sitting with Riddhi and enjoying the cool sea breeze and engaging in small talk. The sun gradually set on the horizon of the sea turning the sky crimson. The birds flew to their nests.

“I love sitting by the seashore. We appear so small in comparison to the sea which is so deep, vast and endless. The sound of the sea speaks to my soul and soothes it from all worldly stress. I wish we could all come to the sea more often, “sighed Anirban .

Sangeeta and Shinjini came and sat with them. Riddhi sang out a Rabindrasangeet sonorously :
(“Aami maarer shagor paari debo”)
“I will set sail on this lashing sea
Plying along a terrifying tempest
In this broken boat of mine……………..

……The one who loves me will show me the way
All I have to do is cast away fear and set sail
I know for sure I will come to shore at day end
I will place the crimson flowers of my woe at your merciful feet.”

“Bravo, bravo”, said Anirban as Riddhi finished singing and everybody else clapped their hands gleefully.

“Sing another song,” requested Sangeeta ardently.

“No I think we must now make a move towards our hotel. Its 7.30 already. We have a barbeque waiting for us at the hotel lawns, reminded Riddhi. ”

“Oh yes but I don’t feel like leaving this place. It’s so peaceful”, uttered Shinjini as she reluctantly got up.

The lawn was decorated with coloured lights and in the middle a barbeque was lit. There were chairs and tables placed across at different points in the lawn. Anirban and Riddhi selected one table and sat in chairs placed around it. The ladies choose to go into their hotel rooms to freshen up a bit and they took Gogol along with them as his feet and hands were full of sand that he had played with while in the beach. Riddhi in the meantime ordered for kebabs and Scotch whisky which both friends enjoyed while joking and chatting amongst themselves. It was after some while that Sangeeta and Shinjini came to join them with Gogol. Sangeeta looked becoming in a baby pink salwar suit and had her long locks let loose. Shinjini who was fair, petite with delicate features looked ravishing and elegant in a chiffon sari. Seeing the ladies coming Riddhi couldn’t contain himself and sang out aloud to the amusement of all:

(“Ami chini go chini tomarey o go bideshini..”)

“I know thee well I know thee well
O strange a maiden fair
Beyond the far seas thou dost dwell
O strange a maiden fair…………”

(Rabindranath Tagore song)

“What will you have?” asked Anirban.

“Get some cold drinks and sandwiches for Gogol. He must be hungry,” replied Sangeeta . “I’ll have a mock tail and what about you?” she asked looking at Shinjini.

“Oh anything will do for me “, said Shinjini adjusting her “sari pallu” as she sat in a chair beside her husband.

“I suggest both of you have red wine or vodka with tender coconut water,” said Riddhi looking at them for approval.

“Okay get red wine for both of us”, replied Shinjini.

It was a balmy night. A yellow moon was up in the clear sky with innumerable bright stars of different sizes glittering like diamonds and a cool passing breeze made for a romantic setting and a pleasant experience.

Riddhi looked at his wife impishly and said “I must say you are looking stunning. Just like ‘Urvashi’”.

“Yes I can see you had enough to drink today and if you continue like this I will definitely seem like Menoka then.” chided Shinjini.

“No, that compliment is reserved for Sangeeta “, guffawed Riddhi.

“He is incorrigible I told you”, said Shinjini looking at a laughing Anirban and Sangeeta.

“Papa won’t we bathe in the sea?” interrupted Gogol who had by now finished his food.

“Oh definitely we will after breakfast Gogol”, he replied.

“What do you plan to do tomorrow?” asked Anirban.

“First thing in the morning I want to see the sunrise”, said Sangeeta.

“Yeah surely we’ll go altogether”, said Riddhi. “After lunch why don’t we push off to Talsari hardly 10 kms drive from here. It’s a new place, tourist free, hassle free, serene and unpolluted; a totally different experience. ”

“I have no issues other than that I have to return to Kolkata by Sunday,” replied Anirban.

“Okay then it’s done “, said Riddhi “I’ll try to book hotel or lodge rooms tomorrow morning.”

The next day at the break of dawn all of them were in the beach. Many other tourists had also gathered. There were tea stalls with vendors selling tea; cycles carrying green coconuts were also a popular option among tourists in this summer morning.

“Everything is fine but it is too crowded for my liking”, stated Riddhi.

They all strolled along the beach waiting for the sun to pop up from the horizon of the sea and it did like a wondrous ball of fire colouring the skies in different hues.

“It’s such an awe-inspiring and majestic sight; nature’s wonder”, said a visually moved Sangeeta.

They kept on strolling in the beach for a while and Gogol played with the waves; wetting his feet in the process.

“Let’s have some tea from that tea stall,” uttered Anirban pointing at it. Sangeeta, Shinjini and Gogol had green coconut water instead. Beside the tea stall there was another stall serving breakfast to the locals and tourists. Riddhi went over and asked the owner what they were serving.

The stall owner, an old man in a worn out dhoti and vest answered meekly with a smile,” Babu , egg toast , ‘puri’ and potato curry.”

“How much are you charging for the puri and potato curry?”

“Five rupees per ‘puri’, Babu ?”

“What about the potato curry?”

“Oh that’s free.”

“Okay, then we will have the potato curry”

” What are you saying, Babu?” the old man said with a bemused grin.

“Why are you pulling the poor chap’s leg early in the morning?” scolded Shinjini.

After lunch they headed for Talsari as decided upon yesterday. Riddhi had booked two rooms at a lodge there. They passed through uneven roads to reach their destination where they sighted vast stretches of green paddy fields. Palm, casurina, cashew and tall coconut trees lining the seashore and gently swaying in the breeze welcomed them. The solitude of the place and the pristine beauty of the beach was rejuvenating. It was 4 pm and they needed to check into their lodge. They ordered some tea and snacks before they decided to take a stroll around the place. “This is the kind of tranquil environment I like distanced from the hustle and bustle of crowds,” said Riddhi as they wandered behind their lodge to reach a stream which lead to the main beach. There were serene villages with tall palm trees where probably the fishermen dwelt. As the stream was brimming they chose to take a boat to the beach. It was a long and flat beach an ideal place for strolling or taking a motorbike ride. There were sand dunes along the stretch and Gogol shouted with joy, “Papa look at those red crabs.” There were plenty of them coming out of the sand dunes and some of them quickly hiding inside when they tried to come near them. Here the Subarnarekha river met the Bay of Bengal and the estuary of the river could been seen at a distance. The waves were small and playful and not as turbulent as the ones in Digha. It was nearly evening and they waited for the sun to set. The skies turned crimson and yellow as the sun set on the sea. The place had become quiet and isolated. They could see a handful of fishermen mending their fishing nets and ready to return home. They spent a few more minutes taking in the sheer beauty of nature. The full moon was up in the sky and its magical beam fell on the crest of the waves making it glow and transforming the place into a dreamscape.

“Coming here has truly been a rewarding experience”, exclaimed Anirban.

“Yeah it surely has,” replied Riddhi as he sang out a soulful song by Rabindranath Tagore :

(“Tumi robe nirobe , hridoye momo …..”)

“You are in the silent crevices of my heart,
my beloved-
like the blissful moonlight
of a full moon night.
Settled in my heart
ever so quietly………….”

“Wonderful”, uttered Sangeeta appreciatively when Riddhi finished singing.

“It was awesome “, said Anirban patting his friend’s back.

“Can you see that solitary fisherman coming our way?” said Shinjini pointing her finger at him.

All looked at that direction and could see a shadowy figure approaching from afar.

“Let’s go and talk to him before we make a move to our lodge”, stated Riddhi.

They all got up and headed towards that mystic figure.

“Hello, we are from Kolkata,” said Riddhi.

“So you are returning from sea I guess?” asked Anirban.

“Yes Babu I had gone to catch some fishes in my boat but couldn’t get any good catch today other than this Hilsa fish,” said the mysterious man holding up his catch.

The Hilsa fish was a big one and weighed around 4 kgs.

“Oh that’s a great catch you have,” uttered Anirban .

“That’s simply divine!” butted in Riddhi.”Will you sell it to us?”

“No I can’t Babu. This has to be supplied for an order I have in the marketplace but I can try and get you a similar one tomorrow if you wish?” replied the fisherman.

“Our bad luck!” exclaimed Riddhi. “Okay we’ll meet you here tomorrow evening at 5.”

By the way what is your name?” enquired Anirban.

“Ratan”, he answered.

“Ratan can we take a picture with you and the fish?” requested Riddhi.

Ratan smiled and nodded his head.

“I’ll take the photo”, volunteered Shinjini. “Both of you stand on each side of Ratan”, she instructed.

Next morning they got up at dawn and went to the beach. The sunrise was as enchanting as the sunset they witnessed here yesterday. They hired a boat to take them to the estuary and an island which fell opposite to the beach. On reaching the island they saw numerous species of birds and it delighted Gogol. They returned to the beach after enjoying thoroughly the boat ride and the feel of the cool wind blowing. Near the beach there was a concrete marketplace where they sold different kinds of fishes, crabs and prawns. They decided to buy some and take them to their lodge so that they could have the fresh fish cooked for them.

After breakfast they again ventured towards the beach to bathe in the calm and gentle waves. This time around the backwaters had receded and they could walk to the beach. They frolicked in the sea for a long time and then got out to proceed to their lodge. The cook had prepared delicious crab and prawn curry which they savored completely.

“I am going to take a nap,” said Anirban after finishing his lunch.

“Yes all of us need some rest,” agreed Shinjini.

It was nearly 5 in the evening when they made their way to the beach again. They had promised to meet Ratan there. When they reached the beach there was hardly anyone there. They loitered about for some time. Like yesterday evening a few fishermen were mending their nets after they had touched shore with their boats. They approached them and asked them whether they knew Ratan. One among them asked them to describe how Ratan looked like. Anirban related all that had happened yesterday and described him. The fishermen looked bewildered. They stared at each other for some time and the oldest among them finally said,

“But Babu it has been two years since Ratan has disappeared while going fishing out in the sea in his boat and has never returned.”

“But how can that be? We all have meet him yesterday,” said Riddhi astounded. “Look I will show you his picture with us.”

He asked for the camera which was with Shinjini and searched for the photo. He came upon the picture but to his astonishment he could see himself and Anirban standing a distance apart but in the middle there was no one to be seen. Dumbfound he showed the picture to his friend and he in return showed it to everyone else.

“How could all of us be fooled together?” whispered a visibly disturbed Anirban.

“I am having goose bumps,” said Shinjini as she trembled.

“This is an experience I will remember as long as I live”, announced Riddhi.

“Come on get ready quickly “, cried Anirban to his wife Sangeeta. “We have to start by 6 O’clock and Riddhi and Shinjini will be here any moment.”

Anirban was a doctor who had a flourishing practice in Dumdum. Although Sangeeta was well qualified and taught in a private school before marriage, she sacrificed her career in order to look after home as Anirban could hardly be of any help there.

“I’ll be done in 10 minutes “, she replied.

“No one’s going to look at you in Digha”, he retorted.

“Arrey, give me time to change at least. It’s not that I am decking myself up”, she answered back.

“Okay, hurry up”, he said as he moved towards his car with a suitcase full of their clothes needed for their four days stay in Digha.

Gogol, their 8 year old son was already ready and cycling in their driveway. Riddhi and Shinjini drove in a few moments later .Riddhi was Anirban’s best friend from their days together in kindergarten and separated ways after high school in pursuit of knowledge in their respective areas of study. Riddhi belonged to an affluent family and had inherited a portion of their family business but was by profession a professor of economics in a renowned university in Kolkata. He had aristocratic good looks and exuded an exuberant boyish charm which made him instantly likeable and popular.

“Hi! Riddhi, hello! Shinjini “, welcomed Anirban as he moved towards his friend to hug him when he got out of the car.

“Hi buddy!” said Riddhi as he embraced his friend. “I have two crates of beer stacked in my dickey. Help me load them in your car.”

“As I thought our ‘bottley Baba’ would never forgets his bottles”, laughed Anirban .

“Where is Sangeeta?” quizzed Shinjini.

“In our bedroom getting ready. I don’t know why she is taking so long. It’s not that we are going to attend a party.”

“Why are you so perturbed Ani? She is getting ready for me”, teased Riddhi with a mischievous wink.

It was 6.15 am when Shinjini walked out with Sangeeta. “Finally, get in, we are already running late”, hurried Anirban. Soon their SUV sped towards the second Hooghly Bridge and after crossing its length took to the Kona Expressway leading them through Satragachi where the roads became bumpy. Thus after traveling a few kilometers more they stopped by a roadside ‘dhaba’.

“I am famished, “cried out Riddhi who had by then consumed a can of beer.

“Why won’t you be if you start boozing so early? This is not right Riddhi .You should be more aware of your health “, reprimanded Anirban who had been at the wheels.

“Oh come on, don’t be a spoilt sport as it is Shinjini has been after me throughout the way,” complained he. “Come I’ll open a can for you buddy.”

“No absolutely not, I am driving “, he rebuffed.

A lovely stream flowed behind the joint which served as a ‘dhaba’ beyond which lay unending stretches of stark paddy fields; the crops of which had already been reaped. In the expanse of the horizon there were mango groves with coconut trees popping intermittently near desolate mud huts. A slight breeze blew shaking the leaves of the ‘pipal’ and ‘krishnachura’ trees which surrounded the ‘dhaba’. Sangeeta and Shinjini settled themselves on one of the ‘khatias’ strewn across the vast hard mud courtyard in front of the ‘dhaba’. A few trucks and tourist cars were seen parked inside.

After their sumptuous breakfast the gang proceeded onwards in their journey. But as misfortune followed one of the front tyres of their SUV got punctured hardly after a kilometer and they came to a screeching halt. Anirban and Riddhi got out of the car to see exactly what happened. A few locals and a man traveling by a cycle gathered around them in curiosity. The dark complexioned man clad in a white dhoti and kurta who was the owner of the cycle informed them sagely that there was a tyre repairing shop just a kilometer away from the location. Anirban took out the jock and spare tyre from the dickey and started removing the punctured one with an expert hand replacing it with the new tyre. Gogol who was for long inside the car got restless on missing out in the action outside and started nagging his mother to let him free.

“Gogol , can’t you see its hot out there and we are on a highway . There are trucks, buses and motor cars speeding by. It’s risky,” she scolded.

They found the nondescript shop a kilometer away just as the bicycle owner told them. It stood beside an old brick house which wasn’t plastered and was surrounded by thick vegetation. A scrawny boy who was busy fixing an old tyre in the shop scurried towards Anirban when he saw him getting out of his car. Anirban got the punctured tyre from his dickey and handed it to the boy after passing him some instructions. The boy immediately set on his work and within a short period the deflated tyre was repaired and handed over to the owner.

It was 11 o’clock when they reached Kolaghat. Riddhi took out his digital movie camera from his bag to shoot the picturesque view when they passed through the bridge over the meandering Rupnarayan river. The banks of the river, a popular picnic spot during winters, a pick season for revelers, bore a deserted look except for a few stray fishing boats kept tied up in the bank. As they crossed the bridge they entered the Kolaghat Township and the chimneys with thick smoke twirling out of the famous Kolaghat Thermal Power Station, the largest thermal power station of the state, could be seen.

“We will be in Digha within an hour”, stated Anirban.

They reached Contai Bypass road on the way, where they found the outer boundary walls of the houses and shops painted with various political party slogans. Roadside platforms were erected at different points serving as stages for holding political meetings. Flags and festoons of various political parties were also flying high from every nook and corner vying for attention. It was natural as the Lokh Sabha elections were held a few days ago and this stretch seemed more active and vociferous. “This area is really politically charged “, said Shinjini as their vehicle was stopped midway by a group of youths to demand ‘chadda’ (donations). Riddhi who didn’t want to spoil their holiday mood swiftly took out a fifty rupee note from his wallet and paid one of them. The youths started squabbling and demanded more money but he declined smiling. “I have given you more money than you expected. Now let us off”, he said. A few more words were exchanged and finally the boy holding the bill book scribbled the amount in the bill and handed it over to him. “This road leads to our political turmoil Nandigram”, informed Riddhi.

When they reached Digha they checked into their rooms in a hotel booked beforehand. They all had their bath and freshened up to gather in the dining hall of their hotel.

“I will place the order for Gogol,” said Sangeeta. “You go ahead and place ours.”

“Come lets choose Ani”, said Riddhi.

They decided on fine basmati rice, ‘shukta’ (mixed vegetable and bitter gourd curry), ‘moong dal’(pulses) , ‘potato fries’ , ‘posto (poppy seed) bada’, ‘pataler dolma’( stuffed prawns in pointed gourds), grilled Pomfret fish, steamed ‘Hilsa fish in mustard’, ‘Kosha mansha’ (spicy mutton curry),raw mango chutney in the main course and ‘misti dahi’(sweet yogurt) and ‘rosogollas’ as deserts in their lavish spread for lunch.

“The Hilsa is sublime, “said Riddhi ecstatically savoring in the aroma and taste.

“Yes”, said Anirban “Its quite a delicacy but I am enjoying my lunch from the very start the ‘sukto’ , ‘posto bada’ and ‘potaler dolma’ reminds me of my mother’s cooking.”

“Hmm”, said Sangeeta.” It’s quite surprising that they have arrangements for sweets under the same roof which is rare”, added she appreciatively.

“Yes you’re right Sangeeta I was thinking of that too “, stated Shinjini.

There was a huge in-built aquarium covering one part of the wall of the dining hall and that attracted the attention of Gogol who quickly finished what he had and ran to see it up close. The aquarium was quite a sight with a variety of ornamental fishes swimming around inside the serene but well decorated milieu. A beautiful red cap oranda gold fish captured the fascination of Gogol as it moved towards him flipping its tail and coming to a stop facing him with as much geniality and wonder as him. Its large round egg shaped body was totally white with a cherry red hood on its head which looked as if it adorned a cap which stood him out from the rest of the school of fishes. Its long split caudal tail fanned out gallantly as it came to a stop peering back at him.

“Look at this beautiful fish Mom, it wants to make friends with me “, he called out in excitement.” I want a same fish at home,” exclaimed he.

“Okay, don’t shout,” she replied.

They moved to their respective rooms to take a siesta or just relax after which they planned to go for a walk in the beach in the evening.

The beach was crowded .Gogol, Sangeeta and Shinjini played with the waves as they came rushing in and breaking at the shore. They wet their feet in the water. Gogol searched for seashells in the sand. He collected a few and ran to show them to his father who was sitting with Riddhi and enjoying the cool sea breeze and engaging in small talk. The sun gradually set on the horizon of the sea turning the sky crimson. The birds flew to their nests.

“I love sitting by the seashore. We appear so small in comparison to the sea which is so deep, vast and endless. The sound of the sea speaks to my soul and soothes it from all worldly stress. I wish we could all come to the sea more often, “sighed Anirban .

Sangeeta and Shinjini came and sat with them. Riddhi sang out a Rabindrasangeet sonorously :
(“Aami maarer shagor paari debo”)
“I will set sail on this lashing sea
Plying along a terrifying tempest
In this broken boat of mine……………..

……The one who loves me will show me the way
All I have to do is cast away fear and set sail
I know for sure I will come to shore at day end
I will place the crimson flowers of my woe at your merciful feet.”

“Bravo, bravo”, said Anirban as Riddhi finished singing and everybody else clapped their hands gleefully.

“Sing another song,” requested Sangeeta ardently.

“No I think we must now make a move towards our hotel. Its 7.30 already. We have a barbeque waiting for us at the hotel lawns, reminded Riddhi. ”

“Oh yes but I don’t feel like leaving this place. It’s so peaceful”, uttered Shinjini as she reluctantly got up.

The lawn was decorated with coloured lights and in the middle a barbeque was lit. There were chairs and tables placed across at different points in the lawn. Anirban and Riddhi selected one table and sat in chairs placed around it. The ladies choose to go into their hotel rooms to freshen up a bit and they took Gogol along with them as his feet and hands were full of sand that he had played with while in the beach. Riddhi in the meantime ordered for kebabs and Scotch whisky which both friends enjoyed while joking and chatting amongst themselves. It was after some while that Sangeeta and Shinjini came to join them with Gogol. Sangeeta looked becoming in a baby pink salwar suit and had her long locks let loose. Shinjini who was fair, petite with delicate features looked ravishing and elegant in a chiffon sari. Seeing the ladies coming Riddhi couldn’t contain himself and sang out aloud to the amusement of all:

(“Ami chini go chini tomarey o go bideshini..”)

“I know thee well I know thee well
O strange a maiden fair
Beyond the far seas thou dost dwell
O strange a maiden fair…………”

(Rabindranath Tagore song)

“What will you have?” asked Anirban.

“Get some cold drinks and sandwiches for Gogol. He must be hungry,” replied Sangeeta . “I’ll have a mock tail and what about you?” she asked looking at Shinjini.

“Oh anything will do for me “, said Shinjini adjusting her “sari pallu” as she sat in a chair beside her husband.

“I suggest both of you have red wine or vodka with tender coconut water,” said Riddhi looking at them for approval.

“Okay get red wine for both of us”, replied Shinjini.

It was a balmy night. A yellow moon was up in the clear sky with innumerable bright stars of different sizes glittering like diamonds and a cool passing breeze made for a romantic setting and a pleasant experience.

Riddhi looked at his wife impishly and said “I must say you are looking stunning. Just like ‘Urvashi’”.

“Yes I can see you had enough to drink today and if you continue like this I will definitely seem like Menoka then.” chided Shinjini.

“No, that compliment is reserved for Sangeeta “, guffawed Riddhi.

“He is incorrigible I told you”, said Shinjini looking at a laughing Anirban and Sangeeta.

“Papa won’t we bathe in the sea?” interrupted Gogol who had by now finished his food.

“Oh definitely we will after breakfast Gogol”, he replied.

“What do you plan to do tomorrow?” asked Anirban.

“First thing in the morning I want to see the sunrise”, said Sangeeta.

“Yeah surely we’ll go altogether”, said Riddhi. “After lunch why don’t we push off to Talsari hardly 10 kms drive from here. It’s a new place, tourist free, hassle free, serene and unpolluted; a totally different experience. ”

“I have no issues other than that I have to return to Kolkata by Sunday,” replied Anirban.

“Okay then it’s done “, said Riddhi “I’ll try to book hotel or lodge rooms tomorrow morning.”

The next day at the break of dawn all of them were in the beach. Many other tourists had also gathered. There were tea stalls with vendors selling tea; cycles carrying green coconuts were also a popular option among tourists in this summer morning.

“Everything is fine but it is too crowded for my liking”, stated Riddhi.

They all strolled along the beach waiting for the sun to pop up from the horizon of the sea and it did like a wondrous ball of fire colouring the skies in different hues.

“It’s such an awe-inspiring and majestic sight; nature’s wonder”, said a visually moved Sangeeta.

They kept on strolling in the beach for a while and Gogol played with the waves; wetting his feet in the process.

“Let’s have some tea from that tea stall,” uttered Anirban pointing at it. Sangeeta, Shinjini and Gogol had green coconut water instead. Beside the tea stall there was another stall serving breakfast to the locals and tourists. Riddhi went over and asked the owner what they were serving.

The stall owner, an old man in a worn out dhoti and vest answered meekly with a smile,” Babu , egg toast , ‘puri’ and potato curry.”

“How much are you charging for the puri and potato curry?”

“Five rupees per ‘puri’, Babu ?”

“What about the potato curry?”

“Oh that’s free.”

“Okay, then we will have the potato curry”

” What are you saying, Babu?” the old man said with a bemused grin.

“Why are you pulling the poor chap’s leg early in the morning?” scolded Shinjini.

After lunch they headed for Talsari as decided upon yesterday. Riddhi had booked two rooms at a lodge there. They passed through uneven roads to reach their destination where they sighted vast stretches of green paddy fields. Palm, casurina, cashew and tall coconut trees lining the seashore and gently swaying in the breeze welcomed them. The solitude of the place and the pristine beauty of the beach was rejuvenating. It was 4 pm and they needed to check into their lodge. They ordered some tea and snacks before they decided to take a stroll around the place. “This is the kind of tranquil environment I like distanced from the hustle and bustle of crowds,” said Riddhi as they wandered behind their lodge to reach a stream which lead to the main beach. There were serene villages with tall palm trees where probably the fishermen dwelt. As the stream was brimming they chose to take a boat to the beach. It was a long and flat beach an ideal place for strolling or taking a motorbike ride. There were sand dunes along the stretch and Gogol shouted with joy, “Papa look at those red crabs.” There were plenty of them coming out of the sand dunes and some of them quickly hiding inside when they tried to come near them. Here the Subarnarekha river met the Bay of Bengal and the estuary of the river could been seen at a distance. The waves were small and playful and not as turbulent as the ones in Digha. It was nearly evening and they waited for the sun to set. The skies turned crimson and yellow as the sun set on the sea. The place had become quiet and isolated. They could see a handful of fishermen mending their fishing nets and ready to return home. They spent a few more minutes taking in the sheer beauty of nature. The full moon was up in the sky and its magical beam fell on the crest of the waves making it glow and transforming the place into a dreamscape.

“Coming here has truly been a rewarding experience”, exclaimed Anirban.

“Yeah it surely has,” replied Riddhi as he sang out a soulful song by Rabindranath Tagore :

(“Tumi robe nirobe , hridoye momo …..”)

“You are in the silent crevices of my heart,
my beloved-
like the blissful moonlight
of a full moon night.
Settled in my heart
ever so quietly………….”

“Wonderful”, uttered Sangeeta appreciatively when Riddhi finished singing.

“It was awesome “, said Anirban patting his friend’s back.

“Can you see that solitary fisherman coming our way?” said Shinjini pointing her finger at him.

All looked at that direction and could see a shadowy figure approaching from afar.

“Let’s go and talk to him before we make a move to our lodge”, stated Riddhi.

They all got up and headed towards that mystic figure.

“Hello, we are from Kolkata,” said Riddhi.

“So you are returning from sea I guess?” asked Anirban.

“Yes Babu I had gone to catch some fishes in my boat but couldn’t get any good catch today other than this Hilsa fish,” said the mysterious man holding up his catch.

The Hilsa fish was a big one and weighed around 4 kgs.

“Oh that’s a great catch you have,” uttered Anirban .

“That’s simply divine!” butted in Riddhi.”Will you sell it to us?”

“No I can’t Babu. This has to be supplied for an order I have in the marketplace but I can try and get you a similar one tomorrow if you wish?” replied the fisherman.

“Our bad luck!” exclaimed Riddhi. “Okay we’ll meet you here tomorrow evening at 5.”

By the way what is your name?” enquired Anirban.

“Ratan”, he answered.

“Ratan can we take a picture with you and the fish?” requested Riddhi.

Ratan smiled and nodded his head.

“I’ll take the photo”, volunteered Shinjini. “Both of you stand on each side of Ratan”, she instructed.

Next morning they got up at dawn and went to the beach. The sunrise was as enchanting as the sunset they witnessed here yesterday. They hired a boat to take them to the estuary and an island which fell opposite to the beach. On reaching the island they saw numerous species of birds and it delighted Gogol. They returned to the beach after enjoying thoroughly the boat ride and the feel of the cool wind blowing. Near the beach there was a concrete marketplace where they sold different kinds of fishes, crabs and prawns. They decided to buy some and take them to their lodge so that they could have the fresh fish cooked for them.

After breakfast they again ventured towards the beach to bathe in the calm and gentle waves. This time around the backwaters had receded and they could walk to the beach. They frolicked in the sea for a long time and then got out to proceed to their lodge. The cook had prepared delicious crab and prawn curry which they savored completely.

“I am going to take a nap,” said Anirban after finishing his lunch.

“Yes all of us need some rest,” agreed Shinjini.

It was nearly 5 in the evening when they made their way to the beach again. They had promised to meet Ratan there. When they reached the beach there was hardly anyone there. They loitered about for some time. Like yesterday evening a few fishermen were mending their nets after they had touched shore with their boats. They approached them and asked them whether they knew Ratan. One among them asked them to describe how Ratan looked like. Anirban related all that had happened yesterday and described him. The fishermen looked bewildered. They stared at each other for some time and the oldest among them finally said,

“But Babu it has been two years since Ratan has disappeared while going fishing out in the sea in his boat and has never returned.”

“But how can that be? We all have meet him yesterday,” said Riddhi astounded. “Look I will show you his picture with us.”

He asked for the camera which was with Shinjini and searched for the photo. He came upon the picture but to his astonishment he could see himself and Anirban standing a distance apart but in the middle there was no one to be seen. Dumbfound he showed the picture to his friend and he in return showed it to everyone else.

“How could all of us be fooled together?” whispered a visibly disturbed Anirban.

“I am having goose bumps,” said Shinjini as she trembled.

“This is an experience I will remember as long as I live”, announced Riddhi.

 

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