When I was quite small, my parents took me to Chandipur-on-sea, a small seaside town in Orissa. However, I don't have any memories of that trip save that of a deer in an enclosure whom I used to feed. Also, as I heard from my parents, the sea at Chandipur is not much worth remembering. After my ICSE examinations I went to the mountains in Nainital with my family. However, the sea remained unseen to me.
When I got Chennai as my joining location in 2005, it seemed like a very bad thing to happen. However, I thought, there was one small positive point about visiting Chennai. I would be able to see the sea for the first time in my life.
On reaching Chennai, one of the first things that I asked my friend Amit (he had reached Chennai only that morning) is how far the beach was from the ocean. He said he had no idea, but he had already been to our Guindy office and proceeded to brief me about the route from Chennai Park station to our office at Guindy. I was bored. The next day, we went to the Guindy office. After the first half, when we went to the rooftop cafeteria to have our lunch, I suppose I was the only one who went to all sides of the building and craned his neck and strained his eyes to catch a glimpse of the sea in the distance. All in vain... the sea remained elusive.
The evening was spent in looking for accommodation. We didn't find anything satisfactory. The next day was a Saturday, so we had an early breakfast and set out to look for a house. My mind was not on the job at hand, of course! At one point, we came to a road which sloped upwards, and we could not see beyond the highest point. However, the breeze and sand left little doubt that the beach started beyond that place. However, we didn't go up to that point. It was only in the afternoon that we found the perfect room for the two of us, and we told the landlord that we would move in the next day.
That night, Amit needed to get some money from the bank, and whichever bank his money was in (I don't remember the name now) had the nearest ATM near the Chennai Beach station. I was pretty excited. What if it was already dark? I could have my first glimpse of the sea in darkness. Besides, I had read that the sea is never completely dark.
Alas! It turned out that Chennai Beach is nowhere near the beach. After withdrawing his money, Amit and I were having dinner in a nearby restaurant. "Tomorrow we'll shift to the house in the morning, and we can go to the beach in the evening", I said. "Go to the beach? What's there on the beach?" Amit said. "Do you have any idea how much work we'll have in the evening? We'll have to buy a bucket, a broom, mattresses, pillows, plates, glasses...” his list went on and on. I quietly said, "Then you can buy that stuff while I go and see the sea.
Of course, I wouldn't have done that, but I also knew that Amit was being over anxious, for we moved in and finished all the shopping by the afternoon. So in the evening, when there was still light, we walked to the Eliot Beach in Besant Nagar.
Words always fail me when I try to describe this event. The Bay of Bengal lay stretched before us. First only the distant calm water was visible. Then we crossed a higher part of the beach, and saw the waves breaking for the first time. I went to the water's edge and called home, excited as a child. I turned and saw that the same Amit who wasn't too sure what I wanted to see at the beach took out his cell phone and dialed home. And as I spoke to my mother, the waves came and splashed on my feet for the first time. That was a unique feeling. The way the waves come and wash the sand from below one's feet feels so delightful... we were soon deliberately chasing the waves.
The beach was quite crowded. We walked along the water's edge with our slippers in our hands and our trousers rolled up to our knees. When darkness fell we sat down on an upturned boat and chatted, till the stars came out and lights started twinkling on the distant ships outside Chennai Port. Only when it was completely dark and deserted did we leave.
I went to other beaches too. Going to Marina was like a visit to the Howrah Station at office time. Mahabalipuram was comparatively empty and clean and we bathed there too. Pondichery did not have a beach... just a rocky seafront. The one I liked best was a deserted stretch of beach next to the Golden Beach Resort. Seven of us ran away from office one day after our PRP evaluation. Shreevallabh, Amit, Nisha, Spandana, Sushil and Kapil as far I remember... I don't remember if there was anyone else with us. We went to the deserted beach through a narrow path between two bungalows with gardens full of coniferous trees. We spent an hour there and were back in office before anyone could miss us. During the last week in Chennai, I walked to the beach every morning to photograph the sunrise, but unfortunately it was always cloudy. I saw the sea once again when I went to Mumbai, but that was way too calm for me to like.
The reason I write all this today is that I am going to the seaside once again. Tonight my parents, my sister and I are going to Puri. We have never been to Puri (most Bengali people have been there several times) and my sister has seen the sea only in Mumbai. So we felt a four day visit to the seaside would be a lovely way to relax. Last time I did not have my digital camera with me and so this time I'm looking forward to some good photography. We also intend to visit Konark and Bhuvaneshwar. Let's just hope the weather remains clear.
So I'll be back on this blog next week... till then, goodbye!