Known for its proximity to the Bay of Bengal, Bakkhali is a small seaside resort located on one of the deltaic islands in the southern part of the state of West Bengal in India. It is uniquely crafted from the Sunderban cluster of forests and is joined to the mainland with bridges that are joined over a narrow creek. It beckoned us ardently hinting at a mesmerizing holiday under the sun, sand and sea. We easily surrendered to its call in order to experience the surf drenched adventures it promised.
As our car was pushed on to the motorized boat that would ferry us across the creek, we sat shivering with excitement. This was a new experience which none of us had previously been through and we were just hoping that we don’t all sink into the creek together. Diminishing all our thoughts of fatalities we landed safely on the other side and looked back to see another vehicle being nonchalantly driven aboard for the next trip. The uniqueness of Bakkhali had already started to set in.
Swathed with fields draped in bright yellow sunflower blossoms running parallel to the white sandy beaches, Bakkhali is very different from the traditional sea side resort. It has no unruly waves thrashing around on its beaches. Its skyline is characterized by the windmills that stand tall as proof of the only signs of industrialization in this sleepy hamlet. It is also the primary source of power generation in the area. Bakkhali also does not provide a thriving shopping boulevard on the beaches selling sea side goodies at bargain friendly prices. However, it wins over tourists with the pockets of barren nooks surreptitiously located on its windy coasts that make the heart seek out peace even when you are surrounded by a crowd. Just like the millions of small hermit crabs that dive into their holes as they sense footsteps moving towards them, Bakkhali allows its visitors to create their own little space behind a boulder, in the midst of a thick foliage or even by simply sitting before the sea facing the ripples of waves that kisses its shores every now and then.
Just when the sun dims its light, the Bakkhali shores light up with a different illumination. The numerous food stalls start their daily business. You will soon be gifted with the smell of freshly fried sea fish and an assortment of evening snacks that seduces your taste buds with the typical flavor of street food from Bengal. This you realize is the quintessential character of a sea side resort in West Bengal. Born as natural foodies, Bengalis love to carry their favorite pastime along with them no matter where they go. So munch your fill till your tummy allows it and wash it down with a drink of your choice too.
The history of Bakkhali, like most tourist spots in India, is largely dominated by the British and their penchant for identifying new places for habitation. As the history books opine, Andrew Fraser, Lt. Governor of Bengal was once shipwrecked on these islands. A beautiful local woman named Narayani saved his life. Enamoured by her beauty Fraser fell in love with her. However, their romance was cut short when Fraser’s wife came to hear about his affair and had the woman killed with the help of the British troops. To commemorate their unfinished love affair, locals named a section of the island as Narayanitala. This was however, subsequently renamed as Fraserganj , Bakkhali’s twin beach and is still known by the same name.
Stories such as these, undoubtedly helps to raise the aura about a place. Bakkhali too has thus been beautified and illuminated manifold for tourists. The dilapidated house of Andrew Fraser, and the nooks and corners of Bakkhali where the lovers apparently met are often pointed out to attract the interest of tourist thus elevating the magnetism of this sleepy sea resort to several levels higher.
Every evening the Bakkhali shoreline is abuzz with activities as fishermen return from the sea with their catch. As the sandy beach glistens with the silver toils of their labour, every house has a smile as good business is happily assured. Fishing is one of the major occupations for the people of the region with many families depending on it as their main source of livelihood. We join in the foray to get a good bargain for our menu back home.
Meanwhile in the horizon there starts an oft repeated game that creates an alluring effect over the staid ocean lacing the islands. The sun prods the sea and both tickle themselves red over a hearty laugh. The gulls join in the laughter and their concerted cacophony makes us realize it is time to head home. As we trudge back along the shoreline, the diminishing light plays on our senses and we seem to envision the love lost lady yearning for her shipwrecked lover. Praying for her soul that blesses these lands we move on to explore new stories that are waiting to help us build new memories and deliver new promises.
For the more mundane travel tips on Bakkhali visit the link: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Bakkhali