We had discussed Tajpur, somewhat casually, in our office a few months back. As it happens everywhere, we had some perpetually enthusiastic people to savour the charm of an alienated beach, but most of the others backed out. I suppose creature comforts mean a lot to most people, and they can't really be blamed for that.
Finally it was a group of six. We set out on a group of six in an air-conditioned Qualis (you see, we can go to a place without electricity, but air-conditioned transportation is a must...). Given a choice Ranadip would possibly arranged for a limousine with a performing DJ and a cohort of waitresses serving champagne and gourmet food, but we had decided to stick to a meagre budget.
After a halt (where I was asked to pose with a kangaroo; given the recent Ashes outcome I'm sure I'd have humiliated it had it not been a dustbin) we raced towards Tajpur. We passed Kolaghat, the power plant we've all read about; Nandigram, which we have fought over a million times over countless cups of tea; Mecheda, the telebhaja capital of the world; and finally we reached within five miles.
Things changed thereafter. The glorious asphalt gave way to puddle-clad ridiculous patches of lands that were supposed to be roads, but certainly weren't. We trudged along, and covered three miles in thirty-two minutes (Joyish can surely walk faster than that, albeit on flat dry land).
The rest was a routine. Lunch; unpacking; changing into beachwear (okay, Bengali beachwear); walking through another muddy track lined with innocent-looking trees (Ranadip, though, could've sworn that the trees reminded him of the most brutal of murder mysteries); and finally, reaching what seemed like a reasonably harmless patch of sea.
The first look was quite impressive. It was the usual brownish grey water you get in West Bengal beaches, possibly a by-product of millenia of dirt. We took a few steps forward, maybe half a kilometre likewise, towards the sea, occasionally diverted by a handful of blood-red, supremely active crabs.
And then it happened.
The initial feeling was that of a thousand needles piercing your raw, bare skins. Suddenly I felt like a humongous dartboard, and the very next moment I was somehow metamorphosed into some miniscule object, carelessly shoved away by some unforeseen, indomitable surreal force. It was something I've never experienced before - being ripped apart by a force as powerful as the most ruthless of tyrants. It was like nature's revenge on us, humanists, refusing to acknowledge her supremacy on the universe...
The entire surroundings transformed. We were engulfed in a seemingly white barrier of rain, mist and sand: haze reigned supreme; visibility was curtailed to zero; it was a suffocating, yet delightful feeling of being challenged by some invisible supreme authority, trying to emphasise its stronghold on us, mortals; it was a challenge from there, to fight back, to gnaw our trails back to our tents...
It never seemed to subside. It reminded me of the West Indian fast bowlers of the 1980s, who allowed you moments of breathing space, but never a significant respite of any kind. We groped through the white darkness; the route was possibly visible, but walking against the wind was an impossible task.
Tamal and Abhishek had clicked their shutters a million times. The spectacles were captured. The goosebumps weren't. I stood there, for hours, seemingly mesmerised by the arrogance of the storm and the rumble of the frothy water against the muddy beach.
The raindrops had turned horizontal by now. Coupled with the sand, they now feasted on whatever was left of our exposed skin; we walked back, our eyes looking at our feet, sometimes with our backs to the destination to avoid the cruel blows. But we proceeded; surely, if not slowly, towards our tents...
Everything after that had to be an anticlimax; even the humongous pomfrets and the divine prawns; even the tents, rocking by the remnants of the storm; even the fact that my Nokia 3110c started working after a few hours since water had seeped inside the LCD.
We returned next day. Home beckoned. Tajpur was left behind. The storm was not. The day reaped the storm inside me, if not all of us, possibly ready to erupt some day in future...
Postscript: The storm had actually forced the local fishermen to come back; it had taken a solitary human life at Digha, a few miles away. But apart from the storm, Tajpur is a pretty nice to visit if roughing is fine with you. It's quite virgin yet, but the human impregnation is on its way, so if you want to catch it raw, don't leave it for too late.