Coastline Chronicles

For Indians, a large part of the nationalist identity constitutes of the image of a landmass bound by a borderline of length 15107 km and an image of it shown over and over again in every form, from textbook to flags to banners and pamphlets. Interestingly, almost half of the border is coastline, a massive span of 7517 km. Bay of Bengal to the east and Arabian sea to the west.

Unlike the imaginary lines dissecting actual landmass between nations, the coastline serves as the natural border and also provide livelihood for millions of Indians. There are no troops on this border, just a lot of people living their daily lives.

I am very interested in this relationship between the sea and the people. So I set out to explore this relationship through images. This is the first installment of hopefully many that I will try to cover during an extended period of time. The posts are going to be sporadic and spaced out in no particular order or timeline.

Chapter 1: Bakkhali

The journey starts at Bakkhali, a small hamlet located just beside the delta region of Bay of Bengal, separated from the mainland by the river Hatania-Doania. A mere 125 km from Kolata, it is a far cry from the bustles of the metro city. The beach serves as the lifeline for most of its inhabitants as tourism is the main business here.

The horse is as lonely as the beach, waiting for his ride.
Tourists can be seen doing all sorts of weird things if one is not being one.
Local photographers share a light moment between themselves before they begin their business for the day.
Football, an universal beach game.
Alcohol and swim doesn’t go hand in hand.
He serves lemon tea to the tourists. He doesn’t have time to go to school.
Chairs are for rent too. If you want to sit by the beach and enjoy the sunset, you have to pay the rent for the chairs, a tiny amount. One of the proprietary business of this place.
Waiting for the customers
You have to dress well and flaunt to attract rides.
Time to hunt new customers. No rest.
There are unbrellas for harsh sun.
Not so for the goat.
There are a lot of photographers here who take photos of the tourists by the beach and then run to their shop nearby, get them printed and sealed in a plastic cover and hand them over to the tourists for a mere Rs. 30 ($ 0.4). They make $7–8 per day. This is Ramu Das, he got me my photo in 10 minutes.
If you are thirsty, you can have coconut water for Rs. 15 or 20.
- Where were you? Ramu already got my photo! — I know. We don’t interfere with each other’s business here. Its a rule. (Ajay)
Pallavi roam the beach looking for tourists to beg from.
Mother and child enjoying the beach together.
The bengal coastline is a favourite place for Olive Ridley turtles to come and lay eggs in the nesting season. This unfortunate turtle came to the beach to lay eggs in the high tide but got stuck on the beach during low tide and couldn’t make it to the sea before the harsh sun rose. The sun almost burned and scaled it and it suffered a slow death.
Mallika Mandal and daughter Pallavi live by the beach and beg for living. mallika’s husband left her with infant Pallavi and ran away. Now she hardly has any other option other than begging.
- Just wait for 5 minutes sir, I’ll go and print your picture for you! (Sankar Jana, local photographer)
Getting the chairs ready for the evening.
He also begs by the sea.
Debprakash Singh feeds and maintains this pack of dogs like they are his family.
Relaxing by the beach.
She was waiting for her sons to return from the sea where they have gone out for fishing. She didn’t give me her name.