Delta Beach, ahoy!

Deepa Bhasthi | Updated on September 28, 2018

Sand and surf: To arrive at Kodi Bengre from Udupi, you have to cross seven villages that are interconnected by bridges   -  DEEPA BHASTHI

A sudden detour leads to the discovery of a pretty fishing village in Karnataka

I used to wonder if all fishing villages were somewhat identical. Those who had lived in them scoffed at me. I am just a silly tourist, I defended myself. But every time I gravitated towards the coast, which was not too often, I found that every fishing village smelled the same — a thick, heady fragrance of the sea, its creatures, the wind and the sand. In this nasal sphere, there was little to distinguish one from the other. Perhaps there were differences in how they sounded — maybe the crash of waves was different in different places? But I hadn’t really noticed the variance. Life in the mountains and the city diminishes the ability to detect the nuances of the seas.

And then I came upon Kodi Bengre on the Konkan coastline. The coastal parts of Karnataka have been half-home for me, their language, accent, terrain, muggy weather and, most important, food being close to my heart. It was, therefore, odd that it took me so long to discover Kodi Bengre or Delta Beach.

Meandering through the northern half of Karnataka, the husband and I found ourselves in Udupi, the place that lends its name to innumerable restaurants everywhere else. The temple town teems with people in various stages of undress — be it en route to see the temple deity, or to splash among the waves at the beach, or simply because it is too hot. Not temple-goers, we walked around the place for a while, picking up unusual spices and other knick-knacks.

Hours later, close to melting in the heat, we heard someone suggest we should head to Delta Beach and cool down with some chilled toddy. A 30-minute bus ride from central Udupi — at ₹15 per ticket — took us past several villages, each tinier than the other and, to my city-addled brain, quainter. Much later, we discovered that Kodi Bengre is located at the end of seven villages interconnected by bridges.

Several of these villages resembled those located on Kerala’s backwaters, with boatways to access homes and coconut groves. We learned that Delta Bach is where the Suvarna River meets the Arabian Sea. Freshwater is scarce. Nothing much except coconut grows here. Monsoon means floods in these parts. Life isn’t quaint, obviously.


Local brew: Chilled toddy at shop in Kodi Bengre



We passed by Kemmanu, Hoode and other villages on the bus route. On our left was the sea and on our right, the much calmer river. It felt like you could do a side split and dip your toes in both. We got off the bus and took a narrow path to the beach, which is strewn precariously with rocks of uneven shapes and sizes. There were more people than we had hoped to find, but still fewer than the number of visitors in the other beaches in the area. It was quiet, barring the sound of a stray bird hurrying home, a boat sailing with a lone fisherman and a setting sun spilling colours. It wasn’t a beach to get wet in, and some sunsets need you to be a quiet audience.

Kodi Bengre was a fishing village unlike any I have met. The homes were nestled amongst coconut trees, pretty much like how they are in other villages,but somehow it looked different here — arranged meticulously like the furniture in a doll’s house. The thin road was neatly tarred, winding around the houses purposefully. Some backyards had small boats. Children were calling it a day, the sound of TV sets buzzing, people returning from jobs in the city — the village was slowly turning in for the night. The one shop selling chips and soft drinks was shut by the time we removed ourselves from the beachfront. The last bus was to leave soon, so we started strolling back, looking for that toddy. After the second temple and the next mosque, as directed, we found the house. The owner pulled out two chairs — one broken, the other rickety — on to his front yard, and we gulped down two glasses of freshly brewed, super-cold coconut palm toddy. The world slowed down and the heat didn’t seem to matter for the first time that day.

On the opposite side of the road was a shack that looked busy. While we were hurrying through our drinks, two women selling fried fish and other snacks walked into the house. One of them was young and in a rather revealing dress. Her hair untied, a long mangalsutra (marital talisman) dangled prominently from her neck. I wondered if the neckpiece was meant to ward off certain kinds of customers. There was no time to chat with the women. The bus came along soon after. In the thick of the buzz in my head, I thought how much I liked Kodi Bengre. I also decided that I would always think of it whenever I was passing by other fishing villages. Not all fishing villages are alike, are they? Some have that little extra about them.

Deepa Bhasthi is a freelance writer based in Bengaluru

Published on September 28, 2018

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