The Ocean & My Story
Sixty-eight years ago, through the dreamy eyes of a child, the first rays of a golden sun shredded the monsoon clouds hanging lazily on the sleepy horizons and sent thousands of waves in a dancing frenzy. The stillness was lit orange-red and the motions were a deep aquamarine blue.
The sea birds swooped and preyed on the unsuspecting crabs tricked by an early sun. The child watched the scores of fishing catamarans lurch their way amongst the waves, throwing dark silhouettes against the rippling gold, and his fear of darkness flew out the window his grandfather had left open the night before.
They say that the lessons of childhood one never forgets. I was no exception. Life has flowed by scores of summers, and I remain, a tireless admirer of the ocean.
Paradise in the Wild
A Source of Solace
Sighting the Ocean
The Ocean in Verse
Hunt for Indian Tiger
And yet, "admirer" is the wrong word. That I know. But I don't have a better word.
Expressionless though, the feeling remains - a very personal feeling, a feeling I have never been able to share with anyone. And it is not that I have not tried. But they have proved illusive -my expressions.
A teenager's newly found love brought him running to the glistening wet sands split into rows of light and shade by the tall coconut trees and an after-school sun. He threw himself on the sands on his back and stared out to nowhere. He smiled. He laughed. He shouted and told his story to the ocean. He made faces and teased it.
Four years later, when the girl's family left the village, he lay down again, this time nearer the edge of the water, and his silent tears added salt to the ocean. The ocean cooled him down and he lay still. The ocean eased the adolescent's anxiety into a soldier's quite confidence.
Then came a time of adulation and inspiration and a time of high ideals. A utopian Plato screamed at his newly found philosophic ears and an angry Nietsche preached him the essence of power. While Voltaire tugged on him to revolt and Bacon catapulted him into an arena where knowledge was power --- his friend, the ocean, remained a silent listener. He spent long evenings on the lonely beach shouting a Shakespearean "Seven Ages of Man", dramatising Lincoln's speeches, waving Hitler's hands and singing of the glories that would be his in the years to come. And the ocean listened, and clapped and grinned. Sometimes he wanted an answer and a more proactive treatment. Not getting it, he would throw an empty coconut shell into the ocean. But the deep ocean understood and laughed.
A couple of years on the fishing fleet with his father taught him what he was to be. It showed him the dividing line between books and life. It taught him to live. It taught him to survive. It showed him how friends change faces. Far away from the shore, surrounded by water on all sides, he saw the other face of the ocean. Somewhere in the coconut grove of his childhood was the ocean he loved, the ocean that was a friend. Then he learnt to harness life. With every throw of the fishing net and every pull of the cords, an earnest Hemingway character breathed into him a romantic song of battles won at the ocean.
Years went by. The ocean was still there. It had been a friend, a playground, a well-wisher, an audience, a rival and a fishing bowl. It had been all roles, but one. He brought home many a booty from its depths. He fought many a wave on a stormy night. He explored many a spot where he could seek solace for his loneliness. And in doing all this, he grew old.
Now at seventy three, I still take a walk down the beach.
I remember the child, the lover, the philosopher, the man, the husband, the father and the grand-father. I am still tempted to bend and pick an empty coconut shell and throw it into the ocean. I still want to run on its sandy beaches and scream out to it. Only my body does not acquiesce.. So I watch my grand-children do it.
I still want to tell the ocean frantic tales of Voltaire's France and of a faceless stoic. Only my memory deceives me. So I watch my youngest son do it. They say he is the college leader. I say it's all in the blood.
I still want to go out and fish its guts out. Only I do not have strength enough to drag the nets. So I watch my sons do it. And I watch their wives welcome home their harvest.
And I wonder how many of my like the ocean has seen. How many like me have shouted, preached, harvested and thrown an empty coconut shell at it. How many have had this relationship with it. And what relationship is this? I fail to explain. I just tell myself how happy my life has been. And I remind the ocean of its last role for me, quite similar to what it aided me to perform on my wife eleven years ago.
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.