A warm gritty evening on an unusually cold day, where the fishermen rolled their boats into an eventful sea while the couples on the sidewalk sweated more from the heat than their intimacy; the sky was marooned with an appearing moon and the disappearing sun, peppered in bits and pieces by the ocean breeze which buffered in and out like the internet before 3G. It was an awkward time for a vacation but you got to take it when it’s up on offer, especially when you are a cop and holidays are hard to come by.
It had been a rough couple of weeks since the massacre in Maria’h and not a day had passed since then that I hadn’t woken up in sweats with pictures of blood brooding over from every inch of the subconscious frame. The shrieking children, the screaming survivors and the crying families of the deceased, the multiple bombings had left none untouched. I stood in midst of this chaos, unable to do anything when everything I valued was being burned to ground; ashes and only ashes was what I could see. While from the far corner to my right, I kept hearing a familiar cry, of a woman who I was once in love with. I could see her face, it appeared visibly shaken as she carried a dying person on her lap, may be waiting to hear his final words, maybe waiting for him to peacefully depart as there was nothing left to say then. I ran towards her with all my might but with every step I took, the distance between us only grew but somehow I was able to make it. Yet the moment I touched her on her shoulder, I woke up all of a sudden in angst. I woke up, as I saw myself there on her lap, with tears running along my cheeks.
Three days had passed, since we had arrived in Goa but it was only today that we finally decided to visit the beach. The crowd somehow made me anxious, more or less paranoid, of another possible strike. A small cracker in the neighborhood sent shivers down my spine, the hustling and screaming tourists on the beach were obviously a big no-no for me. But I finally budged and submitted to my two beautiful kids and my loving wife of ten years, Shalini. They took me to a relatively less populated beach of the Goan county where I comforted myself on the recliner, watching my wife and kids playing from a distance. There was a sense of calmness that presided; it gripped me off guard and left me to savor the moment without the paranoia that I was succumbing into, for the very first time since the days of bombing. In their noise, I somehow found my silence all over again, and for a moment at least I wasn’t burdened by my past. It felt good, finally.
I remember discreetly my pick when posed with a dilemma by another friend to pick one, the mountain or the sea, while I chuckled as I answered, “Over a mountain surrounded by the sea.” I know I was greedy there. I wanted everything at a single place yet longing secretly to visit them in pieces to know in real what I actually loved and why. I haven’t been able to figure out the reason though but however I seem to understand what exactly I might have loved in the enumerable trips I have been to, since I was a child.
Port Blair. Mangalore. Goa. Pondicherry.
I seemed to have strangely been in love with the beaches while being equally scared of the gushing water. So, I often used to stroll along the coast, gathering the wet evening breeze under my sobering breath before I found a spot to settle on to watch the dimming sun, set. Memory, you see, a mental picture which you would take along with us in the ever flowing journey called Life. I picked up the notion from a movie titled, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” but anyways it’s a story for another day. I believe some things are meant to be remembered through the naked eye rather than behind a camera lens. Be it the famous night street of Pondicherry or the sparsely visited Anjuna beach of Goa, I wouldn’t dare to forget how it felt to be there in those moments of awe.
Sea, in particular, is kind in its demeanour yet dominating in its presence and vastness. The rhythmic sound of the splashing waves brings out a kind of music which has a soothing effect, especially on me. It brings out romanticism in its truest sense, adding colours to the existing palate of our life. The calmness into which I could stare for eternity to come is the thing that I have found to savour with time, the thing I actually seem to love about the sea.
Kargil. Khardungla Pass. Shimla. Khasi Hills. Yercaud. Dodabetta. Yumesamdong.
My tryst with the mountains began way before I met the sea. It began from the place where people usually end, “The Great Himalayas”. The dried up mountains to the south of Ladakh to the snow covered ones to its north, it’s a befitting spectacle which one rarely could afford to forget. But I have come a long way, I was only ten back then.
This December, it was the clouded mountain and the windy valley that we happen to choose, making me understand the reason why I seem to love them so fiercely. It so happens with the hills that the time we spend to get to the scenic location is far more than the time we spend at the place. The topsy-turvy road curving upwards with every delicate turn thus remains the significant part of my travel memory, organically peppered with conversations. This part of memory somehow feels a lot important, feels right somehow. The arduous journey packed inside a Mahindra Xylo with an infinite road ahead and with scenic beauty covered all around while being gently graced with differing personalities carrying different opinions yet bonded together by long years of friendship and camaraderie. I now know for sure what I really love about the mountains. Sikkim, one of the most beautiful and one of the most underexplored places that we had recently visited made me realize this over and over again.
Paradise: When the two meet
Pangong-Tso Lake. Gurudongmar Lake.
I always loved the mountain breeze as much as I adored the gushing waves; they felt to me as pious and serene in their truest sense. I was too young to remember much about the time we had visited Pangong-Tso lake. Except the crystal clear bluish water and the deep blue sky at the fore with an abandoned boat at one corner, my memory about the travel is only in bits and pieces. This makes me ponder over the recent things that happened in our week long trip a few weeks ago, which by the way ended with us missing our destined flight, however it’s a story for another day. Gurudongmar Lake, 17500 feet above MSL, surrounded by snow-capped mountains was the paradise we had been lucky to witness. Partly frozen, partly liquid, the lake has been known for its religious reasons, an extremely pious lake, the locals had stressed. I wouldn’t deny their claim, even a bit. It’s God’s own paradise, he seem to have taken an extra effort while making this one. Stunningly breath-taking, applicable even in its literal sense.
The other place, my personal favourite of the trip and one of the best I have ever seen in my life, was the Sea of clouds. The one I had chuckled about; we were at the top of a mighty mountain and below us flowed the ‘clouded’ sea.
It’s never wrong to dream; sometimes they come to life in the most unexpected times and in most unexpected ways. Period.
P.S. Back home. Delhi and its beloved winter smog!
“There was this man who I remember seeing couple of years ago, a peculiar individual in his own right. He was draped in a saffron dhoti with number of beads around his neck which in turn was shielded with his really longish grey beard. His hair was unkempt so was his walk, absent minded it felt. But his eyes had an altogether new story on offer. Despite the wrinkles sagging over his cheeks, his sunken eyes had remained full of life as if they had never aged. There was a sense of excitement in his voice as he narrated the tales from mythology related to the Dashashwamedh Ghat on the banks of River Ganga, the place where we had been for the past two hours. Our itinerary had a long list of places to cover, but we seemed to remain here transfixed.
The early morning sunrise, the moderating winter breeze and his nonchalant manner of storytelling became the perfect foil for the day. It was Tara’s idea to start our trip from Varanasi which I was hell opposed to, atleast initially. I had my reasons; it isn’t a normal occurrence for a couple to reunite after thirteen years of divorce and to start that journey together from a place of pilgrimage was something which I had my inhibitions about. After all no one wants to be reminded of their receding hairline and greyish hair, atleast I didn’t. Tara on the other hand had remained elegant and beautiful; her greying hair seemed to have complimented her much more. I am not denying that I may have been biased in my description about her, why wouldn’t I be? But she did, indeed, look graceful as always.
We were seated along the banks, facing the river, while the old man stood to our left as he narrated the story from Mahabharata. He continued in a deep tone, “King Shantanu…” while we sat hand in hand with a smile on our face. I realized only then how much I missed her. More than the place it was her all along who made all the difference, who made the world a little more bearable for me to survive. She placed her head over my shoulder as we kept hearing the old man’s endless stories with a child-like curiosity in our eyes.
A year later, the saffron cladded man was present with us again, this time hearing our Ramayana with a graceful smile while wishing us a successful marriage, which I really hoped to be this time around. He, although, remained a peculiar man with those youthful eyes and a frailing body but we, however, remember him often when we narrate our story of getting back together where he remains a graceful influence who rekindled our common love for stories, all over again.”
Picture Courtesy: Getty Images
“Sea. I had heard a lot of stories, a few from my parents and a few by my friends but I as such never witnessed the spectacle, the grace of the deep blue sea. However, events of the past few nights had left us with no option but the sea. It took us over six hours maneuvering through the forests to reach the coast. We had been extra careful to avoid the trigger happy guards, after all it was my dad who was leading the escape. There were over fifty of us moving together, some were carrying steel boxes on their head while a few brought along their cattle, but the most astonishing was the woman cladded in red. Her clothes were tattered at the edges while her skin bore many visible bruises, however she as such carried nothing with her but I somehow felt that she carried more baggage than anyone else in the entire group. She bore a dead pan expression, and spoke to none apart from my mother. I often wondered what they spoke but never dared to ask Ammi.
The night was shining with its full flare and the hushing sound of the waves began to rise as we reached our planned destination, an abandoned stretch of the mighty Bay of Bengal. The sea looked beautiful, way better than the stories. The waves blended with the moonlight as they rose high in the sky before crashing into the rocks on the way side. The excitement caught be by surprise as I began to pace ahead of the rest, rushing towards the coastline, finally feeling the sea breeze for the very first time. I called out my mom, describing her the beauty that I was becoming a part of but all I could see was desperation in her eyes. The boat that was to ferry us hadn’t arrived, the food that we carried wasn’t left anymore, and the beloved roof that we built and lived for centuries wasn’t ours anymore. All that was left was the sea. I hoped in silence that unlike the land they won’t divide us from the sea, I just hoped they wouldn’t.”