Riding The Wave
The darker man asked us our names. He was called Ashok. He pointed to the pack of cigarettes in R.'s hand and asked for one. She gave him two. He took them with a gesture that jarred my usual expectations associated with the act of taking. It suggested an equal exchange though he had not given anything in return.
They were fishermen. They went out to sea twice to catch their daily fish on catamarans. Logs tied together with ropes literally. An avuncular craft, this catamaran. Just two logs? I looked with some trepidation at the one lying on the sand. There were ropes to hold on to if you needed to hold on to something which we city folks did when Ashok and his companion offered to take us into the sea. Not very far, R. exclaimed. The thought of declining did not enter us. We were eager for the experience. Bred on the notion of experiencing everything once, this was too novel not to step into. All my second thoughts were about how grand it would sound later when I relate this adventure to others.
Awkwardly we stepped onto the catamaran. A young boy who had been hovering around the two men, began pushing it into the sea at the same time. The force of his push nulled my movement and I lost balance drawing forth laughter from the men. R. who was watching me stiffened and entered with a blanker look than she had on before. The sea did not allow for false moves and she too found herself grabbing at empty space for support. The catamaran was now in water. Ashok and his companion caught up with it and hoisted themselves up effortlessly. Ashok used a pole that was tied to the catamaran to move it in.
We went further into the sea and the waves leapt and licked us with many tongues on all sides washing away the skin of civility. The salty water soaked us through. Fear ebbed slowly out of my body. I could feel it relax - a very physical feeling of unfolding trust. I looked at R.. She looked serene. I held on to the rope and felt the dance of the waves beneath the catamaran, the rhythm clearly perceivable as when you put your hand on a stereo speaker and feel the pulse of the music move in your body.
At a point, which to us seemed incredibly far from the shore, Ashok stopped steering. Now the catamaran was at play with the waves. By now, R. and I were happy with the water and with ourselves and the men and we shouted and cheered and doused each other like children. Ashok laughed. He and his companion exchanged words we did not understand. But it did not matter. All we could say whenever we caught our breath intermittently was "Oh my God."
A high wave rose, higher than the others, a gigantic, thick curl of water. This was the one, Ashok was waiting for. He surrendered the catamaran to it. With one big lunge, the wave delivered us back on the sand. Our bodies heavy with water, refused to move. Slowly I pulled myself up, though still bent over and gave R. a hand as she too heaved against gravity.
Riding back to the city, both R. and I were silent. Occasionally we exchanged glances. Our eyes shined with the light of the serendipitous experience. There was fullness and exhilaration but there was something else too - a chink in our existence. The city we were going back to, the lives that we would live everyday - they seemed like a fabric overlain on something deeper and hidden. We rode the wave, but once. Yet, it evoked unnamed but not unknown memories.
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