The Salt Water Summer Soul
"On that very dark night in the summer of 05; drifting away gracefully off the coast of Chennai, I was sitting on a boat which was perilously afloat in the Bay of Bengal with 5 men, a small oil lamp and a dinner for two…..”
I had just finished university in the summer of 2005, and looking beyond, there was so much of life and time out in my pocket. I was very much a lad who wanted to do something really evoking out of life at least, before I got a job, I wanted to do that something, which would show me the other side of life. While this thought was long spouting through my mind; me and my friend one day thought of whiling away our time at the beach. We sat there, thinking, talking and sharing a lot about what life has in store for us. And while I was throwing little shells into the sea, it suddenly struck me deep into my mind. Yes! I knew what I should do. That something was right in front of me.
The next Friday, I went to the sea side village of ‘Quil Thoppu’, a small village which lies beside the city of
A lovely Saturday evening around 4pm, I anxiously waited near the pick up spot, and in a few minutes, we all boarded the ‘Holy Maria” a fishing trawler which could house 5 people comfortably. After stuffing all their gears inside the boat, we were ready to set sail. The Holy Maria set sail at 17:15 hours from the coast of
I was in the middle of the ocean, the waves slowly washing us all over the sides, I could smell the deep sea… I felt surrounded by a force, so immense, I have never seen something so magnanimous in my life. I was in half fear, half astonishment at the bigness of nature and the enigmatical beauty it carried when compared to what mankind had achieved. Now and then I kept my hands by the water, to feel the water. It was awesome, and I knew this was what I wanted. In the middle of ocean, more than a 100kms away from the nearest shore, here we are 5 men and a whole lot of water. Oceans have always made me feel excited. Specially when I sit in the midst of the shores and think about life, its these oceans which thought me to pick and choose what you wanted from life, and let go of what you didn’t. Every time when I see the waves keep pushing things to the shore, it keeps telling me un-told stories of what and how I should sometimes lead a life. The very own Ocean’s way!
It was 10 ‘o’clock in the night, when all across us was as dark as the ends of the earth would look. The men took the nets and kept throwing it into the ocean, and while they were doing it, there was a huge wave which hit us from the sides. This was so unprecedented and there was no idea such a wave was coming, as the night grew, the waves struck us harder, there was a gush of sea water which flowed into the boat, and one of the men, ran inside and cried out “Water into cabin”. I was clueless of what was going on, because I just held as tight as possible onto the rod which was holding the nets, and I was just not ready to let go off it, come what may! After the waves subsided in a few hours, I made known of what had happened. One of the men, told me that the sea water has spoilt all the rice which we carried to eat, and that now we were left only with food for two people. I was really worried on what was going to happen now. We were in the middle of the dark blue ocean, with 5 men and just food for two, how more worse could it be? I thought its going to be a grave night, without food and water for myself.
It was 12am in the middle of the night when I woke up suddenly from my sleep, when I heard the sounds of men laughing. I woke up and went out to see that all the 4 men were seated in a circular manner, and there was an oil lamp amidst them, and they were smoking and laughing over something. I interrupted with caution and they welcomed me to sit amidst them. I smiled and asked them what was so enjoyable… They casually replied “The engine broke down”… I was alarmed! I looked at them with nearly tears filled up in my eyes, and asked “Are we going to die here or what?” One of the men came to me, and pat my back and said…. “What ever it is, even if we have die in this ocean, we will make sure you reach those shores”.. I looked at him and said “With no food, water, no lights, no power, and the engine not working, how on earth are we going to reach the shore?” He smiled back and said “Have faith, look at those bright stars above us; I have been in this sea for more than 40 years, and never has my faith let me down, and so will it; Today” A little peace egressed into my heart when I heard him say these lines. I knew he was talking from his heart, and I knew these men mean their words; or at least I wished and prayed they were.
I was sitting by the bow side of the boat, on a little wooden plank, watching up the skies, and deep inside thinking what if all this was a big mistake, I enrolled myself to be taken far beyond the shores of the city, beyond the miles of lights and water, deep into a space which I had never before wandered, never before cherished. While I was gazing at the clear sky, someone called my name, I looked down and one of the men came towards me and called me towards the side of the boat. I went there and there was a fish jumping inside the boat. It was a freshly caught ‘King Fish’… It was around a foot long, and still very much alive… I looked at it with an excitement, it was the first fish caught while I was there. One of the men came to me, and handed the fish and told me with a smile “This is for you; your dinner”….!! I was half excited, half uncertain on how this would eventually become my dinner. Before I could think of all this, two men kept a metal stove in the front of the boat, and were burning something…. I went around to investigate what was going on, and they were making rice, it was just a half a cup of rice. I didn’t look to much into what was happening. I went inside the comfort of that little cabin bed and closed my eyes for a while. After half an hour, there was a small tap on the door, I looked up and one of the men called me outside. When I reached out, there was a small chair, with a place of rice, some dhal and some pieces of fish. And all the 4 men kept looking at me, they all smiled and asked me to have my dinner. I was so happy. I sat down and gorged all what was kept for me. Once I finished my meal, I washed my hands and realized that none of them had eaten anything. I looked at them and asked them “didn’t you guys eat something?” They said, “You’re our guest today, we’re just happy, you had” and don’t worry about us, we can go days without food… At that moment, a pulse of reverence ran through my little heart…. I loved their life, their respect to my pleasures and their ways of putting it through. They kept a warm fire stove in the middle, and we yapped away to glory about their lives, the storms and the biggest fishes caught… A little while later, I was yawing and one of the men, slowly lifted me up and said, ‘If you want to, you can sleep on the top of the roof, there’s a small cushion you can sleep on, do you want to?? He asked…. I smiled and gladly nodded my head and said “I’d love to”…..
So I went ahead and took my place on the top of the trawler roof…. I put across my sheet, and lay over on my back, to see the sky…. What I saw, still now; remains one of the most marvelous and astounding scenes have ever witnessed in my life. Amidst the calm oceans of the Bay of Bengal, miles away from the sea shore, all alone on the roof of a fishing trawler looking at the dark black sky with a million or more stars winkling at me, and to know that all the travails that I had to go through and still make this one of a million moment; it was all just worth it. That moment I held my life by my heart and let it pass a little slower, I wanted to well cherish and bask in the blitheness of that one passing moment….
The next morning I woke up to the sounds of the sea gulls, it was around 5:50am and I looked around me, and it was the blue ocean all around me, and still one of the most wonderful sights I got to see.. For that moment, I heard the engine noise very feebly, and yes, I knew and prayed they would fix it somehow, and I guess by morning, they somehow did. I looked down from the roof, the men were busy pulling the nets…….. I forever loved to watch how they do it… I rushed down to see; they all greeted me with a happy morning… I ran down to help and pull down the net…They even strapped me in a life jacket and threw me into the ocean with the another 2 jumping after me... I floated for a few minutes in the deep ocean, it was a once in a lifetime feeling. I swam well and jumped back into the boat all wet and excited. Dried myself and in a few minutes, one of the men came with a small place of bread, milk and the best few pieces of fish we caught the night earlier. I asked them if they had their breakfast, they brushed aside my questions and just smiled and said ‘You eat son, we’ll have it later’… even after a few compulsions they didn’t budge, so I ate and I ate well, they had infact saved both the meals just for me. And just lived on the small scraps of the fish. I asked them ‘How did you get the engine working?, he replied with one word ‘Faith’….. We both smiled at each other.
At around 10am, we set sail towards the shore, dashing across the waves and off towards our mainland, Holy Maria, sailed through gracefully. A few hours later, we reached Chennai… my city was finally in sight… The roads, the cars and the scooters, the lovely light house were a blessed sight to be seen once again. I slowly took my little bag and jumped to the concrete wall. The men tied the boat to the shore and slowly made their way pulling their nets as they went. I waited by just to see all those action going on, and to see what all we had fished for that day. I did see a lot of colorful fishes and a few crabs too. I wanted to ask some, but just thought it would be cheap and so kept quiet without making a move.
Later, the chief man came to me and said “Come home, have lunch and then go”, I said… ‘Oh no I think I was more than trouble for you, it’s ok, I will leave now’, instead he insisted I should come.
He took me home. It was a sweet little thatched hut, but the village, they made me sit on the only metal chair that was available and in a matter of half an hour, the lunch was ready, and was served hot….. I ate my first mouth, and my eyes closed, my tongue sizzled and my soul flew away in delight… The curry his wife made, and the taste it carried cannot equal anything to the gravy’s have ever tasted in my life. In that little hut, I tasted food that day, and till now I am so sure, even heaven wouldn’t taste as good as that.
After having a yummy lunch, I gave a big smile and a heart full of lovely words to the lady, and came out of the hut. I held the hand of the chief man, I looked into his eyes and said, even though this was just a day in your life, for me, it will and shall remain as one of the closest days in seeing heaven itself. The beauty, the waves, your selfless love and most of all, you and your men’s heart…. I will always admire and keep you all in my heart forever. He gave me a hug back, and handed me a small bag with a few freshly caught fish in it. I didn’t have words to thank him, I smiled. He said ‘You were a part of our day, so you deserve it’….. I beamed with joy.
I took the train back to my home, and sitting by a lonely window, I slid my hands by the window rail and kept thinking of the wonderful moments which passed me. The lovely people I met, their hearts, their love and their life. I realized that people are all different, there is difference in who they are and what they do, how they do it… But in the end, love is all the same, it just seems to resurrect from the places and the people, you least expect it from. And when you realize that moment of love, you just don't want to let it go. You take a piece of that moment and follow it with your heart; forever with time.
“Yeah! every little moment was worth it, when I think of that dark night in the summer of 05; drifting away gracefully off the coast of Chennai, I was sitting on a boat which was perilously afloat in the Bay of Bengal with 5 men, a small oil lamp and a dinner for two…..”