The trip is simple enough. 40 souls gather at three different points in the city and make their way to a fisherman’s village in Kovalam. There they don life jackets, climb on curved fisherman’s boat, surge over the waves and make their way to mid-sea. Mid-sea, one-by-one they climb out of the boat into the sea.
Yes, the water is salty. Thankfully, temperature is perfect. Yes, there is a rope to hold onto. Mind is blank. Mind is blank. And the fishermen are watching over everyone. Hold, breathe! Thoughts enter—you are at this moment bobbing in the Bay of Bengal, some kilometres from the shore. “Can I leave the rope?” A young man encourages. I leave. There now-- afloat, watching myself slide over that wave, face-up, sky above, the slight sun, and miles and miles and miles of water beneath.
I close my eyes—how strange to feel utterly safe, peaceful and at ease....in the Bay of Bengal. T.S.Eliot’s words ring: “Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to sit still.”
Spin around—so many bodies and heads and life jackets bobbing in the sea. Smiling, telling jokes, teasing, begging for photos—as if they were not in water but on the sea shore, playing in gentle shallow waves. Should I nudge and remind—ok, folks, we are in the sea! But I guess everyone knows.
We make our way back or rather the fishermen ensure we make our way back. We emerge, the 40 souls-- what coats our senses is a gentle knowing, a joyful visitation to our Father- the Sea.
And outside in the village, grandmother Shivsundari says: No, I don’t swim much anymore. The water had come to our huts.
Yes, we live in paradoxes on earth.
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