High 63F. Low 42F. Mostly sunny. Unseasonably warm day, the weather forecast says and like house plants straining their necks to catch a little sun, we drive to the beach. Old Malayalam movie songs, anecdotes from each other’s past, and pleasant silences gives an endlessness to the drive; yet by the end of the two hours drive it feels like a few minutes. Too short. Is that how Life would feel like?
The beach is beautiful; clear blue sky, bleached golden sand and blue-gray water. It is off-season, and so we get to share the entire stretch of beach with occasional dog walkers and some sea gulls. The sweep of blue sky above us, the warmth of toasted sand beneath us, and the music of the waves, my companion sits musing. I lie down beside him, feeling like a mutineer. A simple action like lying down in the open can be revolutionary to a body that has been trained since childhood to bunch up like a tight fist every time it is in a public space, a tight fist wary of intrusions.
I must have been lying here for a long time. Voices, smells and the taste of salty peanuts nudge me awake.
Choodu kadaley, choodu kadaley
A dirt smudged face calls out just above my head. Will I be encouraging child labor if I buy peanuts from him? I think of the bowl of kanji he could have at the end of the day, and buy some. He disappears without giving me my change. The meager sum he owes me fattens up my ego, and I look around with my benevolent smile.
People sit in semi-circles facing the sea, some groups large, some small. Here and there a lone figure sits gazing at the sea. Pieces of broken conversations play hide and seek in the air. Two kids build an under bridge in the damp sand. Squatting on the sand a step away from the other, each digs towards the other, slowly and carefully, removing fistful of sand in between. Finally, when their sandy hands meet in their tunnel, eyes lit up. Joy. They lift up their hands together, breaking their bridge. Glee. Another bridge is being built in a distance. A group of men sit talking and listening earnestly. I hear wisps of Neruda and long to join them, but there are some distances I will never cross.
Saarey baakki the dirt smudged face is suddenly in front of me, with a toothy smile that takes away the edge of my guilt. I meekly take the coins he hands me, ego pierced and smiling at myself.
Eyes open, and I see the clear blue sky, empty beach and my better half looking bemused. A lovely day, just the kind of day which would have deserved the much repeated ending of my old school essays “It was a memorable visit”.