The Relentless Sea

The sea does not relent. The waves come and hit the shore again and again and yet again. The sea does not stay still. It keeps moving, its surface always in a state of flux. How unstable it is. Well, not unstable, I say it as if it is a bad thing. It is how it is, moving, unrelenting. And we on land, used to our so called stability, can never really cope with this vast stretch of water in motion, an unstable version of our relatively stable land.

Kuch khane ko de do na bhaiya,” a voice, somewhat pestering, broke through the walls of my self-absorption and caught my attention. I looked at this boy, perhaps ten years old, reaching just about my shoulders, looking at me with half pleading eyes. Perhaps with his years of experience on this beach he has worked out where real pleading would lead to a favorable results and where it would be completely wasted.

I look at him and look back at the waves hitting the shore again. For a moment the entire life of this boy next to me flashes in front of my eyes. Of course it is my imagination, but I see a little baby, someone who started begging for his meals as soon as he could crawl. He must have spent eight or nine years doing this, day in and day out. Is there any hope for a different tomorrow for him? Does life ever cease to be itself? Or is it like these waves, that keep repeating themselves endlessly?

I look back at him again, no doubt by this time he has already wasted a few lines on me and was almost on the way to his next target.

Suno,” I call out as I start fiddling inside my pockets looking for my wallet. As he is turning around I decide in the spur of the moment to surprise him. I take out a five hundred rupee note and hand it to him saying, “Ye rakho, isse kuch din ka khana le lena“.

He stood there stupefied with disbelief for a few seconds.

Then as soon as he held the note and I let go, he ran off, excited and perhaps nervous. Maybe he thought someone might have seen that I gave him that large sum and they would not try to take that away from him or maybe he was just worried that I would change my mind. Very soon he was lost in the sea of people thronging on the beach.

Then suddenly a thought came to my mind, “What if he misuses the money and buys….”. This is what many people who do not believe in helping beggars by giving them money think. I am not saying there is no truth to that. But I wonder, is our kindness provisional too? Do we help people only when we think they would use it wisely and for the intended purpose? Is this how kindness was intended to work in God’s scheme of things?

I look at the crowd of people again trying in vain to catch a glimpse of that boy. I was worried now that he might be hiding in a corner somewhere smoking a beedi, and that and other similar thoughts assailed me.

“You don’t even know how I feel,” a voice spoke in my head again and I knew who it was as soon as I heard it. Images from the last one year of our time together started flooding me rather haphazardly. I try my best to keep them at bay. But they kept haunting me nevertheless much like these waves.

I quickly scan the crowd again, hoping to find something that would catch my attention and distract me. A crying baby, a fighting couple, women talking, anything at all, I am ready to be carried away by any stream of useless thoughts. Anything that would take this pain away.

Bhaiya, mujhe bhi book lagi hai,” a voice called out again and as I looked I saw a seven year old girl in tattered clothes. She was looking at me with a lot of expectation. Undoubtedly, the news of my generosity had spread. I quickly opened my wallet, pulled out a hundred rupee note and handed it to her. I noticed a small streak of disappointment appear on her forehead but she quickly recovered and left. 

I thought it would be best if I moved to some other place. I would keep getting harassed again and again. But then the same sense of meaninglessness that had slowly been pervading almost everything in my life crept up again and said, why does it matter, let them come if they do. What will you get by sitting in a peaceful corner anyway? Think about her? I sit down.

“Rohan, please, don’t do this to me right now, do you not understand how I feel at all?” her voice again, pleading this time. 

Sometimes I feel like it is impossible to understand another human being. You can come close to it, very close sometimes, where you feel like you have them figured out, but then you hit that point, the same point you hit within yourself as you try to get a better insight into your own thoughts, feelings and actions. It is as if there is a spring well of uncertainty and instability hidden somewhere within us. It resists all our attempts to get to understand about ourselves and others. As soon as we come close to it, this well opens up and then one after another feelings, insecurities and fears that we had no inkling existed come gushing out and take away with them all our attempts to come to a rational understanding of ourselves or others.

As much as much we hate to admit, everything within us is in a constant state of flux much like the surface of this sea, and what we can only hope for is to get a fleeting insight of how we or anyone else really is and really feels until we change again or they do. 

Main boli thi tere ko ki vo aisiich hai,” a fragment of two women’s animated conversation came drifting my way. An oft heard counsel of friends who almost always seem to have a better insight into our problems than we do. Distance helps perhaps? While we are caught in the whirlpool of our emotions, our friends can discern patterns and draw more logical conclusions. And the sad truth about life is that very rarely are they proved wrong. Try as we might to convince them that this person that we love and adore, this person we want to devote our entire life to, deserves our love and care and attention, our friends already know better. 

“She is just using you.”

“No, she really loves me. She is just caught in this situation right now.”

“You don’t get it now, but you will one day, and then it will hit you hard and you will feel stupid for wasting so much time and energy on her.”

Do I feel stupid? I don’t know. Sometimes I do, sometimes the rational side of me stirs up and looks rather disapprovingly at my state and says, what did you get out of it? Your friends were right, she did not deserve your love. In those moments, I am filled with self-loathing and shame. So far, the only person I have been really responsible for in this world is myself and I couldn’t even handle that. Then these waves subside and I brace myself for the next wave of thoughts.

“Apno ke liye nahiin karenge to kiske liye karenge?”

My mom used to say that every time she went out of her way to do something for our Dad or for one of us children. I envy her her clarity. I for one have never understood at what point does someone become apna? At what point does someone become one’s own? And at what point can one rightfully say, no, I can’t do this to myself no matter who you are and what you mean to me.

The boy is back in the vicinity again. He seems happy. I quickly check his hands to see if he has a beedi or a cigarette. He doesn’t. He just seems to be fooling around. So far so good.

“If you love me you would understand that I can’t be with you right now. But I don’t want to lose you. I just can’t make any sense of my life right now. I need time.”

All she wanted was more time. Could I have given her more time? What was the rush anyway? Why couldn’t I just wait longer?

The next wave of thoughts had now made their way to me and I tried my best to appear equanimous while this storm raged inside me. What kind of lover am I? Isn’t love about understanding and commitment, about the ability to endure come what may for the sake of the person one loves? How pathetic and selfish am I? All she wanted was more time and I could not even give that to her. Do I even know what true love means?

What is true love? Heck, what is love?

I don’t think I know what it is. I don’t think I have actually ever loved anyone. I have come close many times, like I have come to the shore of this sea, but somehow I have never leapt into the currents. Or maybe I did, but I always had some sort emergency exit planned. I don’t think I ever gave in completely. But did she?

I imagine her sitting smugly on her side of the shore. She demands that I jump. Would I?

“What kind of person demands something like this? How could she do this to you if she really loves you?”

I hear the wise counsel of my friend again.

I see the little girl walk past me. Is that a paan parag sachet in her hand? I am scared to find out. I look away. To each their own, I try to tell myself.

“Qayamat ke din aapko hi ribbon kaatne ke liye bulaange!”

This would be my friends’ usual response to my squeamishness. And yet, getting things right has never been my forte.

I am slowly coming to realise that there is no right and wrong in the world, there are just actions and reactions. One just needs to learn how to live with them.

It is getting dark now. But the number of people on the beach seem to be increasing. They all come here every evening I suppose. Do they sit down, look at the waves and reflect on life? Or do they simply come here to have fun? Look at the couple, walking together holding each other’s hands and leaving behind them a trail of conjoined footprints in the sand. Is it wrong to wish that for oneself?

I look up at the sky–the darkness spreading slowly and engulfing the sky. The birds flying back to their homes after another day of eating insects, hopping and chirping. Everything, every being seems to have a plan, a predictable pattern of life and behaviour.

I suddenly feel like I have fallen out of the rhythm of the world.

I quickly look back at the sea. There it is like always, its waves coming and going. I feel reassured. Life keeps happening to us like this I think–like these waves constantly in motion. It never rests.

I get up, brush off the sand from my pants and walk towards the sea. Let me embrace these waves for once, I think, let me embrace this life for once.

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