Of finding silence amid noise


I toss and turn on my bed. I feel slightly cold from the wind around me. I am staying at a resort, about 80 km away from Salvador, a Brazilian city in the state of Bahia, which is over 14,000 km from New Delhi, India. While I do this geographical math in my head, I toss and turn a little more. I check the time on my mobile. It’s 5.30 am! I look outside my window and it’s still a little dark, with the sun just about to pop up and say hi. I am amazed at how my eyes just popped open at this strategic time. I am not a morning person at all. But somehow, Bahia and the ocean around me has turned that around.

I try and dismiss this as a crazy coincidence and go back to sleep again. Only, I can’t. I see the crack of dawn from my window and can no longer stay indoors. Something tells me I need to smell the wind outside. I wake up, put on my shorts and running shoes and walk towards the beach. While I am getting ready, I notice a slight drizzle. Is it raining? How is that possible? The sun’s almost out and is shining bright! Perhaps the tropical weather here is trying to teach me a lesson on dual personalities. I grab my sunglasses as the rain stops as abruptly as it began.

I walk on a narrow, sandy path towards the ocean. I am engulfed with a slight sense of fear. I am a Piscean by birth. So if zodiac signs are to be believed, my personality should have an affinity for water. In a lot of ways, it does. I love being on the beach. The waves, the sea and the water bodies have the kind of soothing and calming effect on me, like nothing else (I have blogged about this before). But the water also scares me. The mighty power of the waves remind me of my mortality and insignificance as a human being. And deep waters can terrify a below average swimmer like me.

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South Atlantic Ocean, as viewed from a beach resort near Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

As I walk on the sand, maintaining a safe distance from the roaring ocean, I look around. I see no one anywhere nearby. No men, women, children or humanity around me. I see a strange looking bird that looks a lot like a vulture, staring back at me. I see a yellow and brown colored sparrow (or is it a humming bird?) fluttering around the edge of the waves. And I see these birds enjoying the solitude as much as I am. All alone on a long coastline far away from home, I have never felt more alive and aware of my existence.

I try to conquer my fear of being alone near the mighty waves and inch slightly closer to them. A big wave comes roaring ahead and I take a few steps back. It barely touches my ankles and runs away. The cold water touching my feet brings a smile on my face. I get a little more encouraged and inch closer. This time the wave is bigger, stronger and colder. They taste my weak knees and I scream with delight! Having tasted the salty water on my legs, I walk further down and hunt for a quiet spot.

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It’s strange that I am looking for a quiet spot at a space where there’s literally no one around. No noise. No people. No conversations. No words around me. And yet, I go looking for it. It is an eerie, yet liberating experience to be at a space that literally feels like in the middle of nowhere. The only consolation is the dry land. The horizon beyond it is endless and infinite. It is the loudest silence you will ever hear. And I soak it all in as the wind and waves roar ahead of me. I do manage to find a quiet spot. It’s inside me. And I realise I can revisit it any time I want. Amid all the noise. Amid all the conversations. Amid all the loud silences. All I need is some ocean, wind and strange looking birds. They remind me of Frida Kahlo’s memorable quote:  “It’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”

Of water, wind, seagulls and nostalgia


If there is one word I could use to describe the city of Istanbul, it would be nostalgia. I am no city expert and neither have I been here several times (heck, it’s only been a little over 24 hours since I landed in this oh-so-familar place) but the city fills me with a sense of nostalgia. I am not sure what it is of yet. But as I think more about the city, its relentless clinging on to the past, its reluctant moving to the present, I feel the land and its people are nostalgic about where they come from, what they continue to represent and what they hope to become.

I have always wondered if I am one of those people diseased of seasickness. The assumption comes from the fact that I do suffer from motion sickness. But I have never had the opportunity to be on sea or any other water body long enough to feel sick. Today, I found out the truth as I took a boat ride on the mighty Bosophorous. The Bosophorus is a natural strait that separates the European and Asian parts of Turkey. As a country, Turkey already is at a geographically rare position and is often categorised as Eurasia. The Bosphorous adds to that charm. As you cruise through the water, the waves and the wind, you try and make sense of lines, borders, separations and rigid categories that we create about people, places and the planet.

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The Turkish flag flies high. As viewed from the boat #nofilters

As I stepped on the boat, I felt my body shivering. Partly because of the wind but mostly because of the constant moving of the boat hit by waves whose velocity is always unpredictable. My traveller friend and I narrowed down to a 1 hour boat ride and even before the boat had begun sailing, I was wondering if it’s too long a time to be away from land. As the boat breathed to motion, I tried to focus my attention on the rarity of the blueness that surrounded me. The wind lets you forget your sickness. In fact, there are several distracting seagulls that divert your mind.

I am not an avid bird watcher. My knowledge and interest is limited to the pigeons, crows and sparrows around me back home. In fact, up until today, I had never seen a sea gull before. As they flew closer to the boat, perhaps gazing at us just as we did, I realised just how majestic they were, too. A perfect and most appropriate fauna to surround the mighty Bosphorus. Flying high, then low, then walking on the surface of the water and finally sitting on it like a natural duck, the sea gulls fascinated me too. Perhaps they are the best symbols of nostalgia. I say this after being reminded of yesterday’s visit to the Museum of Innocence, where Kemal associated kissing with “visions of a mother seagull putting food into her impatient chicks’ open beaks” as well as “of a seagull gently holding a fig in its beak”: a visual that stayed with me, much like everything else. And what is desire if it doesn’t evoke a sense of nostalgia?

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Seagulls are hard to photograph, especially with a camera phone, but the most common thing you will see and hear in Istanbul.

The sea. The water. The wind. These are objects I associate my idea and perception of nostalgia with. They also bring the deepest contemplation in me as I admire and bow before the mightiness of water. One hour, really, wasn’t that long (although I was beginning to feel a sense of land anxiety as we were nearing the end of the tour) and I soaked in as much of the experience as I could. The sound of the seagulls fill the night, as I type this. They seem to be echoing my thoughts. Or perhaps paving way for new ones. Whatever they may be, I continue to be mesmerised in the nostalgic land of Istanbul.

Of beaches, serenity and the added philosophy


Escapists hunt for opportunities that open up escapist avenues. This year, the Sun God promised me the same and I got a rare off from work for Pongal so I could visit Puducherry during the weekend and take the much needed break from professional madness that I oh-so-wanted. Now, that’s one place off my To-Do list 🙂

Puducherry has been on my To-Do Go list for almost a decade now. I fell in love with the place and my idea and perception of it the day I learned about the existence of this Union Territory during one of my Geography and/or General Knowledge classes. French, and almost anything European, interested my Euro-centric mind back then. Today, of course, I have grown more neutral in terms of selecting places solely on the basis of their roots and without any knowledge, whatsoever, of its historic origins and context.

But, French cuisine, the language, people, their French accented English, architecture and literature (more so after reading Albert Camus and Samuel Beckett –two very interesting authors who propagate intriguing philosophies, though I never read anything that was particularly French in their works), reading descriptions of French houses, paintings and walls in some of the short stories by Guy de Maupassant (one of my favourite writers as a teenager, his name and its correct pronunciation enthralls me even today)  and  Victor Hugo plus my History classes of the French Renaissance were enough to sow the seeds of exploring something even remotely French some day.

Last weekend provided the perfect opportunity to do the same, though I planned it with my friend a few weeks ago. Puducherry, as most may be aware, was a former French colony before it became annexed to independent India. It still boasts of a remarkable French influence in terms of architecture, buildings, people and culture, in general.

I have always been more of a beach than a mountain person. I love mountains and the calm atmosphere of cold bliss that they bring with themselves but I believe that the serenity that a beach or a land near any moving water body has to offer is rarely found anywhere else. Thus, Pondy scored even on the beach front as it boasts of some extraordinary beaches, a few of which have, sadly, been affected by cyclone ‘Thane‘ recently. The devastation caused is for everyone to see. Fortunately or unfortunately, the bay (here, the Bay of Bengal, the largest bay in the world) that brought the calamity continues to flow, roar and sing according to its own freewill.

A significant period of our trip was spent on the Promenade beach, one of the most popular beaches in Pondy on Beach road (Goubert Avenue) . We saw the sea and all its colours at various points of the day–dawn, early morning, morning, afternoon, dusk and, finally, night. Each had a charm and a certain mystery of its own. Perhaps it is because one spends time looking at a gigantic, powerful force of Mother Nature (a bay in this case) spreading its enormity in front of us, the Yahoos (to borrow Swift’s term) that one tends to ponder more than usual. I, for one, actually devote time to my own musings and wondering on a regular basis. But there certainly is an added advantage of a beach and the quietness it offers.

To look and judge the enormity of the wave that’s approaching. To feel the wind rush against your cheeks. To dare your silky hair to take its roughness. To stare continuously at the horizon and wonder at its endlessness. To think about the exact shade of blue that the bay is. To contemplate swimming in the middle of nowhere. To wonder if you’d even be able to swim in the undefined and uncertain depths of the water body. To ponder about the wetness of the rocks that are lucky or unlucky enough to be slapped by the waves every few seconds. To listen intently to the sound of the waves. To find silence in their noise. To think about peace in the middle of commotion. A beach is a storehouse of irony, oxymorons and so much more.

 

Picture courtesy RG

A walk by the beach certainly turns one philosophical. And unconsciously so. It inspires contemplation on subjects one either never got the time to think about or the opportunity to dwell upon further. My friend believes he’ll pen his book some day sitting on the sidelines of a sea. The inherent individual inspiration that the sea offers seems to fuel much thought, beliefs and apprehensions. I even read somewhere that poets and writers (and others of the ‘creative’ lot) have unanimously found the sea and the moon to be awe-inspiring. Interestingly, tidal waves are caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon!

I don’t know if it’s ‘inspiring’, really. To borrow Marquez‘s lines: “An inspiration comes without any warning.”

I would rather revel in the blissfulness of the rarity of my own existence. 🙂