Silk

What are we
But waves abandoned
On a silken shore,
Feverish in our attempts
To find home.

What is love
But this pristine
Silence
Between vowels frothing
At the lips of nameless lands.

I found mine in you-
The belonging of a nomad
To a castle of sand.

~ Sumeet

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Living an ocean-blue dream and capturing it

Have you ever heard the hymn of the sea? Not the emphatic roar of waves that crash recklessly into the dented black of rocks. But the gentle symphony that lives under the turbulent attire of the surface. It’s a singular form of poetry that seeps in through every pore of the skin. Under water, all you hear is the sound of your breath, which leaves a train of bubbles marching to the surface, and the musical silence of deep blue. It’s the closest you can get to entering a wormhole and exploring a whole new reality, where gravity can’t keep you grounded, the senses are crippled, and the surrounding life forms defy all that your eyes have become accustomed to.

The training manual claimed that it’s the most memorable moment for any beginner. But nothing could prepare me for the first time I breathed underwater. A worn, uncomfortable regulator, which I clasped with my reluctant teeth, flushed dry, hollow air into my protesting lungs on demand from a cylinder hung on my back. All that meant nothing the moment I went down into the ocean blue, which I had loved all my life from the safe realms of the shore, and breathed. In that tiny instant, I became part of the ocean and everything that called it home.

Looking for a subject and something called neutral buoyancy. Pic credit: Anurag

Looking for a subject and something called neutral buoyancy. Pic credit: Anurag

One of the many ironies you get introduced to as part of an open water diver in training is the art of sinking yourself on purpose: You tighten a weight belt around your waist to counteract the buoyancy of water and deflate your BCD (buoyancy control device – a jacket that inflates and deflates on the touch of a button). It goes against all instincts of survival, so you train your mind to do it. As you cross the surface line, the lights go out, a blue tint takes over the world, and all your senses panic. It’s a hostile environment you aren’t supposed to inhabit. The steeply rising water pressure hammers your ear drums, so you equalize your air spaces. You’re taught to do this at every count of five. This and a dozen other things that you can’t afford to forget.

I was horrible in the first few confined water dives (shallow water dives). I drank half the ocean and inhaled some of it. But my dive trainer would have none of my skepticism. It was my dream to scuba dive, and he took it upon himself to see me through. In the training module, all sorts of potential situations are simulated and dealt with – you’re asked to flood your mask with ocean water that stings the eyes and drive it out with one swift forceful blow-out; swim 9 metres to the surface in one extended exhale (for an out-of-air scenario); sip on air from a leaking regulator, and more. I overcame one instinct at a time. By the time I reached my open water dives, I was getting a hang of things, and drinking less salt water than before, but hovering mid-water still confounded me. I kept rising or sinking while my patient trainer levitated in a monk-like stance in front of me. It reminded me of a clumsy Po blundering in front of Master Shifu. After all, it takes just an inhale to go up, an exhale to sink, and you can never hold your breath (lest you tear a lung).

In many ways, learning to scuba dive is like learning to walk, or balancing your first bicycle. You see others do it with almost no effort, and wonder why you keep falling and scraping your knees bloody. But once you get the hang of it, it liberates you. You turn directions by merely turning your hips, do somersaults, swim sideways, fin ahead with a superman fist extended, rise with just a breath, plunge with an exhale… you finally have the superpowers you always wanted. My most memorable moment was surfacing from my last training dive with a wide grin and hearing my instructor call me an ‘open water diver’. Or wait, was it the one where i first saw a stingray and swam circles with it? Or was it the moment i swam with a school of yellow snappers who let me into the clan? I can’t possibly choose.

Thank you for capturing me in action, Anurag

Being a photographer, I have an instinct to take pictures of anything wild and exquisite. Naturally, I itched to capture marine life the moment I laid my mask-protected eyes on it. Once I was a licensed open water diver, I started to learn the tricks of underwater photography the very next day. It’s the most difficult form I’ve tried, by a margin. The blue-green water is the biggest foe of sharpness and colour, the sunlight a mere trickle from the surface, and zoom lenses pointless – so you go as close to stinging fish and corals as possible while floundering for neutral buoyancy (a perfectly horizontal floating position). Not to mention the need for waterproof gear. Not getting into the nitty-gritty of all things camera, i’ll go ahead and present my first attempt at capturing glimpses of a world that I adore. A world that finally accepted me as its own.

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Have you heard the hymn of the sea? It’s the song within that we drowned in everyday’s cacophony.

Words of an ocean/ Song of a lover

goa-ocean

I will keep coming at you,
Wave after wave after wave
Of love, sweet and
Salt-rimmed.

I do not seek
Anything in return,
But for you to soak
Your tired, parched feet
In my doting, cool blue,
Maybe give yourself whole,
If a world sans gravity
Appeals to you.

Beware, though,
An endless blue isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Towering mountains have drowned
In an upset sea.

O lover of clear blue lakes,
Don’t venture into my waters;
You won’t like the fury of waves,
The storms that hover,
The roar of thunder all day.

O lover of a distant country,
Don’t feed me your flesh
For I will take your heart along.
Your tongue will remember my salt skin
Your soul, this rusty ocean song.

O lover of city lights
And crowded streets,
Don’t flirt with the thousand moons
On my splintered spine;
I hold a blackness inside
Darker than your darkest night.

O lover of small, lapping waves
Frothing on the shore,
Do not love me,
I will pull you in –
Into my airless depths.
The ocean is always full,
Brimming
With a love you haven’t known;
The shore gets its fill
From the trickle that spills.

O lover of all things shallow,
When it’s time for you to go
Back to your tungsten city,
I shall caress your skin
One last time,
Maybe pull you in
For a goodbye sin;
With one final farewell wave,
Sweep you off your feet again.

And if you decide to leave
Regardless,
Parting presents await you
On my virgin shores.
Handle them with care,
For someone once called them
Home.

Your other Today

Today

Dear stranger-turned-lover-turned-stranger,

This day, last year, you said you didn’t love me any more. That it did not feel the same way. I stood by you like i had always promised i would; you walked away. You don’t know what happened next, do you?

I knocked on your door on a sunny spring morning. The tulips in your front yard shied away from the scorching sky. I came with roses and scrunched up notes in my pocket- each one a different draft of what I would say. I didn’t have to open them of course, for I had felt the words lodged in my throat for four days. Four days: That’s 12 cups of unstirred coffee, 6 half-cooked meals and 2 cold pizzas, 3 cans of ice cream, 4 bars of chocolate (okay, 7!), 4 long sunsets, and a sum of 3,45,600 moments without you in my life. The moment you opened the door, my eyes blurted it all out.

We exchanged our eccentric vows at a placid beach on a stormy day, a few monsoons down the way. The photoshoot was washed away, but the clouds giggled as we kissed in their rain. Our first dance was barefoot, on sand birthed by the sea, lit by a crescent moon the size of a paper lantern. The ocean swayed with us that night, before the darkness fell asleep in your gentle embrace.

It’s too bad the dream always ends there: In a perfect world, painted the deep blue of a dawn nigh and an ocean full, marked by the caress of hair that held the perfume of daisies and filled with the harmony of your bloodsong on my skin. It’s a universe where I knew what to say that day, and you were home to open that door. Out here, right now, pizza and unstirred coffee await tired hands, nostalgic of a day we never had, as another letter recklessly crawls beneath your locked door.

Once yours,
Just another whim