Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries Part 4

Previous posts in The Africa Diaries

Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries Part 3
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diares Part 2
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries Part 1

This post is going to be about 2 hours that I spent in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Operative word being 'in'.

The brave hearts amongst you will shrug their shoulders and move on wondering what the halla is all about but for (what can only be described as a )phuddu like me- it was an experience of a life time.

We  The others decided to snorkel. I merely shrugged my shoulders and politely informed everyone that while I will not stop any one from willingly offering themselves to the dangers that lurked in the murky waters of the ocean, I for one, won't touch it with  a barge pole.

Sid tried to convince me but I shook my head. That special, decisive shake of my head that says that 'No, pati, this is final. I shall not budge'

We would need to get on a boat that would speed into the Indian ocean for a good 30 minutes before we would anchor and get out to snorkel.

That thought alone freaked me out.

Sorry. Not me.

The others were pretty excited. and as we waited for the staff of the resort to sort things for our little adventure, I could feel their excitement rub off on me.

'So do you swim?' asked one of the members of the staff.

I shrugged my shoulders thinking of my swimming lessons from Sid and the flirty Aussie.
'I can swim from here to there' I said indicating a distance of about 20 feet. I still don't know how to breathe while swimming and this is pretty much all the distance I can cover before I begin to splutter for air.
The man thought for a minute.

'Not good' he said.

'So I can't snorkel?' I asked.

'No,' he said ' we wont risk it, after all it is the middle of the ocean'

I was surprised. Not because of what the man had just said (obviously it made sense) but because of the pang of disappointment that rushed through me. Wait a second, did I want to do this?

As others picked fins their size (and I never thought I would say this) I sat still.

'Go get the snorkeling equipment, the fins are kept in the bay' said Sid walking upto me.

'No, there is no point'


'That man says I cant do this' I said referring to the fact that I cannot swim.

Sid paused for a minute and said one of those things that I am sure meant something very non-profound in his head but came out sounding all deep. The second part of his comment murdered it with bare hands though.

'No one can tell you what you can or cannot do.' he said as I stared at him transfixed,  'Go get your fins now'

So I 'got my fins', just in case.

We piled onto the boat and before long were speeding into oblivion. The four of us climbed to the top of the boat. The Sun was shinning, the wind played its wild game with our hair and the only color I could see around me was blue. As the rest of my gang chatted away and clicked pictures I busied myself in doing what I do best. Striking up conversations with strangers.
The picture below  was taken by Sid (I did not know he was clicking me, of course).

The man, I forget his name now, was a fisherman before he took the job on our resort.

'So you ever feel afraid of the sea?' I asked him pointing to the expanse of blue ahead of me.

'Do you ever feel afraid of your home, Madam?' he asked me smiling.

'The sea is your home?' I asked charmed by his response.

'I was born in it. I live in it and one day, I will die in it...' he said quietly. I have no doubt he meant every word of what he was saying to me.

(Please note, it is the wind billowing my maxi dress. I am NOT this fat!)

Soon the boat stopped and dropped anchor. The waters, we were told were not too deep here- a mere 6-7 metres.

More than enough for me to drown in, I thought ruefully to myself.

In the meanwhile, Asan, the man who had been steering the boat, smiled broadly at us before leaping into the waters with a piece of bread in his hands. A little later, as the four of us gathered around the glass bottom of the boat, he appeared directly beneath it, the piece of bread in his mouth. In front of our astounded eyes , within seconds, tens and hundreds of fishes had congregated around Asan's mouth keen to get a share of the bread.

(The fishes feeding out of Asan's mouth. This picture gives you an idea of how things looked underwater...a lot like this but just more surreal, more mystical, more blue)
I admired the ease with which Asan had galloped into the waters. I admired how at home he was with fishes feeding out of his mouth. Ofcourse, I did not know it then but in a mere 2 days, I would have a fully grown giraffe eating out of mine. Like I say very often in this series, more on that later :)

Snorkeling was not going to be dangerous. The waters were fairly calm, the weather was great, Asan would with us all the time, we would be wearing life jackets and there would be the air tyre to cling to.

'Wanna come?' asked Sid right before he hopped into the water.

'No' I said shaking my head. It was a bit too much for me.

The other three began to snorkel and would pop back up every now and then , mumbling excitedly about how absolutely fantastic everything was under water. Sure that I would not go in, I found myself leaning over the edge of the boat taking every detail in. The way the water lapped gently. The sun rays falling on the waves. My excited husband.

(Asan and Sid)

I was engrossed in the sea when a gentle hand tapped me on my shoulder. The ex fisherman I had been chatting with earlier was standing there with a bright orange life jacket in his hands.

I smiled at him.

'You think I am leaning over too much and will topple over?' I asked eyeing the life jacket.

'No Madam' he said smiling ' I know it when someone the ocean calls out to someone'

 I grinned at him and shook my head.

'No, you are wrong' I said.

The man was silent for a second.

'Madam' he said quietly in a thick accent 'I never insist that tourists do this. But to you I will. You will not know what you have will change some part of you forever'

There was something about the way he said those last words...something about his voice or words that something in me told me to trust.

Without another word (and i am not exaggerating here) I put on the jacket and after listening to instructions that he rattled off one last time, I put faith in someone, something, let my fears flow by me and let go of the ladder that led into the sea.

(That's me about to let go of the ladder. The arms in the picture belong to the ex fisherman who was standing right there his careful eye on me all the while)

In what can best be described as a surreal moment, I realised with a start that I was in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Okay, not literally, but you get the emotion.

And now I come to the most difficult part of this post. To describe to you the experience itself. It was not about snorkeling. I have snorkeled in Maldives where the water is clearer and the fishes brightly coloured. No, that was too perfect to be real.

Below the waters, a completely different world awaited me. It was almost as if someone had played a magic trick and transported me somewhere else. The waters were dark and deep. Subtle drama emanated from the dark, melancholy of the blue which was broken only by the weird shapes and colours of the coral on the floor of the sea far beneath us.

The fishes (mostly with white stripes and the occasional bright coloured one) roamed around us freely and fed from the piece of bread I carried underwater. I brought my hand closer to me and the fishes automatically drew closer to me. I was in their magical land.

Because I had the mask and breathing tube on, it was almost as if I was in a cacoon exploring another world. There were silence around me and in me. And there was magic, around me and in me.

After some time, I realised that I was muttering aloud to myself, my own voice reverberating and echoing inside the mask.
'Oh my gosh, this is so beautiful' I was saying repeatedly to myself, my hands moving in the water trying to grab the fishes.

A little later Sid joined me and we swam in the waters together communicating with gestures, pointing out to each other the odd shaped/colored fish or the extra green of funny shaped coral. It was not just spectacular, it was mind blowing.

I was the last one to go into the waters but i was also the last one to come out of the water.
(The pic shows Asan and I. I had just begun my snorkeling session)

'Was it good?' asked the ex fisherman as he offered me his hand and pulled me back into the boat.

'It changed some part of me' I said to him.

The man smiled but said nothing. Because he knew that I meant every word.

Back again at our favourite spot ( the top of the boat), the others chatted excitedly about the experience; I remained silent. The others lunched on fruits, I did not even even look at the food. Something had changed. And I wanted to hang on to what had just happened.

Even as I wrapped a towel around myself, my body aching, and stared at the waves gently bumping along the way, I knew this was not an adventure that i would gush about later to friends. In fact I have hardly spoken about it to anyone except for Mum, Dad and Sid. It was far more complex, far more complicated...

 I came out of the water feeling the calmest I have ever known myself to feel.  I had known for sure that a) I would not even attempt it b) even if i did, i would probably make a fool of myself and panic c) what's the big deal anyway? its just fishes in water, is not it?

The feeling of tranquility that descended on me the moment I submerged myself in the water was mystical. Others panicked a little bit but I took to the waters like I was born in it. I felt at home. At ease. At peace.

I was calm and wondrous and happy and wide eyed. That little time in the sea told me that there were many things I thought I could not do but I you know what, I can! That little time in the sea also told me that because of my own fears I might have missed out on so many many adventures that could have changed me and moulded me into a different person.

And most of all, and this bit really does not make sense, the little time in the sea told that  it would all be okay.

Thank you, the blue and the  black and the mystical and the magical of the Indian Ocean in Mombasa. A very heartfelt thank you.


PS: I know I am a day late. Sorry!


Dalbir Kaur said...

OMG...the part where you went in the sea..I felt chill running down my spine. Its so true, coz of our baseless fears..we end up saying no to many things that infact can help us evolve us!
Thank you helped learn a very vital lesson!


Nisha said...

After reading this.. I soooo wanna do snorkelling! I can swim as much as you can..without breathing. I know you could do it.. but it is not clear how! Do we hold the tyre.. or breathe through the pipe.. google karna padega :)

I HEARD YOU said...

tens of likes !!

Vinitha Mahalingam said...

You might want to fix ->The Sun was "shinning". How did that get past the obligatory spell check??

Aarthy said...

Wonderful Post. I just loved reading the descriptions and more than that, how you felt at each juncture.

I had a similar first time sea water experience too and I went through the same sequence of events and feelings as yours. I was not that great with plunges into the water but I enjoyed venturing into the sea for the first time.The sea is really beautiful!!

Looking forward to more in this series.

Alcina said...

Well..i feel jealous and experience well served :)