After our paav bhaji breakfast again on Day 3, we set off to the beach to trek. Cat and the others hadn’t flown the previous day owing to heavy winds though they’d climbed up and waited for over five hours, and thankfully the weather looked right on our last day. And I’d got it into my head that I would climb up the hill, see the view, and spend the entire day on the beach till we left for Bangalore.
As the boys swam in the calm, almost playful sea that morning, so different from the roaring and crashing waves of the previous night, I sat on the lounge chair and listened to my ipod.
And that is how I rediscovered Joan Baez whose music became the definitive note of this trip for me. That lady is gifted. Her voice soars. But these are things you probably know. That morning by the sea, I felt the way her voice blended with the sea and the smell of salt. The prayer and the pain in her songs mirrored everything I was feeling; the lyrics (hers and mostly Dylan’s) echoed the lessons that the sea was trying to help me remember.
I think I understand why country music is such a favourite. It illustrates people’s lives, faiths, and experiences in very simple language and catchy rhythms. It makes us feel, just as the sea does, that what we feel now has been felt so many times by so many people before. It makes us belong even when it talks of things and people that don’t conform to the norm.
Climbing up hills is something I’d never do. Usually. But I am so glad I climbed the hill in Goa. Cat was amazing in helping me climb – just the right blend of concern, instruction, and motivation. If you are attempting to do something like this in summer, my advice is to go equipped with your gloves, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and an ipod. The first three will help you with the heat, and the third will take your mind off the climb. Freety said that I looked like some fancy, adventurer woman in my purple pants, white T, beige gloves, running shoes, Cat’s glasses, and Harsha’s white canvas hat. I felt like I’d gone to watch my favourite horse race and that I was so rich that not being very chic was in itself a fashion statement; and Freety agreed that all I lacked was a cigarette holder.
Be sure you have someone to carry your things if you are unused to climbing like me, especially when you get down. Freety swears that he will never ever fulfill my orders. He had to carry most of my stuff while I was trying to get down, and do assorted small things I kept asking him to do for me throughout the trip. Sweetheart that he is, he did it for me though it did make him irritable towards the end of the trip. LOL. I cannot help it. It is in my nature to command people to do things for me. Saying, “Get me a glass of water” even if I’m closest to the bottle is just the way I am. I don’t even realise that I’m being such a pain in the ass. And when I do, I’m perplexed that anyone could feel so strongly about something as small as that and would refuse to do something that little for me. Vatty calls it OCD – Only Child Disorder. I simply like to think that it’s what makes me the Queen.
The view from the top was spectacular.
You can see where the Kerim river meets the sea, the direction the wind takes, the view of the entire village. And somehow the view makes you forget the sharp, stinging heat. High on the hill, the humidity is also less, so it can be very annoying. But I forgot everything as I watched Cat and the other gliders take off and gain control of their balloons. There is something so free and powerful about it.
Getting down, however, was a nightmare. It took everything I had. And I know I drove Freety nuts. He too is probably thanking his stars that we never grew up in the same family. I slipped too many times to count by not following Freety’s instructions. I fell down and a rock hit my bottom rather painfully. I expected to get off that hill on my own two feet with may be a generous use of my bottom, because the alternative – doing a tandem with a glider and landing on the beach called for the conquering of newer and stronger fears. And this from a woman who was talking so freely of death! But I refused to pray to any God to make me reach safely and did it, with loads of help from Freety, on my own.
I had to get down. And I finally did!
The sea stretched out below me – infinite, overflowing, beautiful. While I knew I wouldn’t fall into the sea, I was scared of getting hurt by the jagged rocks. The heat added to the overall discomfort. I was so afraid that my knees wouldn’t stop shaking. Taking even the smallest step, despite having Freety hold my hand, took every ounce of strength I had. After I’d fallen and there was nothing more to fear, I continued to shake, not knowing why. The view that had looked gorgeous and spectacular was the very thing that became terrifying. The sea I’ve always loved became something I distrusted, feared, and hated. I kept saying over and over in my head, “O Sea, shut up, stop it.”
And it became the moment of my epiphany. It’s knowledge we all have. But sometimes, we forget our own lessons.
We carve our own heart-breaks. We let ourselves suffer foolishly and needlessly because we are overwhelmed by the endless expanse of life, by the loss of love. Advice from friends is not the kind that we can take comfort in, friends constantly fail to deliver, fall short of our expectations, act like they know so much more, know better. The next step – going on – becomes frightening. And all the while we don’t really know what we fear. So we continue to fear life that will anyway come to pass. Life that we need to enjoy and cherish becomes something we say stop it to. It takes everything we are to come face-to-face with our nakedness; to pick up the shattered pieces; to really move on.
But we do. Eventually we all realise that the only person worth loving in this entire universe is oneself. And from that everything else can spring. When we love someone, we expect so much from them. But deep down we know that the only expectations that can be fulfilled are those we have of ourselves.
And once we reaffirm that, life is as easy as walking down the hill to the nearest shack and ordering bottles of cold, refreshing water; guzzling chilled beer that reminds you of good times; giggling with your friend and having your last Goan fish curry and rice meal.
Bidding adieu to the sea that day, I walked back to the car, quieter, calmer, and more confident than I have been in a long time.
Throughout our journey back to Bangalore, we didn’t speak, we mostly slept. We didn’t take the scenic route this time, passing through a zillion small Goan towns instead to reach Belgaum where we hit the NH4 that led us straight to my home. As we left Goa nursing headaches, we looked silently out the window at the passing scenery – cashew plantations, the falling rain, the winding roads. And Cat held my hand for the most part.
When I was younger I had made up my mind that I would go to Goa only when I have a man to go with. A man who loves me and one I am crazy about, and that we’d make mad love in Goa, get drunk together, and get high on each other. And while I did go to Goa with men I am crazy about we never made love, we didn’t get drunk; we, none of us, returned feeling high.But I’d seen Goa. I had experienced life in a Goan village with its few smiling faces, minimal facilities, healthy, bracing air. I knew that it wasn’t the Goa that other people rave about, crave for, and holiday at. Things I was expecting from Goa as well. I had thought that this would be a simple, fun, adventurous trip where slumming it would be like the jubilation of a slumdog winning an Oscar – a welcome break. Instead it was complex, profound, and gave me unwelcome insights about life and love.
And as my thoughts ran to the people I loved in my life beginning with the men I was sharing the car with—one of whom was holding my hand and offering comfort even though I hadn’t asked for it— I knew that I finally expected nothing from any of my friends – no, not even to be understood.
I knew that the next time someone lets me down, it won’t hurt quite so bad; that if I fight alone again, the victory will not diminish, nor will I ask friends for a vindication of whether I was in the right because I would remember that I fight only when I am right; that I can continue to love and miss people and still be okay if they are no longer in my life.
Because really, love is just a four letter word.