'Then I felt too that I might take this opportunity to tie up a few loose ends, only of course loose ends can never be properly tied, one is always producing new ones. Time, like the sea, unties all knots.'
I wanted to say to Iris Murdoch, whose novel this is a quote from: “Goodness, Iris, sometimes its good to bask at the sea, the sea. The seams scatter and the sea breeze begins to untie. What’s tangled up in more than a shade of urbane blue?”
It’s wild here in Kaup, southwestern coastal Karnataka. One part and parcel of a peninsular nation with a 7,400-km coastline. If one describes the monsoon technically then Monsoon is a wind system in which the prevailing wind direction is reversed from season to season. Stand by the shore and watch the sea rake up the mud, whacking the butt of the piece of earth humans call land. And one can feel the great universal dhobi leading this reversal.
Deep cleansing, milky drama. Of another season. Mistily upon you in a way that only some might dare call beautiful. Especially not those, I suppose, who come only when the oceans are blue and gentle. But this is the vital fury of a sea left to itself. And looking at this, I’m reminded of craggy cliffs we used to draw in school as ‘nature’ art class homework.
Until I take a deep breath and am distracted back whack into this school of LIFE.
We also used to draw a full diamond shaped-sun for some tropical reason. But here, you might think this is the moon. But what it is, is the sun saying peek-a-baby boo!
For its role is best played in hide-and-seek during the monsoon. While waves bash rocks and surf. And clouds gang up. This universe of shifting directions unravels with many a sign. All of them have one thing in common – it’s time to let go of the placid and bring it on.
And bring what on? Baarish, megha, barkha... rain is a consequence, an effect of much hectic activity that precedes it. In the city the rain comes from above and mixes with the earth and fills us up where there is less concrete. Human beings instinctively look up to the clouds. But the open coast interrupts this top-down loving with a breadth of protagonists.
The mist swirls over the rocks and spreads like a subtle blur that goes pandemic.
When she pounds, the hues are loud and clear. But there are many subtle signs, which speak in connection to the next sign and one knows in exactly how many minutes she's going to come over again. She claims everything as her own at this time unrelentingly. It’s best to sense and surrender and not be the fisherman who also goes in from sheer force of habit. Only to come out with too little to be called a catch or return empty handed. Its trust-in-wait season for you. The signs shift quickly but the season has its own time.
Here comes the oceanic mud. Not quite tururu at shore level. Pounding, menacing, the breeze can no longer be called so. Fury. Power. Wild. Real. Sensing the sea, the sea. Within and without. As I walk back from the shore, for what I now recognize as signs made manifest, suddenly the heart starts humming Kumar Gandharva’s nirguni ‘Koi Sunta Hai… Jhini jhini…’
Jhini - subtle. Did I say subtle? The human mind can indulge but meanwhile, what we have now is a full-blown whack-you-in-your-face storm. The breeze tingles the air fully, subtly wet, and the deep breath here could get yoga lovers and non-yoga lovers, alike drunk.
And while I’m thinking this and how much of the human body is water, the sounds coming from the sea are -- shall we say -- not gentle. I look up. The mist has mixed with the winds and the clouds are readying to come ashore. It is eerily still for a moment. No breeze, some white on the surf and then…
And then finally - the effect, the rain intersecting everything in its path diagonally. For these lashes have a fury that don’t simmer or gush like our taps do. This is like a good badminton smash from the universe. Mad angles, which fall, sort of like breaking bangles.
There is a reason why coastal trees seem to go in all directions, just like other living beings. If you don’t move with the wind, with strong roots, you’ll simply snap. And fall, and be cut off from the source above, below and all around.
Hearts and homes, which understand this, know, you can weave a response with human ingenuity that at first sign is just pretty. But the aesthetics of use are never divorced from those who live fully. Old leaves protect the walls from the lashes. In minutes, this play of moisture and the winds and oceanic breaths is over.
It’s time to take in behind-the-scene vistas away from the coast. Where flowers spring forth, protected by the lush vegetation that rocks the shore but births much as it drops. Wherever the earth is ready.
And off the coast, folk come out to play. Some priests know the temple tank is washed clean and a swim is fun. There will be minutes to frolic, unless one learns how to move in and out with the monsoon.
The paddy fields take on a hue opposite to the shades of the shore. The contrast is vivid. This, here, is a supari tree that has swayed a lot clearly.
And the backwaters -- a calm that makes you understand the calm AFTER the storm too. Fishermen don’t waste time and know that gentle waters are the best time to go in.
Birds watch from afar and will alight, too, once the catch is in.
When we rose from all fours, as animals, with a limited range of vision, the human being could lift its eyes and gaze upon the universe. Have the birds always known the pathways?
Then why ‘bird brain’, I wonder?
A fisherman’s wife laughs at my windcheater and shows me why the best raincoat is hands-free. It seems to give human beings the flexibility to cover themselves well from the direction of the lashes. Wisdom comes to untie city knots from all ends, I say, Iris.
The coastal universe has the coast, the backwater, the life it breeds in between. Pick one speck and you will know its part and place in this plan. Including your own life. For the coast is cause and effect made visible, in a deadly way. But witness the entire lifecycle of a monsoon moment and one begins to just about touch the expanse of life itself. The sea can be torrid but so vast that it is difficult to hug. But to think, human life is both part of this and as wide open. And the view keeps changing the higher one goes.
I take the rock steps down, all the while taking this in. When I reach the shore again, a wave laps my feet. This time, gently.
‘One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.’ Iris Murdoch.
And they are many in the any, Iris. The sea. She has been telling me.