I stood looking at the sea, its greenish, grey waters washing to the shore in calm waves, hitting the rocks and retreating, coming back. The same each time, yet different. She seemed so serene today as if she had made her peace with everything. If I had been standing here 5 days back on the 20 of October 2020, I would have been washed away. I have always had this idea that dying in water would be peaceful like Virginia Woolf, like May in ‘The Secret Life of Bees’. But I guess if I had been washed away on 20 October 2020 it couldn’t have been peaceful.
This calm sea that raged and ravaged the city; none of the deaths that day were peaceful. Nobody was prepared, nobody wanted to die, I suppose. The sea washed over large portions of the city in towers of waves engulfing multi-storey buildings and rows and rows of vehicles, drawing back into itself hundreds of helpless women, men and children. I turned around and looked at the city, shattered windows, seaweed covered the buildings, streets obstructed by uprooted trees, upturned cars, dead animals, not a soul in sight. I stood alone, as if the last person on the planet.
You could have spared the trees I thought. They didn’t contribute to this mess we’ve made of the world. “Collateral”, said your voice in my head. I rolled my eyes.
“What? Isn’t that what you call it when wars kill children?” You said.
“Not me” I mumbled and squinted to see a figure walking towards me from a distance. I kept staring till I could see better and couldn’t believe my eyes. As you came closer, my shoulders slumped in disbelief, relief, exasperation, anger, a range of emotions, I am not really sure. You were walking toward me now, your eyes fixated on me.
“Hi,” you said in a low voice as you approached. I said, “Hello stranger”, still unable to believe my eyes. You dug into your pocket and took out a 20 pack of Camel and offered me one. I took it gladly. You lit my cigarette then yours and asked, while blowing out smoke “Walk by the sea with me awhile?” I nodded still not understanding what twist of the Universe this was. We walked amidst the remains of homes drawn to the streets by the angry sea.
After a few minutes of silence I ask “What are you doing here? I didn’t even know you were in the city or where you were for that matter.”
“I thought I might find you here” you said.
“How did you think that?” I asked. “You have had no idea of my whereabouts for years now.”
“That’s what you think. I came to Bombay and walked to the sea to find you. I have been walking to the sea and staying by the shore all day for 3 days now, if its any consolation. I only found you today.”
I stopped walking. I turned toward you, looking up at you really for the first time since we met. You looked down at me, those gentle eyes and that smile that shone through them.
“I thought of you when Bob Dylan won the Nobel,” I said.
“I thought of you when Serena won the Wimbledon,” you said.
“I thought of you when I watched Tim Burton’s ‘Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children’. You’d have been full of criticism at his failure at creativity” I said.
“But YOU liked it”, you said, “I knew you would. It was made for you, not for me.”
I smiled. You took it as a sign to take my hands in yours and drew me into a tight hug.
“What is this?” I said, still dazed by your apparition.
You sang softly in your deep voice “The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
I let myself relax in your arms for a few seconds. We continued walking hand in hand dodging kitchen appliances, paintings, and furniture strewn across the street, wrinkling our noses.