So, last weekend, my office planned a beach retreat to Mahabalipuram (about 40 km from Chennai.) It was a fun-filled itinerary, packed with team-building events (tug-of-war), swimming, scrumptious lunch etc. But the highlight has to be the Catamaran Ride!
A catamaran (origin: katamaram (Tamil)) is a long wooden boat used by the fishermen when they go seafaring. The only modern element is a diesel motor that coughs up smoke every five minutes.
The idea was to go into the sea on a catamaran and plunge into the deep waters of the Bay of Bengal! It was a scary supposition and thoughts of sharks, tsunamis and rogue undercurrents floated in my mind, but they were contested by a swift wave of adrenaline!
It was a hot sunny day but that didn’t defeat our excitement. I wore my swimsuit under my t-shirt, applied sunscreen liberally all over the exposed parts and was ready for the trip.
Before we embarked on the “seajourn”, we had to wait a bit for our catamaran. The beach was pretty empty, save for the few souls from our office. At the curve of the coast, the spires of the famous Shore Temple were visible. We waded into the waves as they foamed and splashed around us. Each time the waves tried to drag us away with them, we jumped in glee, squealing childishly and falling back in.
The boat finally came. We were given life-jackets and one of the boatmen helped us secure them tightly. It made it kind of hard to breathe and I wondered jokingly what was so ‘life’ about these jackets!
Anyway, the motor roared as soon as we got in and zoom, we were speeding away on the Bay of Bengal!
After three kilometres, the boatmen turned off the motor and prepared us for our jump. I turned back to look at the coast. It was a faded image of leaning casuarina trees, pastel strips of sand and a very blue sky. The Shore temple was now a grey speck that stood out triumphantly in the azure.
“You, your turn to jump!” The boatman announced. I stood up immediately.
“Do you see the rope? Once you jump in, catch hold of it!”
I nodded gingerly and dived into the cool turquoise waters of the Bay of Bengal. As soon as my skin touched the water, I started swimming involuntarily! The boatmen screamed at me to hold the rope. I looked up and saw that the thick yellow rope was a few metres away. I swam towards it and held onto it. I swim-walked the rest of the way to the end of the rope (It was a pretty long one.)
And that was the beginning of the most relaxing forty-five minutes of my life (it was the fastest as well!)
I lay on my back and let the ocean bear my weight. The gentle rhythm of the waves sang a mother’s lullaby and rocked me to sleep. So peaceful. So meditative. Away from the chaos and misery of land, in the lap of mother nature.
The experience is so powerful that you rethink your life and reminisce things from a different perspective. How foolish I have been to worry about the smallest of things and how blind I have been to not enjoy the smallest of pleasures. Here in the vast expanse of the ocean, you feel dwarfed and humbled. One rogue wave and your skeleton may wash up in Indonesia. And yet nature, a mother as she is, is ever so gentle and caring.
Time passed quickly and we were hauled back in from the eighty-feet deep waters. As we jumped back onto the warm sands, I looked back and smiled. My perception of the sea had changed. From a hungry monster that devoured hapless fishermen and innocent tourists to a motherly soul that reciprocates your emotions.
Though I left the sea, the surrealism did not leave me. I can hear the waves calling me again.