Harihareshwar is also known as the Kashi of the South ! ‘ Of the South !?!’ I sputtered, spilling coffee on a brown shirt. Wondering aloud if patriotic nationlists (sic) from this side of the country, object to this beautiful region being ‘ceded’ to the South !
That’s precisely when the missus chips in.
‘South of what ?’ She asks. And then replies with great glee ‘South of the Kashi of the North’ Ok ? That argument should have sent geography folks and such others whirring in their graves. But logical no ?
Relatives of people who are dead and gone come here. An annual pilgrimage of sorts, we are told. And others, come to immerse ashes.
Today there are fat cars. Fat filled fat bodies. Tonsured heads best complimented by a thin cloth on the upper body. Carrying flowers and some of them carrying decorated mud pots. ‘Urns’ whispers the missus. To be immersed in the grand Arabian Sea.
Their arrival gets the crows excited like school children who find that their class teacher has run away with the head master! Glee from the fact that two birds are down with one stone. A love stone of sorts.
Today, most of what is offered as part of the rituals will go to the crows. They sure do look well fed.
There is a small assortment of people.But in them, there is variety. There is one in whom there is so much teeth on display, that he could have been a model for a sundry toothpaste. Another gent in a corner stands glum faced. Yet another, loud. Another, could have been mistaken for a statue in Madame Tussads, if not for the occasional move to keep his dhoti on his waist.
I wonder aloud, loud enough for the missus to hear, if they have already read the will of the person who is dead !! What else would cause such a diversity in emotion. Promptly receiving a look of deep admonishment and an unsaid ‘Shut up’ from the missus. You sure must have seen a chastised puppy, with a curled tail, looking deep into the floor and avoiding all eye contact. Yeah. Thats the look that took me over.
In the meanwhile, the women in the group, are working away, arranging the pots in a particular order. The steps to the sea, where they do this is so picturesque and stately through the camera lens, that it seems to swallow the grief that people come here with.
One set of waves come crashing in.
We drive on.
There are other things to see. As we drive back, somewhere along the shoreline, the missus excitedly waves me to stop, pointing to two boys playing. Rolling. Running. Catching insects.
We alight from the car. Walk about. The boys are busy, throwing stones into the sea. For a minute I thought I had achieved my childhood dream of becoming ‘invisible’. The very boys that exclaim at the sight of ants and dragonflies, don’t even look in the direction of two well fed people and a Japanese engine to boot.
Not even a customary look to register presence. Nothing. A tinge of disappointment of a dragon fly holding precedence of attention over decades of conscious and unconscious building of firmly entrenched fat cells is quickly overcome by the sheer joy of seeing the boys in play !
The lungs soak in fresh air, eyes soak in the space and the ears soak in the shrieks of joy that the boys let go. Today’s urban kids raised in tall apartments cant shriek or throw stones into an ‘empty afar’ without the building’s secretary and his mandali landing up at the doorstep !
These kids throw with abandon, claiming victory with each throw. The waves swallow each stone with an ebb much like bribe money in a politicians pocket. Disappearing without trace!
Later that evening, we see a set of children. Playing. With such gay abandon, that it’s a joy to watch unfettered, innocent happiness. The waves come crashing in, almost teasing each kid. No supervision. No people around. Just the kids No Baywatch type lifeguard. No lifeguard.
The waves come crashing by. Again and again !
It’s a sight. Ordinary yet profound. I sit still. Except falling for the occasional urge to click a picture or two.
In a few hours from then, I am deep in slumber. In my dreams come the glum faced man from Harihareswar. The jumping kids chasing dragon flies the size of dinosaurs, and the evening sun urging the waves to splash some more water on kids !
One of those kids walks upto me, smiles, offers me an ice cream the size of a football and asks me ‘Why so serious?”
A wave comes crashing in. I wake up with a start.
Ah ! The waves. They are the witness to the dream. The new dream. To be a kid again.