What an eventful day that was! Out on a holiday, we were my brother's family of four, my parents and me with my two daughters. In all we were nine people.The beach named Alibagh on our way back to his house in Mumbai was the milestone that was to be explored in a couple of hours before reaching home. It did not look as picture perfect as one is wont to expect from the idea of a beach. The sands looked a little unwelcoming, almost as if resentful of having to host a group of enthusiastic tourists. Or I was perhaps made to come back with this impression due to the conspiracy they were going to be a part of, against us: the elements of nature to which the sands could not have been a subdued spectator! Or so i assume!
That vast expanse of that sea stretching far into the horizon spreading and fusing into the distant sky's edge, fading out from the capacity of the normal human vision. It never fails to inspire awe in me but for that ruthless erasing by means of the familiar curiosity with a stale bit of knowledge, of the Earth being a round ball! So that edge is the last visible part of the receding round structure that creates that amazing semblance of the charitable flat surface!
Having left out footwear in the car behind, we were on to wading in the very stretched out shallow beach to the fort stationed upon an island just about five hundred meters away. There were very few souls around on that secluded beach which though was sprinkled with the local flavor of the adjacent populated areas, yet had an unusual sparse presence of people. One lonely hoardings around the beach had something written in Marathi language, thus leaving us ignorant of whatever significant or not so, put up there for the perusal of the passing by population. I only faintly recall that their was perhaps an old style horse buggi type of a ride available on the beach, along with almost a very small number of local folks visible.
Registering all that cursorily we were excitedly on our mission to be heading to our cute palace of a fort lodged fascinatingly upon that island surrounded with water, yet all so shallow that we managed to reach it within roughly fifteen minutes. It must have been an interesting walk while our feet were lodging and scavenger like finding a safe enough foothold upon the invisible surface beneath. There were some nasty surprises awaiting as my mother suddenly happened to step upon something razor sharp, that slashed her right toe ruthlessly inviting a sloshy and angry outburst of blood expressing its disapproval aggressively at that reception! It seemed inconsolably persistent in its complaint!! We were pained to see mum in that state. Having managed to tie her wound with a handkerchief that Papa was carrying , we moved upon the topmost part of the fort.They were evidently dilapidated remains of a palace of a once upon a time flourishing king perhaps. Who knows? We were more keen on sitting down with our huge tiffin and on satisfying our starving stomachs while enjoying the feel of dining at a place as exotic as that!
While we had just about been only half way through our food, I heard this strange unfamiliar siren like sound coming from the beach from where we had started. To my brother it rung a familiar bell! He categorically demanded that we pack up asap and start moving back as the sea was announced to now going to revive its tide ! Meaning it was going to be on a high tide, and not the shallow depth with which we had initially interacted. I now saw how the unusual extended stretch of the beach had a strangeness to it unfamiliar. We packed up in five minutes and began our walk back to the beach. Mum's foot was in bad pain and nevertheless she had to somehow manage.Careful to walk slow to prevent our feet from meeting similar unwelcome lancinating rocky pieces who seemed to be inhabiting that area in hideous numbers, we may have lost some precious time! Or so we realized, when within just about less then half the distance accomplished we were already more than knee deep in the water! The levels were rising!! We had to make it fast! But in the anxiety that was mounting with every advancing step, we were taking the distance that seemed shorter to the beach but as it turned out was deeper and now we were waist length immersed in those threateningly rising waters!
My brother had his five year old daughter by now safely lodged upon his shoulders astride. And my brave bhabhi had the twin son sitting on the same safty zone. My two daughters were holding my hands walking on either side almost on the verge of tears.My parents were holding on to one another by now with utterances as if of the final moments of our lives, for now the water was reaching our chest level!! Mom being the shortest and my younger one the same height that time were the deepest in the menacing waters! We didn't know what to do! We could not have helped ourselves from contemplating the state of my husband being informed about our loss like this! That too after a considerable gap of time, for who would have informed him where we had disappeared!
It was sure that we could not have sustained another 5 mins in that vertical daring momentum that the waters had challenged us with and made us haplessly hoping for mercy from quarters unknown! the fear in our hearts was mounting up.The conflict between the fact of what we were facing and wonder cropping from the deep seated sense that nothing was going to be lost and we were going to make it, was strong. I could see a strange revival of deep love that I had rarely seen between my ever bickering parents. A sense of loss for my husband, impending.
The distance was still an intimidating one and impossible now for our petty feet that were creating craters wherever they placed themselves! People on the beach who had swelled up slightly in number were standing and watching us aghast at the plight we were reduced to wading between life and death. Having been reduced to a spectacular parade in front of them, they had now begun shouting and screaming to pep us up and to speed up, only if there were the possibility!
Herein appeared the horse buggy wala with one more person to assist him suddenly rushing to our rescue! Were we going to heave a sigh of relief? Mumma and the kids were made to climb followed by Papa, me and bhabhi and then my bro! But Lo! The bugghi went deeper into the sands refusing to budge! For once we were blank but the next instant jumped my bhai, his wife and I who could not have remained inside in spite of their appeals. The wheels lifted out of the stuck sandy bed, and courageously pushed strong enough, to enable the light of the day finally beaming upon the faces of us all, out of those ravenous waters!! Or rather out of those kind waters who were just having some innocent fun toying with the little playthings?
Did we actually make it!! Were we actually so completely alive this moment, unlike the moment before when we were so thoroughly surrendered to our fate mocking at our petty efforts!! What a play of light and shadow by the naughty clouds was the taste of that slice of life, the memory of which still relives with the excitement of visiting the mysterious! The same moment could have meant annihilation...and here we were alive and ticking...strange feeling ...confounding explanation!