Sea of thoughts

My relation with the sea was that of a distant observer; awe mixed with an equal measure of deference. I could see what the sea is capable of, but I could never tell the depths to which it could drag me.

I remember the time when I shifted from Noida to Mumbai in 2017. I was close to the sea again on a daily basis and that was a feeling I did not know I missed. All my fears and worries would melt away as I sat on the coast with Ag and watched those gentle waves that stumbled on to the Mumbai coast.

Come monsoon season and the same tumbling waves would produce a recurring angry roar as it crashed on to the rocky beaches, a mighty wave after another. It would vomit all the dread and fear of the city that it soaked up through the year and wash away any semblance of sanity. All for a brief moment. We would all be back on the shores again in no time.

All this madness and yet it always had a calming effect on me as well.

Venturing into the sea is something else. I remember the time I stepped into the sea for the first time on my own. I remember braving in a step at a time and then turning back to look at my father who was sitting on the side of the steep beach coast of Kozhikode. I also remember being knocked down by that occasionally bigger wave and gulping a mouthful of sandy sea water. Deference.

As I grew older the sea was about the rhythm of the waves that would follow me into my sleep. My body would continue to rise and fall to the wave that had long left the shores; its pulsing memory was indelible. Perhaps this is how I learnt to appreciate the rhythm of music. Awe.

Growing up in India, I had always heard of stories about animals in the forest, their declining numbers and efforts to conserve the diminishing population. I had never extended the same point of view to the oceans and the seas despite growing up on a coast of historical importance.

I managed to experience such a conservation in Sydney and it was amazing. No other words can do justice. Just amazing!

I watched a pod of three humpback whales just off the coast of Sydney. It was such a pleasure to watch this majestic species in such proximity to the city. I managed to capture some of these moments on my phone.

On a chilly morning, we set into the ocean facing a stiff breeze and a promise of these mighty mammals. At the beginning of the trip we saw a few boats ahead that were still enough that the guide suspected they had already spotted whales. He was right, but by the time we reached them, the whales had taken their long breaths and taken a dip. We could no longer spot them camouflaged by the rough ocean waves with rising steep hills and falling deep troughs.

We waited for an hour as the boat rocked forward and backwards and then sideways till most people had puked their breakfast out. We were all given bags for it, so there was no smell or disgusting sight to witness. The guide announced that we were headed back when we saw a spray of water far away closer to the Sydney shores. The boat we were in made a dash for it and took us 300 metres close to the whales; for there was a youngling in the pod. As per the rules the boats have to maintain that distance if there’s a calf in the pod; it’s a part of the conservation process.

We spent another 20 minutes watching three whales flip their tales and then lift their head out proudly from the water to splash hard into the Pacific. They then lifted their flippers one after the other as we watched with a woo and a whoop. I like to believe they were waving at us, but these are called flippers and considering what we have done to whales, they might as well be flipping us off.

After we had captured enough memories, the boat took us back to Sydney. I’m left with awe and deference yet again.

PS: The work that has been done to bring the species back from near extinction is worth reading up on.

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