As the sun kissed the pale blue waters of the Bay of Bengal till they sparkled and glistened with pride, I watched from the shore as Kaifu pushed his fishing boat into the high tide. His friends were already aboard the boat and looked on as Kaifu gave the final push and jumped in. As he shaded his eyes from the scorching sun and looked back, I thought he smiled at me. Surprised, I followed his eyes to find that it was actually his newly-wed wife, Meeramma standing next to me, on whom the beetel stained toothy smile was bestowed. I looked on as Meera (as I preferred calling her) coyly returned the smile. Satisfied Kaifu turned back and got busy with arranging the fishing nets and joking with his friends. “How long will it be this time?” I asked Meera standing beside me looking longingly at Kaifu’s fast disappearing boat. “Don’t know for sure. It depends on when they feel they’ve got enough. Last time it was two weeks before I saw him again”.
Kaifu and Meera are among the small group of families who live in the quaint little fishing hamlet of Pudukkupam for several generations. Though located just about 10 kms from the city of Pondicherry (or Puducherry as it is locally known), the village, which adorns the Bay of Bengal coast, is strangely oblivious to the enchantment which surrounds the city. As I found out in the days following my visit, the village was comfortably cocooned in oblivion seldom needing anything else. Such contentment was definitely to be envied.
However, as I chatted with Meera, I was surprised to know that she was well aware of the historical significance of the place of her birth. All through her childhood, she was regaled with stories on the valour and the might of the Chola kings who were the first occupants of this ancient village. While we hung on to the branches of Miss.Blyton’s Faraway Tree, Meera was having her own little history lessons on this enchanting Coromandel coast. As she tinkled her silver anklets (a wedding gift from Kaifu as she shyly confessed) she recounted her honeymoon to the Chunnambar river, located at a short distance from the village, where Kaifu took her for a day out after their wedding. “Only a day!” I exclaimed imagining my own 10 day long hectic honeymoon trip to Kodaikanal (that is matter for another Blog!) “We can hardly afford more than that” Meera responded in a surprisingly matured tone. Ashamed at my daftness I looked down. She is right. How could they hope to take out time for more than a day.
“So Meera!” I said quickly to change the topic, “Have you been to the city to see the Ashram?”
“The Ashram?” she asked thoughtfully. “Yes, but only once when I was very small. I remember I was very sick and my father took me to be healed by the lady at the ashram. Everyone calls her The Mother. I remember how kind her smile was and how soft her hands were as she laid them on me and chided my father for not taking me to a doctor instead. The place smelt so nice; so unlike our village which always smells of fish. But that is all I remember .” She said and turned thoughtfully and longingly towards the ocean. “But you know what?” she surprised me by speaking up suddenly “ I think I will never be able to love a place as much as I love my little village no matter how dirty or smelly it is.” I smiled as she threw me her punchline “ Simply because this is where I belong …and so does my Kaifu.”
I wondered at my naiviety. I have travelled all the way from one big city to another in the hope of finding what I want in life. I know a lot, think even more and can express even further. While Meera, in her own simple way, has found what she wants already without moving an inch from where she was. The reason is simple and I wondered why I missed it. Meera has found where her heart belongs.
Pondicherry, offering a unique combination of modernity and spiritual realisation steeped in history, unwittingly trapped me in an all new perspective. My lessons from a simple fisherwoman proved more profound than any spiritual guru could ever impart.
As the sun spread its last glow before it bid goodbye, I watched Meera walk back to her village and prepare for her long wait that could span days, weeks or even months. While she waited for Kaifu, Meera would weave new fishing nets for him with the threads of hope to ensure that her life will be complete yet again. Till then she will let the whispering waves sing her a lullaby as she drifts into happy dreams.
As for me, before I start trudging up the sandy path to my resort and bring an end to yet another satisfying day by the beach, I contemplate another dip in the frothy waves. I am chided by the screaming ocean, but I ignore it. After all I too have a right to choose my life don’t I?