By: Sunil Sharma
The sunset on a clean beach is a haunting poem.
Dad said once. I could not understand then.
Now, I do.
Indeed. Such a sunset is sublime…like poetry.
The lines flow. The colours, vivid, fuse. Energetic. It is a mix of shades. Time is fluid. Everything is in transit. The hour is beautiful!
Indeed, entire scene is pretty!
Full of possibilities. Announcing an end…and a beginning.
All around vibrant colours; changing hours; soft breeze; the day finishing off; another yet to dawn.
It is sheer poetry. Poetry evoking the power of nature. A silent hymn composed by divine hands.
The very contemplation can be uplifting for a keen viewer!
Sense of tranquility and harmony that soothes the fevered mind—this ode to nature.
The sun—an orange ball, dipping in the crimson sea. Sky, land,sea—everything is purplish. Light starts fading as it disappears beneath the horizon, setting space aflame. End of the day. Realm of night starts. Sunset unites the two points and announces the rule of dark knight.
It is calming. The view spread out on an infinite scale. Eyes taking in details. The darkness and silence mingle. Solid slowly becomes soft, slowly blending in the all-enveloping obscurity.
Darkness descends fast.
Physicality gets erased.
Mellow gloom pervades. You do not see/ yet see, eyes trained in the darkness now.
The world undergoes a rapid change. Visible becomes invisible; invisible, visible.
Sunset leads to new doors. As evening advances, young night arrives, stars come out and tranquility gets restored, secret realms pop up unexpectedly.
The beach becomes a vast stage—for meditation. Another aspect of nature gets revealed for the reflective gaze.
If not afraid, explore it as the dark harbours the unseen.
Light and dark dualism. Dad said. Both are lovely!
Dark fascinates! Phantoms surface in the shimmering gloom. Only select human eyes can see the other side…of the dark. The world living within it, glimpsed by a few.
The seers, mystics and poets!
Dad made me see it.
He called it the awakening: The sunset at the beach. The sunset unveils the mysteries of the universe and reveals secrets that alter you within and without.
As happens with literature and liberal arts.
Your aesthetic dimension.
A sunset that leads to a different plane of awareness, realization.Your Zen-moment.
I distinctly recall that liberating experience way back.
We were at the beach. As the night advanced, people left. We stayed on.Then he said, the mermaids sing at this time, time between slumber and wakefulness, light and darkness, dream and reality.
It is a borderland where the material world ends and sensuous starts.You are asleep, yet awake; awake, yet asleep, and, aware of both the states!
I got confused.
He took me to a spot, away from the lights of the hotels shimmering in the dusk, near the waves, feet sinking in the wet sands. All around, darkness…and a murmuring sea.
What do you see? He asked.
I cannot. It is dark.
He laughed gently.
I did. Only darkness.
OK. Can you hear something? He helpfully suggested.
What do you hear?
Right. Do you hear the song of the mermaids?
Dad tousled my hair and said, the mermaids are there…and singing.
Where? I asked, curious.
THERE! He pointed out…middle of the sea.
I do not see. My voice was frustrated. Despite straining, I could see only inky blackness that quivered under a summer sky.
How come? I can see. You cannot.
Only dark sea!
He smiled and tapped on my shoulder. Then he directed my eyes with his hand to the same spot and said, THERE.
Ilooked hard. His extended hand pointing to the middle spot kissed by a silvery moon, the heaving bosom of the dark sea.
I strained and then SAW…the mermaids. The figures started shaping up directly under my gaze far into the sea and human-fish could be seen on the boulders in the middle of the sea.
Good! Can you hear their songs?
Yes. I did.
Now, he said, here come the unicorns, the satyrs, the dancing dolphins,the nymphs. And the dwarfs.
Sure, they all did. Dolphins moved in a fast circle. The nymphs emerged from the waters. The unicorns thundered along the deserted beach. Satyrs walked the beach. Dwarfs romped in. It was a grand spectacle—conjured up by a great force for me, or so it seemed.
Dad waved his hand—they all disappeared. He again waved—they all re-appeared, the wonderful cast of an exotic play. The divine music and uplifting sights left me breathless. And hungry—for more.
That is the beauty of the beach after the sunset. Creatures and views not visible in daylight come out and roam freely the land and the sea.You have to be alert to see them. Dad explained.
I agreed. Never encountered the likes of such sights and folks.
Let us go. Dad said.
How could you manage this? I asked.
These scenes and fabulous beings?
Oh! Dad smiled. They are always there. Out, in front of us. We tend to miss them, the gentle beings, in our daily rush and indifference. I just made you see them.As my Pa had once taught me to recognize and converse with them.
Death of dad in road accident few years later; my migration to the City some eight hundred km away, my education and early job as an accountant in a chartered accountant firm, early marriage and divorce, alcoholism and other issues left me no scope for a renewed contact with these gentle beings for long until one morning, my sick kid asked for a story. He was suffering from pain and wanted a diversion. We were both back—in my ancestral village, near Goa. The cottage faced the sea. It was raining hard. The grey mists had obscured the highway and the sea beyond. We were sitting in the upper-floor room and looking out of the window. A cactus fence ran around the white cottage with red tiles. A cow- dung-caked yard was neatly maintained by mother, now in her late seventies. A Tulsi plant and flowers bloomed in the small yard where Dad sat often with me.The house without him was a body without soul. As the rains began pounding on the roof, I remembered Dad and his troupe of wonderful friends from a marvelous region now eclipsed forever. Kid insisted for a story. And I thought back to that memorable evening at the beach, decades ago. I told him about my encounter with those lovely beings from a land last seen as a teen. He sat up in his bed, happy and excited.
Could you show me that spot? He asked.
Not sure, I said, I will take you there. Will check out, if those poor fellows are still there.
Three days later, I took him to that place on the beach. It was a clear evening. Sky had cleared. We sat down and looked hard. A polluted sea stared back.
Will I fail? Will they come back? My wonderful pals.
We waited. Darkness fell. Moon shone. Beach grew empty. I looked again…only a dark hissing sea out there. I tried to conjure up things the way dad had done. No progress. Angry, bored, frustrated, Istood up and said, No point waiting here. It was after all a fiction created by a dad good at spinning/telling stories. I failed as I cannot tell good stories the way dad narrated.
My son, weak but willing, said, Why are you so angry, dad? Be patient.Let us try it out here.
I told my son: Not angry. I cannot see those creatures. How did he do that?
Was he a magician?Asked my son.
I did not have any idea. One thing was sure: I had seen those creatures on this beach—living, romping, real.
Seen them in the dark—as things luminous become visible in darkness.
Remember what he said to you here.Kid said.
I closed my tired eyes and looked back, straining hard, reviving old memories, dead past.
Retrieving past can be difficult—those lapsed moments.
And then, lulled by gentle breeze, a silvery moon, and, a soothing silence, sea whispering in my ears, the thresholds closed tight in some deep recesses started opening up…
…And, relaxing on the wet sand, away from toxic civilization, moving in a different time zone and realm, I began remembering clearly, the events flooding back, the company of dear dad, the accident on the highway to Goa, his hospitalization, the anxious hours outside the ICU, the earnest prayers, the happy moments spent together, the long walks, his stories for a believing child hungry for adventures of spirit. The yearning for the other side of human experience, the marvelous that only stories can reveal to a wide-eyed kid, sitting on the beach with a caring dad, after the sunset when people retreat,afraid of the melancholic evening and advancing night, the terrifying gloom, the outdoors and a duo of father-son having a open tryst with dusky nature at that hour, unafraid of deserted place, serenading the stars, the waves, the whistling trees, the convulsive sea. Everything came back in a rush then like a film running backward at a dizzying speed and I could hear everything, tears running down, the voice clear of my dad rising from the ruins of time buried somewhere in the mists around and most importantly, I could see him again, lying in the hospital bed, wrapped up in needles, bandages and sheets, eyes alive, smile hovering on a wan face, eyes kind. Holding his right hand, I shook with silent sobs, in the general ward of the municipal council’s hospital. It was another sunset that was soon tore-define my young life again, a sunset that was not that soothing or full of joy and fun.
Do not cry, my son, I will live in you, your kids one day. Tell them one evening what I made you see on the beach, your poor old man who loved you so much, despite poverty. I did my best. I showed you different wealth not found by the majority. They are your friends from the Land of the Imperishable. Recall them and they will return, whatever be the hour. They will play with you and comfort in most tough circumstance. Remember, in order to see them again, you have to see from the eyes of a trusting child. Shed your armour. Look at the nature. Hear her songs. The pure can hear them. Innocent can see her other children hidden away from the skeptics.
And, if recalled, I will come back for you again—for the last time.
That was before he died few hours later. Our family got shattered. Fortunes changed. I had to leave for far-off shores.
I remembered everything clearly…as if in a trance. Words came back.His gestures. Gentle persuasive voice.
He was returning for the last time.
And then everything started falling into pieces.
Go and find out the treasure out there with my grandson.I could see him clearly floating in the air and hear his voice very distinctly.
He was guiding me find out the lost treasure trove buried in the sands of time, near the sea, on this young night.
A mysterious connection was made with a deceased father no longer dead to me and an exotic world began tumbling down out of thin air and it clearly beckoned.
Look! There they are. My pals from childhood!
I waved. They waved back. The vanished forms started unraveling fast before me, leaving me breathless, amazed…
Come on kid. Let us go and meet them.
My son smiled, felt happy. I ran freely on the long beach hugged by shadows.
He hesitated and then ran after me.
We started chasing the other. We rolled into the soft sands, played as two kids and then I said, look there and the parade started of the creatures of various sizes, shapes, colours, facial features, clothes and differing powers, the shape-shifting creatures that tell us so much about life…
…and, after a long period, rolling together, running, listening, we—like dad and I decades ago— both enjoyed the fun of togetherness and play… and delights of a shared childhood and gleefully heard the songs of the mermaids again on this ancient beach under glittering stars and a bright moon…
Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction;one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.
Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingualjournal Setu publishedfrom Pittsburgh, USA:
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