As kids summers meant Sundays spent at the beach.
At the crack of dawn, my sister and I would be up, waking our favorite uncle (only for the beach Sundays, please! We could afford to be picky. We had 5 uncles, you see!) from the deep slumber he had fallen into after returning home from a night of partying just a couple of hours ago.
When he was finally up, we started yelling for friends, who lived across the road. I am sure all that yelling meant that we woke up at least half the neighborhood in the process.
After collecting our friends and assorted beach paraphernalia we would finally drive off, waving wildly to the milkman and the paperboys who, I’ll let you know, were rude enough to never, ever wave back.
The beach was around 10 hops, skips, and jumps from the house, we were there even before we realized it. We shot out of the car, squealing (I wonder why we did that) like little pigs, and embraced the sand as if we had never seen a beach before!
With floats on, we pretended to be expert surfers and rode the (imaginary) waves. We then chased the impish waves to the shore and competed with the wind. In between all of this, we also ingested copious amounts of salt water and had marathon coughing and sputtering fits! When the water tired us out, we built sand castles that would make any architect proud, complete with moats et al. Seashells adorned our necks and hair as we pretended to be mermaids.
When that didn’t hold our interest for long, we dug my uncle into the sand (with his help of course) so that only his face was visible. We pretended to be some sort of tourist attraction as we solemnly sat surrounding my uncle’s bobbing head and invisible torso.
A lot of laughs are what got out of it, looking at various expressions on the faces of our fellow beachcombers and I still smile when I remember this.
Then it was back to the water again we would be doing what we did before.
As the afternoon sun came up and our little selves were finally exhausted, we would reluctantly call it a day, and gathering our bits and pieces would head towards the second favorite part of the day.
Dripping paani puri’s that inevitably cracked up before we could bite into them, crunchy sev-puri’s that tickled our taste buds, and tangy ragda-pattice that made our eyes water and at least 2 ice-golas each were on the menu almost every beach Sunday. After eating till we were ready to burst there was always place for that last ice cream cone that we devoured on the way home.
Mum’s Sunday siesta was rudely interrupted (when you are 7 years old you didn’t even know the word ‘compassion’ existed) as we ran through the house (I still wonder why we did this too) spreading sand everywhere with Mum and the maids running right behind us, pleading then yelling with us to ‘go straight to the bathroom!’ Bathed, clean, and exhausted we would fall into welcome slumber, and usually sleep the rest of the day away.
Along with my teenage years arrived this strange dislike for the beach. My sudden phobia of water too started around just then.
I had a thousand excuses to avoid the beach. ”The salty sea air makes my hair all frizzy” (it did too) “My skin breaks out due to the same” (never did) “My eyes water when I walk on the beach” (biggest load of crap I ever invented!) and the final beauty “I am an air sign; hence I don’t like the beach” (Phew! And I wonder why no one ever fell for THAT one!)
Relatives who dropped down to visit during the summer holidays were given a cursory tour of Juhu beach, but I never played tour guide for that. I inevitably passed the beach when I drove by and briefly glanced at it, but I never visited again.
In spite of living so close to it, there was a huge distance between the beach and me.
Not just this beach. Any beach.
For some strange reason, which I never cared to analyze, I just hated being anywhere near sand and water.
Then a few years ago, another part of life turned a full circle.
It was, but natural, that a visit to Goa would be incomplete without a visit to its beaches. Especially when the hotel we were staying at had its own private one. On the first evening, armed with books and music I reluctantly accompanied my sister to the pristine beach. To sit as far away as I could from the water, with my favorite music playing in my ears and my eyes scanning the pages of the book I was currently in the midst of, was the plan.
But as I set foot on the soft, warm sand my intentions turned turtle. I walked on the sand savoring each step like it was precious. Hard-packed, washed by the wave’s sand welcomed my next steps. The warm sand squelching between my toes bought back childhood memories and my face split into a wide grin.
Books and music were forgotten I wanted to enjoy every moment there.
I walked for a long, long while. I made a sand castle I dodged the waves, just like before.
The waves were huge that day, and like naughty little children, they jostled each other to be the first to reach the shore. The sand was white and the setting sun added just the right bit of color to this serene, beautiful scene.
My hair did turn frizzy, yes but I enjoyed every moment of being there. All consecutive evenings of our hotel stay were spent at the beach.
Peace and happiness washed over me every time the lace-edged waves curled around my ankles or when I dug my heels into the warm, wet sand. As the current of the waves returning back tried to pull me with them I realized how much I had missed being here.
And I fell in love with the beach once again.