Article Published in THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Song of the sea

Navtej Sarna

It is the beautiful gray hour just before the night. The ocean begins to darken and the waves come in, quick and powerful, pulled by primieval forces in gurgling sweeps. Deceptive distant sounds which reveal their true strength only a moment before the churning white froth rolls up to crash against the shore.

The shore itself is a dark line in which everything is melting into a hazy unity. The trees, the ancient rocks, even the stony jetty from which boats have been launched upon an endless ocean for centuries.

There is an unsaid poem in this evening; an unseen beauty lurks among the waves. Between the pale thin moon above and the darkening ocean, there is nothing but the call to prayer. A distant megaphone on the shore sends out a strident call, a little electric flicker which rises and falls against the backdrop of the incoming waves.

The sound of the waves is a prayer in itself, a prayer which is the same no matter what shore it touches or what heedless rock it breaks upon. And in the prayer there is a strength, the strength of one who has Eternity deep within oneself.

It heightens the senses like only somethings can. The top of a mountain, a night sky in summer, a song on the road, the smell of pine needles, a journey in wide open spaces, the sight of a familiar nameless face. Things that touch off forgotten chords in the soul bring back strange lost yearnings.

For once it is easy here to feel quiet and to feel alone. For here there is no sound now but that of the waves. Even the call to prayer has dissolved in the dark waters. There is only the whisper, magical and intangible of a wayward breeze and the buzz of insects. For a blissful moment the quiet enters the heart, filling its corners like only silence can, spreading its echoes like dark nights. It reminds one of distant valleys filled with fireflies or of moonlight on endless vistas of snow or clear blue cloudless skies.

And tonight, I savour the thought of being alone. Not like one is alone in a crowd, a lost hungry soul, but alone in peace. In the twilight there is no companion but the hint of a lone light from a boat on the horizon. Beyond that there is only the ocean, endless and mysterious and the other shore is too far even to think about.

I can watch that boat for hours, a silent ghostly presence. Its haziness enchants me, mesmerizes me. I want it to come no nearer and to go no further. I will it just to stay there and let my illusions play around it. Let loose, they gather fire and colour its phantom outlines.

Things happen on that boat in the dark, the winds tug at its sails, men come alive and bend until their backs break, human eyes search hungrily for familiar shorelines that might mean home. The sailors are adventurers, pirates, friends from my childhood afternoons or lost hungry Godless souls…

Imperceptibly, the night sky with its lost stars closes over the ocean. They merge until they are almost one. The magical hour is coming to an end. I watch the union from the dark shore, a little human speck on the Pointe des Almadies, the westernmost point of Africa.