There is this thing about travelling. It either makes you more aware of your self, or puts all that you are aware of into question. Writing about such travelling puts the trips you take into perspective. At least for me it does. I wonder if this is what they call travel-writing.
When I thought of writing, and about getting the motivation to write, I always thought of the sea. I am not from Mumbai and before coming here, I always pictured that I’ll be forced to put pen to paper, which is a much required reflex for a lazy – wannabe writer like me, the minute I see the sea. But so far, after living here for four years, after visiting almost every beach, every sea face, every bridge and even the lake next my house, I haven’t written a single word on it. Or about it. This evening in Juhu, made me wonder why.
This was an exercise in this course I am doing on creative writing, just to give all of you a backdrop. And when I first got to know that we were going to visit the beach, to get a feel of how ‘Travel writing’ actually feels, I laughed. I continued to laugh for quite sometime; because I was sure that that day everyone in my class was going to believe what I have felt for so many days. That travel-writing must be something, but it definitely isn’t what happens when you visit the sea in ‘Bombay’.
Excited at the idea, I got into an auto – rickshaw and stopped directly at the beach. The minute I stepped out, a young couple, seemingly of a very modest background with a kid of around 4-5 years came up to the rickshaw. They asked the rickshaw-wala how much would it take to get to Santacruz. They were visibly people who would just travel by bus. Perhaps then, it was a very special trip for them, and they wanted to end it with the luxury of a rickshaw ride. This made me smile. I realized that no matter how old the beach gets, it would still remain one of the most special places in ‘Bombay’. And it was special for me too, I realized. But then that question came up again. Why has it not gone into writing?
I was thinking these things while walking towards the beach, when the smell of yummy Pav bhaji filled my nostrils and carried me into a world that felt vaguely familiar, yet distinctly unexplored. In so many years, whenever I have come here, I have come here for a reason. Whether it was to meet somebody, clear my head, or eat the various varieties of expensively delicious street food it has to offer. However, I had never been there to just see the beach. Never let myself loose. Never felt it.
I was already eating the delicious Pav- Bhaji drooling in butter, feeling the cool breeze through the depths of my skin, as these thoughts filled my head. That’s exactly when I thought I had cracked it. Cracked how to finally put that pen to use. That day I was going to enjoy the beach just for what it was. Without any prior plans. Without any directions. Taking another chance, hoping that perhaps this time, when I leave from there, a few words will write themselves. What followed was heaven.
When I kept a bare foot on sand for the first time, I was convinced that this was the best thing that had happened to me that day. But minutes later, as I walked towards the sea and the cool comforting waves touched my feet, the previous experience snowballed itself. I can be so sure that even the best coffee in the world, with the best ambience you can ever have, with your most desired company, can’t unwind you in the way that those first few waves can.
Temptation led me to walk on the shore, and the tiring day broke its shell, giving way to bliss. The voices around felt unrequired and I wished to be able to spend the night there, in silence. I experienced how beautiful ‘not – thinking’ could feel, let alone ‘not- speaking.’ Perhaps that’s why the constant snack- sellers and the instant-photographers couldn’t bring a single line on my forehead. In fact I enjoyed their constant intervention. I liked the fact that amidst the crowd of so many, I mattered. And that one small snack that I bought from them could make a difference, well a huge difference going by their insistence to buy it, to a small minuscule part of the world.
And yet, I bought something only for my own sake, only when I wanted to.
I was thinking all this, when I suddenly remembered how not thinking anything was so much more fun, and quickly got back to that. I remember the rest of the visit, the little that was left after all this, as a blur of bargaining for artificial jewelry, a walk on the rough patch full of shells, and a thick line – up of stalls that become just a just a bunch of fluorescent lights from a distance.
When I was leaving however, I gave myself a secret smile, wondering what golden gleam of words would fill up the pages of my diary that night.
Today, it has been exactly one week since that trip. I have had three holidays and one half-day from my work- schedule and an ample amount of time to be able to write at least a single paragraph. But I haven’t written a word. However, in this one week that I’ve spent thinking about the place, and about where on earth my muse is, I have just found a vague answer.
I have figured that the beach, is a very very private place. No matter how many people you are surrounded with, what you go through is absolutely yours. Perhaps that is why countless people come to this crowded place to forget the world. And successfully manage to do so. And perhaps that is why, no matter how naked I want to be as a writer, and no matter how illuminating I want my emotional experiences to be, what I go through on a beach just can’t transcend into words. A part of it always gets lost in transition. And trust me, with an experience like this, you don’t want to touch it, unless you know you can do justice to it.
Yet the new question is that, why then, am I penning this, word after word, without stopping. Perhaps to prove, in writing, that travel-writing must be something, but it definitely isn’t what happens when you visit the sea in ‘Bombay!