The Sea beckons, but I have promises to keep
How do great travel writers get the unique experiences that we don’t find from the same place? How do they recreate them into highres images in writing? What makes them special?
Frances Mayes, the celebrated travel writer says that a writer creates a particular world with his very presence where the experience can be had by only that person.
But how does he create that particular world?
Answer: By choosing unique paths others dare not try.
That brings me to my mind my obsession with Velliyankallu near Mahe long ago, where, according to Mukundan’s celebrated work, ‘Mayyazhippuzhayude Theerathu’, souls fly around like dragonflies waiting to be born.
Velliyankallu is an island 20 kilometers away from the shores of Mahe. One can reach there only by fishing boats. It was Vinod, my student from Vatakara, who first told me about that adventurous trip through the ocean. “Mashe, the boat will leave you in the island early morning. You will start waiting right from then as there is nothing else to do. By the time they come back at noon, you will be as dark as coal in the extreme heat.” But that did not dampen my spirits.
Like a little child I egged on my student incessantly until he agreed to take me to the white island shining like crystal in the early morning light.
I wanted to prove myself a courageous travel writer.
I had to spend a thousand bucks for the boatmen for the diesel. But when I went to the shore, all my courage evaporated. I saw those rickety boats jumping, pitching and falling with the waves as they zip towards the high seas.
My small intestine would be the first to come out with the first wave, I realized. “Mashe you will be vomiting throughout the journey.” Some pep talk for all those lessons I taught him in his life! I thought about my family. I told myself that, the governments wouldn’t change, earthquakes would not happen, monsoons would not get postponed, if I pull back from voyage. Why should I take such risks?
I pulled back to become an ordinary not-so-courageous travel writer.
But don’t worry, I consoled myself as I am in good company.
Jonathan Raban, a travel writer says: “I am afraid of the sea. I fear the brushfire crackle of the breaking wave as it topples into foam; the inward suck of the tidal whirlpool; the loom of a big ocean swell, sinister and dark, in windless calm; the rip, the eddy, the race; the sheer abysmal depth of the water, as one floats like a trustful beetle on the surface tension. Rationalism deserts me at sea. I’ve seen the scowl of enmity and contempt on the face of a wave that broke from the pack and swerved to strike at my boat. I have twice promised God that I would never again put out to sea if only He would, just this once let me reach harbour.”
For the last many years I have been nurturing another dream of spending a night on the sea with fishermen. But at night when I stand on the Sankhumughom beach, looking at the distant lights which are fishing boats, all my valor deserts me. I remember the words of Raban then.
The sea beckons, but hers is the smile of death. I will write about the roads and the rides. Rum and Ravings.
(Photographs: Manu Remakant)