The nice thing about living close to the beach is, well, the beach. We had been blessed in our lives to live in several homes that were close to the beach, or were just a short walk away. We were thankful that we had achieved this yet again in India. Until we took a closer look at the beach.
Looking past the curving sweep of garbage and debris that marked the high tide line, the shore sloped steeply down into the sea, with fairly large and violent waves crashing not too far out. The drop off was enough to discourage anyone but the bravest or most foolish to venture into the briny deep, and we had been warned that far too many people died each year in those waters for us to brave them.
Keeping water safety in mind, on our first day hanging out at the beach in front of our villa, we let the children stand at the top of the tide line, and let the odd wave gently wash over their feet. Between Hawaii and Australia, we had a fair bit of experience with the power of the open ocean, and a fair bit of respect for what it could do. In BC, the shores of the Sunshine Coast were buffered by the large mass of Vancouver Island so that the waters were generally calm, with small waves and no undertow or rip currents. The open ocean is a different beast, full of danger, and with the danger, comes fun.
As the fun increased, so did the daring of the children, as they pushed closer and closer to the Neptunian rage that seemed so far, yet was far too close for comfort. Realizing from our vantage point at the top of the shore break that they were venturing too close to the danger zone, Theresa and I both started to call the children simultaneously, concerned that a sleeper wave could engulf them and drag them out to sea. As we started walking towards them, calling out for them to come back, our voices drowned by the crash of waves, a local came running towards us, yelling at the kids, and at us. I felt a bit like a sheepish schoolboy, caught in some negligent act. We had been trying to get the kids back from the water, but as the fellow, a local fisherman, explained, there was no such thing as safe ocean play, at least not at that time of year. He continued to chastise us for some time, like a concerned parent scolding foolish children. Wait, weren’t we the adults in this situation? Never the less, we heeded his advice, and escorted the children back to the safety of the pool at our resort.
Even though we were the only guests of the resort, there were usually attendants on duty, and we often let the children enjoy the safer waters of the pool while we went down the road for a quick coffee or internet fix. Imagine our surprise when we returned one day to hear Cyrus exclaim “Look what I taught Violet to do!” And with that, she jumped into the pool, and let herself sink to the bottom, and them swam furiously to the surface. More breathless than her, we watched and waited, and congratulated them both, and asked gently that they keep their aquatic adventures to things that might not result in Violet drowning, at least while we weren’t present.
At least the beach was still beautiful, owing to the majestic presence of the ocean. Our beach had a few perks thrown in, such as the stranded ocean tanker, caught helplessly on a sandbar, awaiting the coming floods, or perhaps a bureaucratic miracle to command it back to the sea. For five years it had stood just a few hundred feet from shore, after being pushed into the shallows during a storm.
To our surprise, history repeated itself in a smaller fashion shortly after we arrived, in the form of a small barge that broke free in a storm and got stuck right at the shore. The waves would break right on it, sending a spray that would engulf it and the gigantic backhoe that sat upon the deck. Crowds of Indians would gather and just stare at the spectacle, which is something they tend to do for anything out of the ordinary. What constitutes as ‘ordinary’ or ‘out of it’ in India is beyond me, but anything that involves tragedy or things gone wrong will pull at the heart and eyes of the Indian, as it will anywhere else in the world.
Road accidents are the worst. Not a car will drive by that won’t pull over to investigate the incident personally, as though they might shed some light on the situation that had been heretofore unseen, or perhaps to join in with the angry mob in lynching some person of obvious wrongdoing. Justice is a very communal enterprise in India, even for fabricated wrongdoing, as was the case for a schoolteacher in Bombay who had been interviewed by a news reporter, uncovering a scandal about a school girl prostitution ring. The poor lady was nearly beaten to death by the mob that found her one evening, rescued by the police at the last minute. The Reporter, feeling guilty for the teachers’ treatment later came forward and admitted to fabricating the whole story, and splicing together the audio of the phone interview to change the dialogue.
All the world’s a court, and we are merely judges…