30 August 2015

A note on ocean transcripts

Over 20 years ago, one night in August, my friend Mahendra 'Patta' Silva and I took a walk by the sea. I think it was from Bambalapitiya to Wellawatte, along the railway track. He told me that the sea always calms and explained why. He said that each human being is calmed by a particular combination of sounds, tones if you will. The sea contains the entire range, he said, and therefore is able to pick that particular node of sensitivity to the extent necessary for subduing all agitation.

I like sea-sounds. In fact I like all sea-things: boats, waves, spray, sand, lines written in the sand by wave-end, shells, colour variation, sea-sky lines and the poetry of colour-agitation at sunset, curve of bay and the stories swept before nostril and sensibility by the wind. Passing Galle Face Green towards the Continental Hotel in a speeding three-wheeler, the brine heavy breeze told of things ancient and new, kindling memories of places and people marked by encounters that rolled into life's footnotes and forgotten transcripts of being.
I remembered Mahendra and his theory on my way back, again in a three wheeler, passing Galle Face Green, not ten minutes later. I had just been abused in raw filth by a security guard because I hadn't seen a 'squad car' as I crossed the street. He was followed by a less abusive but equally agitated police officer who insisted that go far away if I wanted to make a call (I was texting the person I was going to meet). About turn. 

I hammered out a few agitated text messages to my friend who wanted me to identify the abuser explaining to him, it's the bosses who are to blame; that it was my fault was coming in a three wheeler (which the security guards might not have noticed anyway), wearing sandals and with shirt hanging out; that abuse is what people who look like me get, have got and will get in the future; and that those who 'belong' are probably uncouth, ill-bred thugs who come in flashy vehicles wearing tie and coat. Sea-ridden memories 

It was wonderful to get the elemental backing of things associated with the sea at that point. I found myself transported to that time of sea-theory and the sharing of stories, of a terrible time to live in and the bliss of love-encounter that 'irrelevanced' all terror. Un-agitated. I remembered beach histories, from childhood to parenthood; sandcastles and sand temples, re-crafted into sand mounds which were dissolved by wave-lap into nothing, by and by. And how these timeless tales of wave and sand were interrupted by a roar that robbed a child's smile and left a soaked soft toy clothed in sand granule. When writing time came around, I was surfing sea-ridden memories. And like a child digging deep into wet sand, my heart fingers excavated from another August a transcript that makes no sense now but said it all a long time ago. 

August dimensionality
The time: after sunset.
Place: nondescript beach on the Western Coast. 

There are lights on the sea,
Christmas Islands
somewhere where black sea meets black sky
and on this August night
the Indian Ocean looked so small
and the sky
just big enough for a scorpion
and a hunter:
Small, all things considered.
And far away in this same land without sorrow
serendipity, I learnt,
has been legislated out,
No, no....not forbidden,
the universe of love
stands at the gate,
detained on account of an illegal passport,
And when the dimensions of propriety
fall from an exquisite sky
as garland and noose,
when child is made knife
to stab again and again
when the allowed breath
is a poisonous gas
designed to suffocate,
when hands outstretched in innocence
are cut forthwith,
there is little to be said,
for it is after sunset now
and there's a say-it-all sign 
on a nondescript beach on the Western Coast;
it was planted by a midget sea, I am told: 

The sea has a way of taking care of her many children. With a wave and a soft, turning tear heavy eye into wonderment birthing smile. To this day I have not tested Mahendra's oceanic theory. Neither have I heard anyone else echo what could be one of the most precious texts pertaining to the sacred. Maybe we are blessed to live in an island. Speaking strictly for myself, I am grateful. The sea works for me. In the strangest ways too.

*This was first published in the 'Daily News' almost 4 years ago to the day (August 31, 2011)