I had just given my US Visa interview and had gotten my F1 visa. Before this day, going to the US to study was a faraway dream. Something that I would do someday. But now, it was very real. The small piece of paper that I had worked so hard for was in my hands right now. A strong gust of wind came behind me and blew the small piece of paper away from my hand, towards the beach. I chase after it, the sand under my feet shifting, forcing me to slow down. And surprisingly, the wind dies and the paper falls right on my feet. I smile as I look up at the horizon, the sun slowly setting, caressing my face with its warm glow, painting the sky with a million different colours.
I take my shoes off and grab them in my hand. I let the warm sand embrace my feet and trickle between my toes, letting it tickle me. I hesitate a little before dipping my feet in the foamy water. And after a long time, I finally close my eyes and feel something melt away from my face. There is something strange about beaches. It makes people behave differently. I see crows walking on the sand not trying to fly as the wind is too strong. I see a guy dressed up completely in formal attire remove his shoes and socks, probably to get drenched in the sea. I see a pair of local kids running and trying to catch hold of a foreigner’s footwear, which was taken away by the sea. Some people lighting a fire in a hole dug in the beach, probably for religion, mostly for warmth. As I walk further, I see couples romancing behind boats, finding solace in the beach’s warm, non-judgmental embrace.
As I walk along the edge of the beach, I reminisce about how long I’ve come. The funniest and equally mortifying memory from my childhood comes to mind. Stealing candies from my sister’s pocket and later on getting scolded at by my dad. I can’t even tell you how petrified 10 year old me was. Oh boy I’ve come a long way. And I wonder, has the Beach grown up too? If yes, then it must have seen so many more days and nights than me. Than anyone who has ever lived. So many stories it could tell only if it could speak. How wise would that make it?
I was broken out of my reverie by a phone call.
“Yes amma, I got the visa! I’ll tell you everything when I come back home, okay?” I said.
“Yes please come home quickly,” and she hung up
I could tell that she was happy, my mom. Anyone else who heard that conversation would think she was an unemotional person. But after years of being with my mom, I knew that she was going to prepare all my favourite food by the time I come home, served hot. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is. But did I sense a little wavering in her voice too? I looked at the bright orange disc in the sky and I could see a tiny black smudge on it. Probably just a cloud?
I look at my name printed on that visa approval. There’s this thing about long term goals. You spend a significant amount of time trying to achieve them. And in that amount of time, a lot of things could change. Your personality, your ideologies, your ideas about what it means to lead a good life some of these very different from when you started. After all these years when you finally arrive at the destination you have fantasized so much about, are you the same person that boarded the train? Would you still get down the train? Would you still savour the taste of that warm cup of tea sold outside the station the same way you thought you would? My phone blips. It is an old friend making fun of my captions from 5 years ago on Instagram. I smile. Yup, things change.
I suddenly realize that the tide had risen to my knees. I swiftly jump to the safety of the beach. But I wanted to jump right back into the waters and swim. I really wanted to, very badly. But I didn’t. I wore my shoes and started walking back towards my hotel to sleep in that lonely little room.
As I look back one last time at the almost sunken sun, it hit me. I think I know now what makes the beach such a strange place. It makes people confused. That’s what its fault is. It makes people want to get drenched. But it also makes people realize how scared they are of getting drenched.