I woke up feeling a little weird. The airhostess was smiling at me. I unbuckled the seat best and picked up my hand baggage. The wanderer was not around, hew was gone as expected. I was not doubting what had transpired. The rhythm was still lingering in my head…
Sonic Boom! Boom Sonic!
I get down the airplane, slightly spaced out. Pick up my luggage and head out of the airport… I ask around for the nearest train station and I am told it is just across the road. Me, my backpack, my camera… all three of us reach the train station and board the electric train to Tambaram, a suburb of Chennai, from where I am likely to get a bus to Pondicherry.
I get a comfortable seat in the train; the short change over journey is likely to take twenty-odd minutes.
Sitting down, I look at my co-passengers. Daily commuters, going to office, to colleges, they give me strange looks. I am wearing my black UCB sweatshirt (it was cold in Delhi when I boarded the flight) in Chennai. I am sweating profusely. My handkerchief is on overdrive. Then one of the passengers sitting opposite me takes out a magazine from his bag… and on the back cover in red block print runs an advertisement…
It reads “Boom Time”
…and I couldn’t help but notice the in my face mockery. I do not believe in coincidences… let who believe in coincidences be damned… for they deny the flawless orchestration of the universe. Nothing ever happens without a reason. Things are how they are meant to be.
‘Boom Time’. The advertisement places the ‘Boom’ in my head and I realize that something is churning. Such signs and symbols have happened with me before, on numerous occasions over the years and I have learned not to ignore them and have trained myself to follow their clues.
I get down at Tamabaram station and walk out of to the mail road. I was told I would get a bus to Pondicherry from here.
I ask people around in Tamil and get vague directions to the bus stop. But the funny part is that I can only speak and understand Tamil… cannot read or write. People ask me to board the bus that reads “Puddycherry”… that’s the only help they offer. And I make no sense of the boards on the bus. They are in Tamil.
I struggle for fifteen minutes then a bust stops nearby. I ask the conductor if the bus goes to Pondicherry. He tells me that he can drop me at a place called Thindukal, which is about an hour away from Pondicherry. And from there I need to board another bus. I think in my head, “What the heck Bala? Just board the fucking bus at least you will be nearer to Pondi by the minute.”
The only seat available is the first seat to the left of the aisle, by the conductor. I place my backpack on the aisle and make myself comfortable. Then suddenly the TV blares into action, announcing loudly that it is a video coach. Some random Tamil song plays out loud. Damn!
The speakers are screeching and the song is really not a song. I put on my earphones and try listening to Mr Bryan Adams but the sound gets drowned in the cacophony of the video coach.
I give up and try and look outside the window. The bus picks up speed and a thrust of wind hits my face and I start to enjoy the way the near-barbaric driver is driving the bus.
Then suddenly the song ends and is replaced by an old Tamil movie, one staring M.G.R. – the old-world legend. I realize that the next hour or so are going to be hell and suddenly my eyes spot the name of the channel playing the movie.
It says, “Boom TV”
I take out my Sony H20 and take a few shots of the channel name, just for evidence. Just to check later that it was not my mind playing tricks on me. For the remaining part of the journey I kept thinking where all this would lead.
“Boom” is the word I need to look out for. Find meaning and follow the rabbit to the wonderland.
Boom Sonic! Boom Town! Boom TV!
I get down at the “Thindukal” and take another bus and reach Pondicherry at about 12:30 in the afternoon. I scout for a hotel and find one at Rue Buss Street. French Town. French street names. Hotel Ruthira.
I quickly take a bath and head out on foot to the famed rocky beach of Pondi. Fortunately, it is only about a kilometer, a walk that is beautifully lined by French Villas and post card perfect cafés and houses.
By 2:00 p.m. I have reached the beach. When you are nearing the sea side, you start hearing the enchanting murmur… long before you can see the sea. The murmur is followed by a cool breeze hitting you on your face. I was so thrilled that any minute I will be able to see her, the “Babe of Bengal”. A few steps, a few meters and there is she… huge, vast, monstrous sea. The vastness, the horizon covering sea, the watery mother, the wet lover, the raging beast, the quivering girl, the shapeless whole. The Sea!
My dear Sea! There she is! There Sea is! She the Sea!
“There is something utterly romantic about the sea… it can make you insanely happy and hopelessly sad at the same time.”
For a minute I am motionless, awestruck at what I was seeing, feeling and hearing. Then my camera came out and I went berserk… clicking at will, full on burst mode.
After I was confident that I would have got at least one good shot of the sea, I parked myself on the black rocks. This beach is a rocky beach. You cannot get down and swim… only watch by the rocks, as the sea dashes herself against the rocks. Time and again. Like a perennial loop.
I settled down on the rocks and started gazing the monster that was grunting in front of me, and every once in while the waves would dash and spray water over my face, My spectacles were dotted with misty water droplets.
Soon hours started lapsing and I kept looking at the sea. Trying to understand what lay ahead of me, trying to reason out with myself the events that have shaped my life off late. The marquee events of the year gone by. Love, this, that and everything else.
As time flew, the answers came, and brought with them more questions. The sea answered and questioned at the same time, like the angel of contradictions, and once in a while I could hear two voices in my head. One probing, the other answering, then the second voice saying absurd things to which my voices giving simple explanations. It happened for a while, then a while longer, and for far too long. Hours passed by or so it seemed. And I kept looking at the sea. I was stone faced. But my mind and heart were going through a gamut of emotions. I was laughing out loud one moment, then suddenly bursting into howling cries, then the other moments I will be lost somewhere in the far spreads of the sea. I pretty much went through every emotion that a human can experience. Yes, in that one long gaze into the sea. I sensed how the entire human race felt about everything. I was for once connected to every human, every life form, every tree, every insect, every stone, every sand grain, every mood, every day in every way. For those moments I was all and all were me. The sense of individuality blurred until it completely disappeared. It felt very different. Felt the way… I really don’t know how to word it. It was tasteless… without flavor. The closest I could term that feeling was… I felt “neutral”.
Then slowly I let myself slip out of the phase, out of the inertness, out of the wormhole into the present. Facing the sea… hearing voices of people around, seeing young couple hold hands by the sea, peanut vendors selling warm roasted peanuts in conical paper packs. Coming back to life around was like waking up from some deep sleep. I was both refreshed and clumsy. I realized I was thirsty. I looked around the beach and spotted a café on the beach “Le Café”… just ten meters from where I was sitting.
I moved to the café and parked myself on the sea facing table, well all tables in the café face the sea. I start to write.
A waitress, a young lady, possibly 30-odd years old, brings me the menu card.
I run through the menu card’s drinks section and I am almost about to order Ginger Tea. But what do I know; I see an item on the menu that makes me jump out of my seat, out my place, out of this world. I put on my spectacles to double check if I read it right. Yest it is what I first read.
Lo’ behold, Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls, Crows and Crabs, Gods and Mortals!
My mind swivels and I get the inner pulse of what all this is turning out to be. The solid ground under my feet starts to melt, like a liquid, like the sea has invaded into the Terra Firma of my life and existence.
Yu hoooo! Radha Juice it is for me.
With a strong circular wave of the hand, I hail in the waitress. Almost embarrassed I tell her to get me a glass of Radha Juice. And off she goes. I couldn’t believe it… they are selling the essence of Radha… whatever they meant it to be. I know what it is. I wait eagerly for the drink to arrive. My camera ready to capture how she looks like in glass. Supernal Radha poured into a glass.
And there she comes. What a beauty!
Purple, mauve, eccentric, electric, like black currant. I take one sip and I could feel a familiar flavor. It was half way between black currant god knows what. I instantly fell in love with the flavor. The more I drank, the more my head swirled. It had a taste of eternal longing blended with the taste of eternal union. Polarity went for a toss. Two extreme realities collided and turned Radha Juice into elixir of knowledge and fulfillment.
After one, came the second glass, and I kept ordering until the count went up to six in a matter of an hour.
I had fallen deep into nothingness, if at all there is such a state.
Slowly in my mind, I felt a vague and distant music playing… lingering on somewhere. Slowly the music came nearer; it was the sound of a flute. The magic slowly unfolded in my ears… I could now hear the birds chirp and leafs rustle… slowly as I was eating the chocolate brownie… I heard footsteps of someone walking with payal reverberating at the ankles. With the passing moments, I could hear more footsteps with payals making an orchestrated advance towards the jungle where I was sitting.
No it is the sea shore. No it is the jungle. Oh no, it is both. The two realities overlap.
The footsteps come closer and closer, as if in a circular dance… they are closing in. I can now see faint images of women, dancing to the tune of the flute. The flute ranges up and down and then deep into the souls that lay mesmerized by its atonement.
The bodies have been given up to music, as the music lifts them up and now the women are too many… dancing in spherical formation over and around me. The flute sound grows deeper and louder… throwing the women into a trance… thousand women and their payals keep tempo with the flute. But the flute is still searching… its call loud and long into the abyss of life. And then slowly emerges the Woman Ornate.
The call of the flute! Lady of the thousand moons! The eternal lover! The gracious herself! The pole star of all immaculate quests!
There she comes draped in turquoise, oh no it is red, or is it blue, no it is green. She wears the colors, all these and more. The thousand women circle the lady of the longing… and she forms the centre of the ever growing sphere of dance.
The flute calls and she answers.
She sways to the soul aching layers of the music and the music surrounds her like the sea breeze surrounds the nightingale. Moment by moment the picture becomes clear. Now the dharak of the flute comes slowly through Radha’s ecstatic dance. He comes clothed in the shades of light and fills my vision with splendor.
Radha the glorious,
Radha the effercent,
Radha the enchanting,
Radha the divine,
Radha the lover,
Radha the loved,
Radha the music,
Radha the muse,
Radha the magic,
Radha the real,
Radha the ageless,
Radha the French,
Radha the German,
Radha the Indian, the Italian, the Brit, the Greek, the outlandish,
Radha the love!
She danced and danced and the flute master played the eternal music of Immaculate Conception. They communed in language yet now known to man in entirety.
The universe started to take shape in that rhythm. The flute obscured all thoughts and Radha was celebrated. And Radha with her divine dance made the truth evident.
Radha! Oh my Radha!
The gopis all merged into one, into Radha. And then Radha slowly meshed into the music of the flute and the flute master was spreading his music to create all universes and this verse.
The flute master! The omnipresent!
I feel the joy and entirety of the experience.
Radha the music! Radhey!
A voice prodded me. It called my name. Bala! I was aware. In multiple worlds at the same time. In the grandeur of Radha and the flute ! In the expansive roar of the sea! The gentle company of the Wanderer in me! The cerebral voice of my conscious self! In the world of mortals, in the world of demi-gods, in the world of all else. Aware!
It was the Wanderer trying to tell me something. He called my name, Bala!
And I knew now what the Wanderer feels above love. About his true identity, about himself, about me, about Radha, about the night scorpion. I had seen her face through the aircraft window, a face full of sun and moon, like splendor of truth filling in on a ruined church.
At this time I felt both as the “nightcrawler” and “wolverine”, as myself and the wanderer. The duality that vanquished all dualities.
The scorpion of the night sky superimposed over the lady glorious “Radha” and I carry their imprints in my heart. The true essence of love.
The word R A D H A … falls like rain in front of my eyes and reassemble themselves in various forms to deliver meaning to me.
Radha is the very basis (ADHAR) for the ever flowing stream (DHARA) of divine worship (ARADH).
Radha, the incarnate universe… the medium to unravel the immanent divinity of the absolute!
I quietly pay the bill and walk back towards the rocky beach. It is dark now. Around seven… I seat myself and gaze at the monster goddess in front of me. The goddess of unending shape and distance. The maker of life. The watery respite. The stable of the unstable. I am back staring at her. My face we with the watery slaps. She teases me like a lover, then assures me like a mother, she then rages like an angry land lady, then dances like Radha herself.
I keep a quite gaze. I subject myself to her.
Given to thee oh magnanimous! I am but a seed, take me away to the garden of the Parijat, And sow me there, For the blue one is aboard the Garuda and searching for me!
The night slowly drives the hoards of tourists away. And it is me and the sea and few strangers lingering on. It is getting late and I look at my watch but can’t see what time it is. It is very dark, a moonless night at that. I take out my mobile… it is 11’o clock. I stay put.
A solitary policeman comes and shudders his stick near me. Drawing my attention. Asking me to leave. I tell him I won’t cause any trouble, but he is not amused. So I amuse him. Hand him a hundred rupee note and off he goes. I hear the wanderer murmuring something. He is second guessing my questions. I ask him if there is merit in existence, in this entire struggle to cope up to life, in this everyday nonsense, in the infirm construct of a reality, in this maya?
He asks me to look at the sea and learn. I look at the sea, I can only hear her now, all is black like death. All is consumed except the white foam boarder of the invisible sea when it hits the rocks. Like death and cessation when Shiva had danced his “Tandav”, only white ashes in the darkest tomb of Shiva’s annihilating reality.
Like Shiva’s tumult, the invisible black sea roars and rages, like rogue kids fighting under a blanket in a dark room. The black waters dash against the black rocks and are turned white, and hence visible.
I start to believe in futility of action and reaction. Of any action or reaction. The giant and unending sea surges towards the land and yet every time her will broken down by the cold black rocks. This eternal game, this waste tells me to not believe in action or home. For none exists in the dark womb of the true universe.
I keep the thought in my mind.
I am feeling extremely cold and uncomfortable. I try to move but my body is stiff. I look around and for a few minute thrown out of my wits. I woke up at the beach and it was before sunrise. I had slept on the rocky beach. I forgot to go back to the hotel. It was 5:30 a.m.
I looked at the sea and she was still dashing against the rocks, with joy of a child and therein I learned my true lesson and went back to my hotel.