(An article written for the Cosmopolitan, in it’s avatar of a ‘womans’ magazine’ the year it was first published in India.)
I’m a dreamer. I’ve dreamt forever about writing a story, but I don’t do it. I just imagine: best-seller, childrens story, romance, thriller. I plan plots, schemes, ultimate sex scenes and then get distracted – I stop to watch a bird, shadows on the hillside, stories in the clouds, the way the wind blows sand into patterns, sunlight on the water. I thought a wave broke in the same place everytime, some do, and some flow along for a distance. On the sea, the light catches one spot, until the light shifts. On the river, a gleam gets caught and sped along by the water.
Ethereal things, clouds, shadows, patterns in the sand, gleams and dreams – I found there’s reality to them.
For seven months of the year my home is a tent on the banks of the upper Ganga river. A magical place to live. I woke up this morning with an immense bubble of pure, joyful glee in my throat. Hugging myself and grinning at the leaf shadows dancing on the walls of my tent. I needed very much to share it.
One of my oldest dreams was to live some place that had both mountains and the sea ( as in beaches, surf, swimming, walks through the forest, mist in the valleys). Now as I look outside, there’s a huge beach of silver white sand, the blue green water of the river and early morning mist on the mountains. It’s not the sea, but it sure is very like my dream come true.
Another of the numerous things I dreamt about was learning how to kayak, properly. I can kayak, I know how to sit in it and keep it balanced. Also move it in the direction I want. But, I want to be able to dance through the water, be part of the river, currents, waves. I just haven’t pushed hard enough to learn. It’s that same questioning guilt thing – is it important enough, isn’t there more that needs doing, do I have the time? I don’t have a spray skirt, the waters’ too cold, my arms aren’t powerful enough!
Today the cracked red kayak sits before me on the sand, the sun’s sparkling on the water, there’s nobody in camp to feed my fears and the waves are inviting me to dance. I stop thinking, grab a life jacket, strap on a helmet, push the beautiful craft into the water and paddle away. I am headed for that little rapid upriver from camp. It has rained last night, the water level is up, but my fears and questions are gone. I am going dancing.
This cracked red boat slaps merrily through the little swells – a boil catches the tail, swings us into a perfect pirouette. The bow goes up, the stern dips gracefully, my heart does a somersault and we glide onward.
Hugging the shore, dancing from rock to rock we go, our aim to hit the top of the rapid for the final riotious waltz down. The occasional errant current catches us for a naughty frolic, but my cracked kayak and I make it.
We sit parked behind a rock, watching those fat waves curl and flip, gathering our courage.
Four swift paddle strokes, point her nose, angle slightly left, lean downstream and whoopee – that huge wave kisses my cheek, floods into my skirtless kayak and into that wild waltz we swing. Spray in my face, the waves spin me around and toss me up. That lovely wallowing, water weighted boat puts her nose down, swishes her tail, surfs, swims, swings her hips and down the centre we come in the most joyful dance of all time – the river, the cracked red kayak and one un-learned kayaker.
When I learn how to do it, I’ll probably do worse. Today I danced with the river. It’s a high. That bubble of joy still fizzes in my throat as I shower in my makeshift stall – it’s hidden in a gully, the pipe hangs off a tree, I’m curtained by a wildly flowering vine of red flowers. Purple shadows on the hills, silver river, birds coming home to roost, the lamp glow from my tent and the first stars in the sky.
It keeps amazing me how powerful dreaming and nature can be.