This letter has been sitting untyped in my heart for a while now. Mainly because I am still trying to grasp all that you did for me in Havelock.
I worried so much. When the storm came I worried. When the electricity was out I worried. When you flagged down a stranger and made me hop on to his bike so that we could reach a particular restaurant you enjoyed in time for lunch! When I couldn’t spot you for over an hour (it felt like but probably was 15-20mins) on our jungle hike to Elephant beach and the vision of you with your inhaler wouldn’t leave me; I worried. You were actually way ahead of us, already enjoying snorkeling at the beach. How will we light the flames for the fire ceremony on the beach? Will it stay on with the crazy winds at Kalapathar? And how will we douse it and carry back that hot crate? “Ah in the waves of course!” you smiled and said. All that worrying for nothing; for the first time in my life you made me realise how much I worried.
Yes I have been doing the meditation you taught me. And I think it also helps me in my recent open water swims. I owe that to you too. Did you know my reason for visiting Havelock was that – getting acquainted with the open waters for my triathlon journey starting 2017? I had no idea how or with whom I would go into the open waters when I booked my tickets; as a novice swimmer I was surely not going to venture out on my own. And just as I was contemplating that the night I arrived, you said, “Would you like to join me for a swim at the beach tomorrow morning?” Do you remember how I entered the water and an encounter with the first wave sent me frantically panicking back to the shore. Then the storm came, it gave me time to just be – with the sea. Gradually then, you took my hand, egged me on, busted some myths lurking in my mind and now see where I’ve come – swimming nonchalantly in the open waters around Mumbai!
You were not just a yoga teacher to me. A yoga teacher’s job is only to teach the right postures and conduct a good class. On the first day after the session over breakfast, I remember you saying, “So where do you want to go today? Maybe I can come with you?” You prodded me on, with your stories and keenly listened to mine and before I knew it, you dragged me on all those crazy adventures!
And then, on the day the storm settled, for once I was calm, almost carefree. We set out for another adventure to Radhanagar and noticed we were the only non-locals on the bus. When we reached, the beach was isolated. As we got off the bus, the conductor asked, “Aren’t you’ll leaving the island?”
Why? we asked. “All the tourists are being evacuated off the island today.” he said. “There was another storm coming tomorrow. There won’t be ferries after that for a while.”
That was enough for panic to set in. Yet you said, “We’ve come all this way, let’s walk for a bit on the beach and then head back, what say?” I wanted to say, “You mad woman! We should be rushing back to the jetty! I should have never listened to you!” yet, I have no idea why I kept quiet, I followed you, first through the white sands and then through the dense jungle. I kept thinking, “Now. Now I must speak up and tell her. Enough is enough! I want to head back.” Yet we walked, I kept quiet and followed you. I didn’t really want to head back, but the worry was killing me. We walked through the jungle until we reached an opening. A cafe I thought at first, no a resort it was. We had reached Barefoot and that was Lezlie’s plan all along. After you heard what the bus conductor had to say, you wanted to confirm it with a more reliable source, your friend, the manager of Barefoot Resort. We reached and our fears were confirmed. “All the guests were sent with their bags to the jetty a few hours ago. The island was being evacuated.” He said.
It was you who took charge instantly, flagged down a bike (again) and got me to ride pillion with a stranger, politely instructing him to drop me to the jetty. “I will flag down the next and join you there,” you said.
Even before I reached the jetty I heard the Indian Air Force choppers. I counted the 4-5 back and forth trips the chopper took, while I held on to that flying moped seat. The grass-filled helipad was teaming with tourists, holding bags and babies waiting to get on that chopper. A little ahead, long lines were buzzing with people trying to make bookings at the already packed Port Blair island – full of stranded travellers from the 3 day forced storm-stay.
Now when I look back, it was very clear. It didn’t make sense at all to leave the island in haste. But at that moment, under the influence of over 1500 people, I took a call and managed to head back to the resort, pack my bag and come back to the jetty. It was 4 pm by the time I reached back and during this time, you had reached the jetty and were scanning through the crowds – for me.
Some said there was a second storm coming, some said, the ferries cannot dock due to waves still being choppy. Some had spoken to their families back home and were sharing scary stories shared by the press about the next storm. But everyone was sure they wanted to leave the island; except me.
“What does your heart tell you Diipti?” You asked. “I kept quiet. I wanted to yell – look at all the mess around. Everyone is leaving. And you are asking me to ask my heart? SERIOUSLY LEZLIE? I DON’T KNOW WHAT MY HEART IS TELLING ME!”
You were right though. Eventually I did listen to my heart. I stayed back. I reasoned – the locals were not running away. There might be something in that. Besides at Port Blair, there really will be no place to stay..
The adventures we had following that day – celebrating your 59th birthday, hiking through a mud soaked jungle, exploring the route less travelled around Kalapathar beach, the hours we spent doing yoga, reading, chatting at the cafe, that surreal last night with the fire ceremony under the stars at Kalapathar beach.. and then when Julianne arrived, the mad adventures the three of us set out on.. Ah this has to be the most surreal journal entry in my travels.
Thank you forever more for taking me on your crazy, beautiful adventures.
Lots of Love,