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Sunday, October 14, 2012

A night adventure with a Croatian backpacker


“It’s just a little ahead”, he tells me before turning again and walking briskly. A stone slips from under his foot and goes hurtling down the cliff. I try to look down but its too dark and all I see are the waves hitting the rocks.

“I have never swum after drinking, you know” I tell him, laughingly. The next moment I am shaking my head. If I hadn’t laughed, maybe he wouldn’t know that I am nervous. He tells me that I look alright to him and we would be fine. We keep walking.

The path is narrow. And hardly used. Goran claims that no one knows about it. I think no one uses it because it is too steep and one false step, and you fall hundred metres down into the sea.
It’s a full moon night, and the sea looks silver from up where we are. I wonder if I should light a smoke but refrain. The mountain is too beautiful. We keep walking, briskly, but every time I look down at the sea, it still looks as far as it did the last time.



I have always loved the sea, ever since I was a child. The waves, the breeze, the boats on the horizon, they all play their part in giving me peace. I think back over the last few years. Of how life changed, of how it wasn’t meant to. If I am here today, because of what happened two years back. If only things had never changed.  Another side teases me saying that I am acting tipsy. Surely two pints can’t make me introspective. Dear Lord, how we have fallen.  Goran coughs, and my reverie is broken.

I have not known Goran for long. In fact, I know him only for three days. We met on the first night I reached Goa.  He is a traveller from Croatia. I like him. He has been on the road alone for over a year now, and I keep asking him about all the doubts I have of travelling alone myself.  To discover ourselves, sounds like a clichéd line, if not corny. Why should we? We speak of it at length. “It is important you know to be able to be happy, all by yourself”, he tells me, smiling. I wonder if I am. Sure I am, at the surface. I like my work, I have a few good friends, I am happy. But am I? The past comes rushing in, just like the waves that dash against the rocks. The answer hits me like a bolt of lightning.

We have reached the bottom. “There, can you see the caves?” he says, pointing at some dark cliff, along the coastline. I nod my head, and make an approximate calculation of the distance in my head. I have always liked maths. “It’s not high tide yet” , he tells me but I already know that.  I have never swum in a cave before, and I am not a great swimmer. Maybe he is, maybe he’s not.  Why I trust him, I do not know. Maybe because he speaks softly, and makes you feel comfortable. Or maybe because I am willing to try anything these days. I don’t care. It cannot be a good thing, to not care.



A strong breeze is blowing and we run across the water, towards the caves. We yell as we run, and we are the only two people for miles around.  I slip and fall in the water, and a wave sprays my face.  As I laugh and wipe the water off my eyes, I see Goran is much ahead. He does not know I fell. And I know if I hadn’t come to Goa alone, I would never have met him, and never would have been running at 2 in the night towards a cave in the sea. I am beginning to get some more answers now. I get up and run. With every step I take, I am leaving the past behind me. Or am I only trying to outrun it? I don’t yell anymore, I just run with my eyes closed, the water flying off the back of my legs.

We have reached the caves now. They look dark and ominous. “We have got about an hour”, Goran tells me, “after that the tide will come in high.” “We’ll cross the length long before” I tell him and go inside. He laughs and joins me.

When we go inside, the water is higher than our waists. I take a deep breath and put my head inside. It is icy cold. I feel it as it flows from my head to my shoulders to my back. I let go. Goran’s strong and he goes ahead,  in neat knife like strokes. I open my eyes and look at the walls of the cave. The water keeps swooshing to the edges, and here inside the sound is magnified. The water is cold but it feels good on the skin, and I am not thinking anymore.

I float for a while on my back, looking at the ceiling. A bat flies a few feet above us, and maybe it likes this new, strange company. 

What has happened, has. It was beautiful then, and tonight is another day. I have been working too hard these two years, it was important to forget. But maybe working so much wasn't. Maybe I needed this holiday to tell me that, maybe I needed this cave to feel free.

The bat circles around, and so do I, trying to keep our movements synchronous. When it leaves, I turn and go about my own path. I am not trying to outrun anything anymore, I am letting go. I smile, for I don’t feel the water flying off my legs anymore. Swimming here in this cave I am aware of all my senses, aware of myself, aware of the world around me.

Some time that night, I came out of the cave and saw Goran waiting. “Did you like that?” he asks enthusiastically. I smile at him and nod my head.