Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sea Shoring

We are at Qurum beach and in the sea. Selvin comes here every Friday (only way to get some exercise here, he says) and so Jasper and you accompany him.

The place we are at is a little way off the main Qurum beach and therefore relatively deserted. It’s five in the evening and the sun is reading to dive down the horizon. The sand feels warm and you twiddle your toes in its warmth, enjoying the touch and feel of its softness.

The beach here is about 50 meters wide, and seems to run for about a couple of kilometers in a slight curve, cradling the coast. As you walk towards the water you notice virgin sand, unmarked by any foot-prints. We are amongst the first to arrive and water has washed off all signs of yesterday. Fascinated, you notice the footprints you are leaving behind and knowing when you come back, they may or may not be there.

Inside the water you feel the heave of the waves, rushing to the shore and moving back to the sea. The volume adds to the momentum and you feel MOVED. You keep walking and are nearly 50-60 meters from the shore yet hardly chest deep in the water. The waves massage you gently and you feel its soothing effect in your bones. The salty water stings the eye and soon you learn that dog-paddle is the best kind of stroke because it helps you keep your head above the water.

All of sudden you notice hordes of Omani youth descending on the beach and soon watch them playing football on the narrow stretch of sand. You ask Selvin, a Goan, born and brought up in Oman and he says that till ten years back this part of the city didn’t exist. Muscat was a much smaller place but then Hyatt built a Hotel here (see that building, he says) and soon people realized what a good place it was. So the diplomatic community built their houses along the sea and the government planted coconut trees and built huts and landscaping and now its one of the most posh areas to live in.

Then you notice a huge tower like structure to your right (when you face the shore) connected with what seems like a kilometer long bridge going out into the sea and you ask Selvin what’s that?

It’s the water desalination plant, he informs, and the building at the other end of the ‘bridge’ is the salt making plant where they produce ‘Bahar’ the largest selling salt in Oman. Something clicks in your head and you feel enlightened – yes, desalinate water and get salt as a by product and sell that too – how neat and why didn’t Tata Namak think of that, after all water is sold in India too. And Gujarat, where their salt plant is located, suffers chronic water shortage.

The footballers seem to have occupied the entire beachfront and there seems to be about half a dozen games in progress. Their playing space half the size of a regular field (the beach being only 50 meters wide) and the goal posts are marked with bottles or small stick poked in the sand. All fields seem to be adjacent to each other with no space in between so the goal keepers stand with backs to each other, facing the side their game is going on. The footballs often go into the next field but that doesn’t seem to bother the players who are fixated only on their own game.

You come out of the water sit on the beach chairs Selvin has brought, light a cigarette and watch the group in front playing. About 20 youth, all in late teens or above with one small boy hardly 12 or 13; he is enthusiastically running after the ball but doesn’t seem to get a touch, others are too big for him. You watch him and wonder why others don’t give him a chance to kick the ball at least once but then realize they are playing hard and seriously. Good for him you realize, he will become a better player if they continue treating him like this.

Then you notice the sun slowly sink in the horizon and keep watching fascinated by the beauty of the moment. Selvin and jasper have come out of the sea too. As they dress up you notice the beach where you had walked leaving your footprints. The footballers running and tackling has made it resemble a battlefield, all dug up and looking like a ploughed field ready for sowing.

As you are about to leave you notice a green stone on the sands next to a yellow one. You pick them both and look closely. The green one probably has copper (copper has been mined in Oman since last 6,000 years they say) and the yellow one looks like a sedimentary rock, probably sandstone. You keep them both for future reference, if and when you meet a geologist, you can show and ask.

The week rolls by in a jiffy and before you can say hey, it’s Friday again and you are back at the beach, with Selvin and Jasper. Voila, its high tide and the beach has vanished, the water reaching nearly to the road. The sea seems to be roaring and some of the waves seem more than a meter high. You go in and soon realize the power of the sea as it tosses you about, every wave nearly pulling down your Bermudas. When the mighty waves come washing in you can see dozens of small grey fishes helplessly floating in its crest

You notice the footballers are back and even thought their playing field is barely a few meters wide, they start their match again.

Today Selvin is in a hurry and soon all are tired battling the sea, so we quit. Before leaving you take a last look at the sea and again marvel at its awesome power to hold your attention and keep you transfixed in meditation. After all you are three-fourths water too.

Then you notice a dead fish lying near your feet. You poke it with a stick, it’s rock dead and stone hard. You notice its open mouth, the glassy eyes and you wonder about life and death.

Life is not the opposite of death - life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Birth is life’s attempt at immortality. For, Life is Eternal. Life is One - manifested manifold.

So to celebrate life you head for the pub!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Muscat Morning Meditations

You get up and are surprised to see its not even 5 am and yet the morning is very bright. The Sun is still not up and you go to the kitchen balcony to see two pigeons necking next to you on the other side of the glassed railing. One of them looks like a typical Indian grey pigeon but the other one is a cross between a grey and a white with white head and neck and grey wings.

As you light a cigarette, they stop frolicking and watch you alertly, ready to fly off at first sign of danger. You lower the light slowly and don’t look at them directly, not wishing to scare them. They keep watching you. As you exhale a stream of smoke they fly off in panic probably scared of the fire breathing monster. You watch them with regret.

Then a sparrow flies into the next balcony chasing a moth. The moth dives and ducks and twists and turns and the sparrow keeps missing it but finally the moth’s luck runs out. The sparrow sits on the balustrade, its morning breakfast in between its beak. Your next puff sends it soaring in the sky.

You are on the seventh floor (the maximum allowed in Oman) and can clearly see the city skyline and soon notice the two flags of Oman fluttering in the brisk breeze. One is on top of the Central Bank of Oman and the other on a building about 70 meters away across on the other side of the road. You notice they are flying in different directions at 90 degrees to each other. Puzzled you try to figure out what’s happening and it takes a while to realize that the wind is running in some sort of cyclic swirl. Soon you see that the flag on the opposite side has wrapped itself around the flag pole. You wonder if that happens often and if it requires some one to unfurl it somehow.

Inside the kitchen the air is still and you notice the smoke you are exhaling hangs in midair in distinct layers looking like evening clouds in the sky. You take a deep puff and blow it at the center of the clouds. The beam of smoke goes like a rocket burrowing a hole in the cloud and they starts swirling in all directions even as some parts form rotating rings while others swirl in different directions, the whole effect is as if you are watching stars and galaxies in outer space and you wonder if that’s the kick Old Man in the Heaven is getting watching His creation. Transfixed you repeat the act again and again till your head spins with all the deep smoking so early in the morning. The forms and shapes of the smoke remind you of something you read somewhere, “Just as water can be solid, liquid or gaseous, consciousness can be seen to be ‘frozen’ as physical matter, ‘liquid’ as mind and thought, or ‘formless’ as pure consciousness.”

And then the Golden Orb jumps out from behind the Muscat hills and the within minutes the air starts heating up. By the time you finish your first cup of tea and the second cigarette, you are drenched in sweat and another hot day has begun.