Girish Joshi

Things you see on the beach

4 min read

Beach sand.

The Juhu Beach, Mumbai

A little girl in a withered floral dress is selling balloons. She’s got five of them—all of them are so different. A teenage love, the boy in black and the girl in green. Probably carrying some books in their bag as they walk on the sand. A family of three—wife with her husband holding the baby in his arms. People are playing volleyball on my left. And on my right, where the sea meets the sand for a moment soaking the beach with its presence but not completely engulfing, people are playing cricket. The little girl with balloons passes me again but at a distance this time. Barefoot. She rubs a balloon against the palm of her hand to make a screeching sound only a little girl with balloons can make. I lift my eyes from the notebook to the sea. She’s staring at me intensely as she walks. Maybe she’s trying to understand what I am doing on the beach with a pen and a notebook. I hope she has them too—a pen and a notebook.

A boy writes his name on the sand with a stick longer than him. Maybe tomorrow, waves will fade his name leaving behind an illegible blemish on the sand. But he doesn’t care—he’s happy now—unconcerned about what the time will do to his name. An old lady is sitting in a wheelchair. Another old lady sits beside her on the sand. They are looking at the sea, not speaking to each other. There’s silence between them, the kind of silence which speaks louder than the sound. Maybe they have known each other all their life. Are they family, friends, or strangers? I will never know. Two brothers are trying to build a sand castle as their dad sits on the sand looking at his phone next to them. He’s carrying a water bottle that reminds me that I need some water too.

Lamps on the beach have started to glow as the last rays of the sun remain in the sky. The orange hue at the horizon is disappearing. Soon it will be dark, but this city will not sleep—it never does. A little boy in my front is hopping like a frog, and every time he lands, he draws a heart on the sand with his little fingers. Happiness can manifest in peculiar ways when you are little. Some people are far away at the point where the waves are crashing, getting their feet wet in the salty waters. The sea begins where the beach ends. And the sky begins where the sea ends. And as I look up to see where the sky ends, an aeroplane passes over my head, and towards the sea it flies, and my gaze follows it till the end of the sky.

A couple in their fifties or sixties is looking towards the sea. The husband has kept his hand on the shoulders of the woman of his dreams. Whether they are good dreams or bad dreams, only they know. The wife rests her hand around his hip, claiming to the world that he’s mine. After all these years, she’s still possessive about him. They look at the phone the husband holds as they talk, laugh, and breathe in those moments. I look at my phone—two text messages and a missed call. I smile a little. The sand castle those brothers were making is beginning to look more like a volcano, or maybe just a giant heap of sand. But my eyes are searching for that little girl in her withered floral dress with balloons. How many balloons has she sold? I think she’s gone, hopefully to her home, where there’s a notebook and a pen.

There’s still some orange hue in the sky. I can see that, but it’s dark now, and night has fallen. I hear the sound of the bell, and there I see a man selling cotton candy on the beach. And before I know it, I’ve travelled two decades past. I see little me and my young father, with my hand in his hand, he’s buying me cotton candy on the beach. A raindrop falls on me, a tiny little raindrop, and I’m back to the present. An old man is walking with his young son. I wonder what they are talking about: father to son. Is he telling him the stories of the war? Are they talking about love? He is using the umbrella as a cane. You can never be sure when it will rain in Mumbai. This city has survived too many storms to be bothered by raindrops. A raindrop fell on my arm, I ignored it, and then another raindrop fell on my notebook, and I ignored both of them. I just sat there looking at the sea from that sandy beach as the warm winds flew over my face, listening to the sound of the waves. Raindrops began to fall on the beach, forming tiny craters on the sand, and I knew it was time to go to the hotel.

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