there is a very special place in South Goa, an old temple by an ancient pond that keeps exhaling tiny silverwhite bubbles. on April 1st, i paid the temple a visit, sat on the sunwarmed stones by the water, and step by step i waded in.
that evening, as i was walking on the seafront, suddenly the beach was on fire. as i got closer, i saw that at the very edge of the water there was a funeral pyre.
a fisherman was dead, and all the men from his village were gathered round the flames, waiting. some were quiet, some were drunk, some were very drunk. i was welcome to join in, as long as i did not take any photos.
later, once the fire had hushed over, they would take the ashes into the sea. back to the waters that had known this fisherman all his life, fed him and provided him with an income.
i left when the fire were still smoking high into the night sky.
i thought of my mother’s cremation service, and how i would have loved for her to be cremated this way, freely and upheld by the breath of the sea and the quiet of the sky. instead, it was all very efficient and very impersonal- at the Pere-Lachaise, in Paris.
i decided to stop at a little restaurant at the end of the beach, where, 3 years ago, my mother and i had sat, bickered, dined: a few weeks back, she had been told she had a tumour in her liver.
i sat at a table and slowly, i stepped inside that memory : with every cell in my body i was back there, with my mother, sitting at a plastic beach table, having dinner. i could feel it all, the slightly cold wet sand underfoot, the cool nighttime breeze, the prickles on my warm skin ; i could hear it all, my mother’s voice, the songs that a young English man was strumming that night, a reggae version of the Tamil hit, Kolaveri, and my mother smiling so wide ; and the fear in my heart, as i watched my newly-diagnosed mother -her eyes somewhat scared, somewhat defiant.
and then the memory quietened down and the wave of grief that surged in its wake also passed. i left. grateful for the old temple and the ancient pond, and the fishermen who welcomed me in their elemental, human grieving on the edge of the sea.
1st april 2016. Goa.
floating in the Siva pond, the slither of a snake :
a quick of brown and white amongst the breath of bubbles.
orange bursts into the deep dusk blue, the fishermen are gathered :
the pyre burns, and the ocean listens.