Monday, November 19, 2007

Solitude in the Wilderness

The highway is crowded with vehicles of all sizes and colours. Everybody is in a rush. The harsh blaring of horns fills the polluted air. This is the road to take towards a bit of nature; winding past the nightclub, the bookstore in a nook of the large petrol bunk, the row of glittering fast food joints where people splurge and look for amusement on dull evenings, and the spanking building of the call centre, perhaps the most well-known building in the entire city. On past the grey, dreary University buildings. More shops, more people everywhere. They come and go. Similar lives, similar notions of joy and sorrow, yet strangers to one another.

There it is at last, visible behind the star hotels all decked up for a wedding or a party- the open stretch of water, the dark sea crashing down on the sand without a pause. Further on, the sand and the sea come into full view behind the pavement and the low wall that serves as a bench for all those who choose to spend Sunday evening away from home. Lives are laid open, people sit in a single, long row, watching the endless stream of vehicles on the road. They talk. Voices and languages mingle. Odours mix nauseatingly in the stagnant air as the wind refuses to stir. However, the beach with its pockets of solitude, is still an escape from the monotony of work and home, a place to spend time with oneself or with the sea.

The soft, plastic-littered, sewage-blackened sand is pockmarked, depressed by the million feet that have staggered across, stumbling and sinking. A caricature of Mickey Mouse shows itself beside a small castle. The waves roll up from some invisible part of the sea, swelling with a roar and falling with a swish. Two people sit on the beach and converse intimately, defying the threats of the sea that creeps closer with every fresh wave. Nature has the last laugh; the sea comes too close for comfort and they jump up with a start and move away. The sea has scooped out large portions of sand from the beach over the last few days, forming pits and exposing the concrete bases of the lampposts once so proudly erected. Can man ever compete with nature?

The air carries the typical smells of the sea. A hazy mist hangs in the air, the salt spray combined with the bright neon lights across the stretch of the beach, obscuring the natural lights of the night. The unwanted half-moon sadly hides itself in a shallow pool of its own light; the ignored stars stay away, only a few defiant ones insisting on flickering and getting noticed.

The air is still stuffy, the people are as bored as ever. As Sunday evening draws to a close, the dream is over.
Adults grumble about the new week that looms ahead. The children are happy, clutching a new toy that squeaks irritatingly, like a piece of chalk against a shiny blackboard. The roads are packed again, streams of humanity rushing back and forth with or without purpose.

A week more to solitude.

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