Sunday, March 15, 2009

Huck Finn meets Robinson Crusoe as a girl embarks on a potentially dangerous adventure over the seas on a Kon-Tiki like vessel. Dark storm clouds hover menacingly on the horizon, crushing soft, harmless white fluff between their fangs, following the vessel with astonishing accuracy and deftness. What will happen to the adventurers? Will they be marooned on the island with nothing but two packets of potato chips, three bottles of water and half a carton of orange juice for their only rations? Cell phones are part of their apparatus, of course, but there is always the possibility of running out of charge before a proper SOS can be sent out.

Even my imagination has limits, and I'd better stop now, because nothing exciting enough happened on our cruise to two little islands this afternoon. Everything was literally smooth sailing and I came to a couple of firm conclusions which, if there is any justice on earth, will not be shaken. One: The ocean is green. Green as can be. A murky, alga-like green, but green nevertheless. Two: The purest shade of white is the colour of the foam that is churned up as the boat's prow cuts through the rippling green waters.

I had never been out on the ocean before this afternoon, and the first few minutes on the anchored ferry as it bobbed on the restless waves made me anxious about a possible bout of seasickness. My fears were thankfully unfounded, and I found myself enjoying the ride as the ferry cut through the water, the ocean turning very slightly choppy at times as the storm clouds brewed up. The salty tang of the sea-spray and the breeze rising from unknown quarters on the sea were invigorating, the sun was mercifully bound and cloistered by the clouds, and the few vestiges of heat that lingered were soon driven away.

The islands were trsand underfoot with a firm forceanquil and lovely, the waves that lapped the shores came clean and transparent on the soft sand. Shells crunched underfoot as we splashed and ran in gay abandon over the sparsely-populated beach, ignoring the loud honeymooning Indian couples (how on earth do they 'honeymoon' in pairs?) and the families too busy snapping away to care for their surroundings (or so it seemed). We picked up some intriguing shells as we walked/ran down the stretch, tried to play some badminton (a silly idea, considering how windy it was), visited the Chinese temple (not really impressive after the grand monastery at Chinatown- would equate it with the small temples dedicated to local deities in India) and looked at the slimy tortoises with unwarranted distaste. We tried our luck at the Wishing Pool- most of us were second-time lucky as the coins went in where they should- at my first attempt, I couldn't even see where my coin went. I also tried my hand at the Wishing Well. Twice. I am not sure if this is how it is supposed to be interpreted, but this is what I thought- of the three bells there, you have to hit one with the coin as you wish, and make it toll. At my first try, the bell rang- but I being I, I'd forgotten to make a wish in my zeal to aim with perfection. The second time, I did remember to wish (with some trepidation, though, for what if it said my wish wouldn't materialise?), and hit the bell again. So, if things go as predicted, my dreams will come true in a few years' time. (Okay, if you're the practical kind, please don't tell me I don't need a Wishing Well to tell me what I'll do with my life. I know I don't. Sometimes, though, legends and fantasies are just too irresistible for words. And logic.)

As dusk fell, a blue haze descended over the distant city. The tops of the skyscrapers on the horizon were swallowed up by blue-grey clouds, the ocean took on a mantle of blue, the trees stood silhouetted dark and ghostly against the pallor of the evening. We climbed up the steps to the top of a hill, the eerie murmur of crickets accompanying us as we struggled upwards. The stairway led to a shrine dedicated to three Malay saints, but it was pretty lonely up there, and the walk up through the thickets that shivered and moved at the most indiscernible of stimuli had been rather creepy in itself. We made our way back down quickly, and to our surprise, ended up on almost the other end of the island. Interesting, indeed, how the trail went all around the island, up and down the hill. The walk through the evening afforded us some fascinating vistas, the waters sweeping gracefully in a wide arc as they cut into the sandy edge of the island.

Soon enough, the relaxing Sunday came to an end. We found ourselves on the ferry back to Marina South Pier, and we stood on the edge watching the prow cut in and send out hypnotising swirls of foam- how hard it was to get my eyes off them! Big and small cargo ships indistinctly outfitted dotted the ocean, an aeroplane accompanied us on our journey back to the mainland, the ferry slackened its speed as solid land approached and the bookish non-adventure came to an end. The thick blackened coils of rope, the rough, wizened faces of the deck hands, the angles and the bait, the breakers and the buoys will now have to be relegated to the recesses of imagination. However, I'm glad to have experienced a bit, if only a very tiny bit, of it. How much better I understand now that urge all my storybook heroes had to run away to sea!

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