The air was fresh that morning, tinged with a salty zest, different from the smoggy heaviness that is rather typical to Bombay air. It was a Sunday morning, 6:45am to be precise and probably the earliest I’ve left the house in a while. Generally, I’d be averse to this early of a start, but the call of the ocean was too much to resist. I was finally going sailing, into the waters of the Arabian Sea just a few minutes before I’d be able to witness a breathtaking Mumbai Sunrise.
I’d never been sailing in Bombay before, and so I didn’t have a lot of expectations. In fact, I honestly expected to be disappointed based on my experience swimming a race in the Arabian Sea waters (which seems almost a lifetime ago). Back when I was 15, I took part in a 5 km Sea Swim Race amongst many others. We were taken out to sea on a boat we boarded from the Gateway of India. 5 kilometers in, the boat stopped, and we had to dive into the water, swimming with the current back to Gateway of India arch, where families eagerly waited to pull us out of the water. The minimum goal was to finish under 1 hour – I did, barely scraping though, and I still have the certificate to prove it. My memories of this race aren’t very pleasant. Sure, it was an achievement at the time, and maybe still is. But the ambience (or lack of it) of the Arabian Sea left much to be desired. I remember diving in only to see a screen of brown, and having to immediately pop my head out of the water to orient myself. Dirt, mud and debris were everywhere, making me ever so grateful was the oil that had been slathered over my body by my mother to save my skin from the pollutants around. At one point, I remember my hand got stuck in something. The muddy Waters made it impossible to see, and I had to stop swimming and raise my hand up to get said object off of me. It was and old plastic bag, that had decided to take my hand captive till I managed to pry it off whilst being violently swayed by the waves and current. All in all, it’s fair to say that my image of the immediate sea surrounding Bombay wasn’t too pleasant. So when I went sailing, I really didn’t expect to be blown away.
That morning though, I was in complete awe. The sun slowly rose spreading hues of orange and yellow across a clear sky. The sea was shimmering, as the gentle waves danced in reflected colours of the sun. The nights tide seemed to have washed away the debris that marks the Arabian Sea, leaving it rather clean, it’s usual murky waters disguised by the powerful rays if the sun that penetrated through. As we ventured into the sea, and further away from the city, the rhythmic sound of the wind hitting the sail filled the air around us. Flap, flap, – it played like a comforting lullaby. The silhouettes of other sailboats, and much larger container ships erratically lined the horizon, and the occasional seagull was seen desperately seeking into the waters. As I absorbed my surroundings in a space of tranquility and peace, I looked back to see the majestic structures of the Gateway of India and the Old Taj Mahal Hotel lining the shore, tinged with golden sunshine. I’ve always been a water baby – but really, I could have stayed out on that sailboat (an appropriate goodbye before I left for Pondicherry), gazing into the distant waters for just about forever.