The beaches of Goa are different from those of Puri or Mumbai. These beaches are sunnier and the air feels more salty and dry. By the time you put your bare feet on the sand and then on the cold water of the sea, you were already in love with Goa. Gigantic waves were breaking on the shore bringing with it a musky and salty smell of the sea and washing up against the bodies of joyous tourists taking a bath in the thick of the waves. The receding waves left behind a trail of wet sand and lots of oddities like broken shells, rubber tires, torn fishnet, and everything else which had been churned up from the belly of the sea. The children rushed after the waves collecting the left behind shells and white shiny stones and again running away cheerfully when the waves returned. A number of people sat away from the edge of the shore waiting for the rolling waves to touch their feet. Somewhere else a well-decorated pony could be seen along with its merry owner who was cajoling gullible foreigners to take a ride on his beloved ‘Basanti’. A ten-year-old dark-skinned girl went around with a bunch of balloons of different colors trying to sell a balloon to a family consisting of a man, woman, and child. The child in his mother’s arms had looked endearingly at the balloons thereby enticing the girl. She had her picture taken with the family. The colorful balloons looked beautiful in the picture and then she was shooed away without any balloons bought. The child and the girl looked woeful at this breach of trust. It was a big beach and a lot of people were trying to sell a lot of things.
The stream of people thronging the beach reduced gradually outward towards the sea where the feet no longer touched the sandy floor easily and you had to jump at regular intervals to avoid the big heavy waves. We had separated from our group and how far away we had drifted apart I did not know. I only knew that my hand was in her hand and we had to jump at regular intervals to avoid hitting the big waves. The nasty waves would hit you like a wall, filling your mouth and nose with the burning seawater. It took us a long time to get our timing right and soon the formidable current started slipping under our feet.
‘There…there comes another one,’ Kalpana said, her whole attention directed towards an incoming wave. An excited smile showed on her lips.
‘Jump!’ I screamed. But this time we missed, the strong wave hit us with such an intensity that we collapsed against each other. Kalpana swerved and her arms coiling them around my neck as the current took us deep underwater before we emerged again to the surface panting and breathing with an intoxicating exhilaration. She had her arm around my neck and me around her waist. It took us a moment to realize how close we were to each other. Suddenly our gazes met. An interminable bizarre heart-warming gaze that one had to experience to know. I was taller than she and I could feel her warm breath on my lips. My hands tightened against her waist and she came closer to me until I could feel the outline of her breasts underneath her soaked and dripping top as she pressed against my chest. I could feel a faint throbbing sensation underneath my skin. My heart started beating fervently as I looked at her. The clear brown eyes, the radiating smile, the sharp intelligent nose, the small and restless chin, the plump and endearing cheeks, and the wet hair feeling rough in my hands with the sand caught in it, her wide hips, her voluptuous figure. I wanted her so badly and I once again realized what it was to be in love with her and I felt as if I could stare at her forever and not feel bored. Our lips quivered as we kissed. I had sunk my legs deep in the sand to counter the incoming waves and the waves threw her again and again against my chest. We kissed for a long time before the waves again started coming in big and heavy. The whistle of the coast guard implied that high tide was approaching and all those in the water had to move inwards towards the shore.
We returned back and sat far away from the edge of the shore. The yellow sand felt warm as we sat down. The other people from our group must be somewhere on the other side of the beach. We had come very far away. I wonder if they were searching for us.
‘Did you see them?’ I asked her.
‘No,’ she said almost inaudibly.
‘They must be on the other side. I think we are a long way off from them,’ I said.
‘Yes, maybe,’ she said massaging her hair with her towel. Her face seemed cold and inscrutable.
I touched her hand. ‘You are thinking too much.’ I said. ‘It wasn’t anything serious.’
‘Really. Nobody saw us,’ I said with reassurance.
‘How did you let this happen, Raunak?’ Kalpana said with a clogged voice. ‘We both agreed that we have moved on with our lives.’
I spat out the phlegm accumulating in my mouth. My palate felt a very sickly salty taste. ‘Who said we didn’t? But clearly-it happened very suddenly.’ I said. ‘You can’t control everything, can you?’
‘It should not have happened.’ She said, ‘There are boundaries, you know that.’
‘You’re clearly thinking too much,’ I said.’ What happened between you and me stays between you and me. Nobody else will know. Least of all your fiancé.’
‘What if someone had seen us?’ she asked.
‘I am sure nobody had seen us,’ I asked harshly.
‘I should not come with you,’ she said hiding her face in her hands. ‘Why do I always have to be the one to suffer?’
I started feeling very guilty.
‘It was just a moment. Hey look at me!’ I said and turned her towards me. ‘You trust me, don’t you?’
She remained quiet for sometime before she said, ‘Leave me alone for some time.’
‘Don’t you trust me?’
‘I don’t know. Can you please let me be for some time?’ she said with some severity.
I jumped up to my feet and rubbed off the sand from my behind. I was going to the bar to get a beer.
‘Do you want anything to drink?’ I asked Kalpana. She was looking towards the sea with her cold and empty eyes.
There came no reply.
I was feeling very thirsty. ‘I’ll be back,’ I said.
There was a small shack a few yards away. I kicked the sand high in the air as I walked towards it. I was feeling very angry with myself. I should not have slipped again. I did not love her I reminded her. It was just a moment that happened because of our carelessness, I thought again and again. I did not love her and neither did she. This was just a moment and it was of no use of thinking about it too much. These feelings go away with time and I doubt whether by the end of the tour when we would return to our private lives we would even remember standing in those choppy waters side by side, holding hands. I felt a warm wholesome feeling spreading inside me. The warmth in my heart felt like that of the heat escaping from burnt-out embers. Mellow, disturbing, and enticing. I closed my eyes and tried to suppress it. It could not happen again. It just could not.
The shack was a wooden establishment consisting of a counter where you could buy drinks and a few plastic tables were lined with overhead umbrellas. I had to stand in line for some time. It was a hot day and everyone was buying beers or sodas. When my turn came I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I could not hear the impatient Parsi trudging me to order something or get away from the line. I ordered two beers and paid the bill.
I took the bottles and walked back to the place where Kalpana was sitting. She had wrapped herself in a towel and was talking to someone on the phone. It had to be Abhijit, her fiancé.
I went over to her and offered a beer but she would not have it. So I returned back to the shack where it was cool and shady and drank the two beers. The beer felt very cool and refreshing as it went down and so I brought another two and finished those as well all the while looking at my ex-girlfriend talking to her fiancé on the phone.
The anger and guilt and intense desire subsided and was replaced with numbness. An empty numbness that had remained with me ever since Kalpana left me. Suddenly I felt very dead inside.
Kalpana turned her head back and saw me. She motioned me for a cold drink and so I bought a coke and brought it to her.
‘Should we head back?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ I said. She nodded and got up to her feet.
‘Are we good then?’ I asked uneasily.
‘Yes, we’re good,’ she said without looking at me. She was putting her towel inside her backpack.
I picked up my bag and shoes. Impulsively I had picked up her bag too. It was a heavy bag having all her clothes and essentials. But Kalpana took the bag from my shoulders and with a wry smile, she thanked me and said that she could handle it. She walked ahead and I walked some way behind not catching up to her. Our group must not be more than a minute or two away from where we were.