Everybody hurts you in life- You just have to find someone worth getting hurt for.
The next island was Minicoy and it turned out to be my favourite island. It was the prettiest island- tucked away between deep blue waters on one side and a light blue bay on the other. The bay stretched miles and miles and as far as the horizon. We could keep walking for hours and not reach the end of the bay. We were on this side of the island. I did my last share of snorkelling with Asif sir here. And indeed, it was the most beautiful underwater too. For snorkelling on this island we had to go further away from where we were stationed so that we could have some depth instead of the sand on the bay. Since all of us couldn’t go there, 6 batches was made. I went in the first and stayed till the last. I went with my own batch in the group-chain style. And between the travel time of every batch Asif sir used to take me alone snorkelling into the deeper portions of the reef. Wearing a life-jacket was compulsory for everyone while snorkelling but I had become used to the water currents and buoyancy because of extensive snorkelling. So Asif sir used to take me without a life jacket, and sometimes without holding my hand. In the end I walked back with him back to our bay. It was a long walk and we walked barefeet. He fished for a shell, removed the crustacean out of it, and gave the shell to me. I still have it somewhere. The last batch that came was Abhinav’s. I was sitting on the edge of the water with the waves lapping at my feet. He came and sat next to me not saying anything. It was his way of apologising. He had broken our promise of not teasing each other with anyone else during breakfast that day. I wasn’t speaking to him since. Anyway, I got up from where I was sitting and walked away. I went and sat a few metres away. I didn’t even look at him or his face, I just saw his retreating figure. As I was walking with Asif sir, he kept turning around and looking at me as he walked ahead with Vaishnavi. But I didn’t even look at him.
That evening on the deck was beautiful. This was our first sunset on the deck, as we had spent yesterday’s dinner time on Kavaratti as a compensation for our late arrival. So this sunset was special. We all stood on the deck looking out to the orange waters and the red sun till Madam Cecelia called us all. She was one of the teachers who was accompanying us on the tour, and she was the spiritual one. She made us all sit facing the sun and told us to imagine the sun to be a flame of the aarti diya. Imagining thus, we sat silently looking at the sun, feeling the wind on our faces, and sang songs to the Almighty and the sun. Praying in such a novel manner had transformed us all into contented cats unlike the frenzied felines we were in the morning. Then we had free time until dinner, after which it was compulsory to retire to our cabins. So we all spread around the deck to have our own personal time. I sat alone for some time. Then saw Anmol and Vaishnavi standing and speaking to each other. I joined them. While Vaishnavi turned and spoke to me, I could see Anmol frantically shooing me away so he could spend some time with her. You see, that’s the mistake he made. I would’ve gone in sometime anyway, but since he told me to go I just gave him an evil look and stayed put.
Abhinav appeared out of somewhere. He was in an playful mood too, and he called Vaishnavi. ‘Vaish, why don’t we move a bit away, I think Anmol and Ved need some time together.’ Vaishnavi gave a teasing wicked smile and started moving away from us. Anmol and me just looked at each other and rolled our eyes. Anmol couldn’t be more crazy about Vaishnavi and I couldn’t be more crazy about Abhinav. So we didn’t say a word and let them move away. We sat down, smiled sadly at each other and shook our heads. It was Anmol who voiced what we both knew already- Just wait and watch. He will be back in sometime and shoo me away so he can be with you. I blushed and smiled, for I knew this to be true. Anmol and me started talking about the trip. We could see the other two sitting a few metres away.
And indeed, 5 minutes had not passed when Abhinav stood up and moved away from Vaishnavi. We stopped talking and started noticing what Abhinav was up to. We smiled as we saw him move to the other extreme of the deck and speak to someone there. He spoke a few sentences and then moved to someone else in the centre of the deck. Then he moved to some to other person nearer, and two people later he was standing right in front of us. Anmol and me looked at each other and smiled. Then Abhinav turned to look at us. He looked at me, turned to Anmol and said, ‘Vaishnavi is calling you there.’ Anmol looked at me with an ‘all-knowing’ Mona Lisa smile, looked and Abhinav and retorted- Is she looking for me or did you abandon her to come here? Then he walked away. I just stared at Abhinav, and even in the dusky night on the deck I could see his eyes widen and his tanned cheeks go a beetroot red. He never looked more beautiful before. He sat next to me and said a shy Hi. I just smiled at him, and then shook my head.
We spent the next beautiful hour together and promised each other that when we were together we wouldn’t tease each other with anyone, not relate each other with any guy or girl. The immediate understanding was that we could tease each other with each others’ name. We decided that when we were together we wouldn’t talk about anything but each other.
Accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.
Sameer sir called us, knocking us out of our stupor. We both jerked back to reality and stared at him blankly. He repeated himself and told us that we were leaving for the tour of the island now. We split reluctantly, boarded our respective vehicles with our groups. There was a hosiery factory on the island that we were going to visit. They made t-shirts that were exclusively for tourists. They had photos of islands, and fish and Lakshadweep written on them. And they were only for Rs.70 or so.
Pratika- 70 RUPEES?! Whoa dude! That’s really, really cheap!
Harshita- You see, we were around 5 or 60 people and their overall turn-over would be a lot even if they sold them to us cheap.
Shraddha: Yeah, yeah business student we know. I remember buying quite a few myself!
Yeah, so the guys were no where near us all the touring time. Well, not an issue because we were continuously touring the island. I still remember this little kitten we saw outside the hosiery factory.
Harshita: OH MY GAWD!!! That little cat was SO cute!
Suraj: Harshita, how do you find every single thing so cute?
Shraddha: And just so you know, it was a ‘kitten’ not a cat…
Harshita: Yeah, yeah. Same thing…
Vaidehi: How is that the same thing?!!! And actually Suraj, the kitten was truly very cute.
So, the kitten was quite a centre of attraction then. We moved ahead and saw this shop.
Harshita: And we raided it!
Shraddha: Not literally…
Vaidehi: No, it was quite literally. We bought almost everything that the shop had. It was this little forlorn thing. We bought huge boxes of chocolate and strings of wafers and all the bottles of drinks that he owned. Poor guy, he looked very lost with all the calculations. Some of our guys had to go in and help him with the finances.
Suraj: And why exactly were you behaving that way?
Harshita: We were hungry! All of us were. And the thing is, no one bought anything only for himself. Everyone bought variety in bulk and then shared.
Pratika: OK, that clears things. So continue.
Thank you, so we then went to this museum and shark pool. It was actually pretty cool. There were like a billion types of shells and fish. We even saw an entire skeleton of a full-grown shark. And many people went and stuck their faces into the shark pool till the watchman came and shooed them away! Then we went back to the ship.
Pratika: How exactly did you guys go to the ship?
Vaidehi: Oh yeah, we used to climb on to a speed boat which used to take us to the ship which was anchored pretty far from the shore. This was because the reefs were very shallow and the ship couldn’t stay on shallow ground. And it would hurt the reefs anyway. So we literally had to leap from the speed boat onto a platform projected from the ship. And then go to the room. We all used to go to the deck immediately. Or take a bath, eat dinner and then proceed to the deck for the night for some time. Then we went back and slept. I’m sure everyone slept peacefully but me. My bloody broken toe nail used to get hit on the walls and bleed to death the entire night.
So yeah, this day was Kalpeni Day… We were visiting our second island after Kavaratti. That island was called Kalpeni. Kalpeni came to be everyone’s favorite. But mine. Because I was still ignoring Abhinav. He didn’t realize anything at all till lunch time. This was when I couldn’t go into the water, but went anyway. The instructor, Asif sir, had taken special liking to me and came and took me snorkeling personally. Kalpeni was his island. He had been born and brought up here. He knew everything about it. So I saw the best sights, best snorkeling sights and the best fish there were. He showed me everything by specially taking me himself. He took me the deepest. I didn’t even think of Abhinav the entire morning. I was too engrossed in the marine life. It was beautiful. It was better than the scuba diving and snorkeling at Kavaratti. It was best of the two islands I had seen so far, though that’s not much for saying. And my toe stopped tinging after the first 15 minutes. I didn’t even feel anything later. At all. And I already knew swimming so he Asif sir took me as deep as possible for snorkeling. When we came out of the water, Sameer sir specially took me in. He showed me eels and a lion fish. He also had taken a liking for me. I learned a lot from these instructors. It was their island, and who else would know better about them?
Anyway, lunch came and we were going to go sight-seeing after lunch. So no more water. We had lunch, and the locals were showing us their traditional war dance. I was sitting and watching them. I saw him come and sit behind me. I didn’t even turn. I had seen him from my peripheral vision. He came right behind me and put ear-phones in his ears. I completely ignored him. Then I saw someone else come and sit next to him. I turned to see who it was. Vaishnavi had come and sit next to him. She pulled a earphone out of his ear and put it into her ear. He gave me a quick pensive look. It was then that I came to know that he finally realized that I was angry with him. I made a face and turned away. I saw him smile from the corner of my eye. I internally cursed myself- Shit! I had given myself away! When he saw me making a face at him he knew that he could make it up to me. He knew that I was a bit jealous and wanted more time with him. It obviously made him more desirable. He was desirable. The Lakshadweepan air suited him, just like it suited me. We had both become darker, with smoother skin, brighter eyes, thicker and lustrous hair and leaner bodies. So he stopped the music, looked at Vaishnavi, pointed at a little outcropping of an island and said- Vaish, you know we should buy that piece of land and start living there together. It would be really beautiful. Vaishnavi made a face and said ‘What?’ I sniggered as I realized that Vaishnavi hadn’t even realized what he was trying to do. I think he made a sign to her and attempted again. ‘Vaishnavi? I think we should make a big house there and live in it. A big white house. And maybe we can buy that little other island near it too, and build a house there for Vaidehi and Anmol. They can live there and visit us sometimes.’ My eyebrows arched, because the truth was that the island belonged to Asif sir. He had bought it long back. And that little island that he was talking about was actually a sand-bar. No one could build anything on it. I turned around, looked him in the eye and said so. He gave me a triumphant smile and just crossed his hands in front of his chest. Shit! I had done it! He wanted to provoke me and make me talk to him. And he had succeeded! Angry with myself, I gave an exasperated sigh and whipped my head around. I resolved not to be influenced by his chatter. Their banter went about for some time, and sometimes it was so funny and ridiculous that I did not have an option but to laugh. Exasperated again, I finally got up and went and sat on a rock outcropping near the water. I felt him come and sit a little behind me, just outside the horizon of my peripheral vision. I could hear him breathe just as I could feel the wind brush against my hair. I felt his presence and silently smiled. We sat there silently, next to each other. We didn’t say a word. There was no reason to speak. The silence was beautiful. We just sat together staring out at the blue ocean. No one came and disturbed us. And if Vaishnavi or Anmol had come then, I would’ve broken their heads. But no one came. After some time I turned to look at him. Our eyes met and smile formed by itself. Suddenly shy, I lowered my gaze as my smile widened and my blush found a way to show itself through my tanned cheeks. He kept looking at me, finally getting up and sitting right next to me. His arms almost touched mine, tickling me and teasing me. I looked away, not willing to reveal how desirable he was at that moment. Not willing to reveal how deeply I felt about him. But I think he knew. So we just sat there with the wind, staring into the depth blue ocean and thinking about what was to come next.
This time he noticed… I hadn’t spoken to him the entire morning. My eyes still searched his face at breakfast and lunch. I still looked at him occasionally. And then deliberately looked away as soon as he looked my way. I was not jealous by nature, but I really wanted to come and pay attention to me. My funda was simple- You can spend as much as time as you want with others provided not one second of my time is spent with anyone but me.
Suraj: Hey that makes no sense! It’s almost the same! And both make you possessive and jealous.
Shraddha: No they don’t crazy person. What’s up with the grammar? They are two different things. And I have experienced that with this female many times before.
Vaidehi: Hey! The female has a name. Don’t hurt the feelings! And yes, it makes perfect sense. It’s like this. If you spend 1 hour 15 minutes with me everyday then you can’t compromise on that time. I have to have my 1 hour 15 mins. Then the rest of the time you can talk to anyone you like, be with anyone you like, do anything you like. But those 1 hour 15 mins are mine, and can’t be spent with anyone else. The rest of the time I am not troubled or jealous about who you are with, what you do. Comprendez?
Harshita: Stop flaunting your French skills and get on with your story, d’abord?
Vaidehi: Fine, so…
In the end he did realize that I was annoyed with him. That day went weird till then though. I spent time with other friends. We went snorkeling and kayaking. My toe nail was still wrapped and the flesh was fresh and red. So I couldn’t go into the water.
Vaidehi: What why?
Pratika: Why couldn’t you go into the water?
Vaidehi: Haven’t you ever heard ‘Jale pe namak nahi chhidakte’? That is, Don’t put salt on something that is burnt. If you put salt on any wound then it burns. Badly. And the water was saline, stupid girl!
Pratika: Oh! OK, sorry continue.
Since I was forbidden to go in the water I sat on a rock nearby and took many pics of many people. To a certain extent there was so much to take pics of that you didn’t know where to start, and once started it would never end! Then there was this feeling that if you clicked pics then it was like disrupting the nature and polluting or disrespecting the place. It was a weird feeling, but I couldn’t resist either. Finally, sir came to me and told me that I should get into the water if he wanted me to heal faster.
Pratika: WHAT? Is he crazy? How can he say that?
Vaidehi: Apparently pure saline water is an anti septic and all the locals there would get into the water if they got wounded. It would hurt a lot but it would go as fast as it came and heal faster than before.
Shraddha: Faster than you could say Quidditch!