Extraordinary in the ordinary

The sea in the shell

Allow nature to be where it belongs. Anything artificial serves as good a souvenir.
Published at Hindustan Times.

One of the most rejuvenating experiences one can have is a simple early morning walk on the beach. I enjoyed it last weekend. As I sat in the balcony of a beach hut at Palolem, Goa, the splendid view of the sky at the break of the dawn invigorated me to abandon the warmth of my cushions and head for a stroll on the sandy shore.

For a wholesome experience, I walked barefoot. The soft and wet sand particles replete with minerals massaged my feet tenderly. The smell of the sea combined with the periodic calming sound of the waves, cuddling and tugging the rocks below, was exquisite. The emerald green water turned into deep shades of deep blue sapphire at the horizon. I filled with wonder at the fact that the resplendent beauty that I was soaking in was merely what was visible on the surface of the sea; and one could not even fathom the unimaginably vast secrets hidden beneath.

By then, the sun had risen and the sea begun to reflect shades of white. As I walked back to the beach hut, I picked up a couple of unusually vibrant coloured shells lying in the sand, and a few stones that glistened like crystals. These stones and shells were soon to adorn the window pane overlooking my study table at my flat in Mumbai.

It’s been a week since I got back from Palolem. Today, while organising my books, I glanced at the stones and shells, and a light smile played on my lips instantly, as my mind travelled back to the beach and its beauty. However, within seconds, the smile turned into a frown when I noticed that the shells had lost their sheen and their colours had faded away dramatically. The stones looked weather beaten and parched, truly lifeless. On an impulse, I brought a mug of water and dipped the shells and stones into it. Of course, that made no difference. I could not breathe life into them with tap water. The shells and the stones were ‘dead,’ metaphorically and literally.

As I sat beside the window, I realised that I had plucked the shells and the stones from their mother’s bosom. They belonged to the sea. The sea was their home. They had taken birth in it and were tendered and nurtured in its waters. In the lap of the sea, these shells had formed protective layers for molluscs that would have taken shape in them. The stones would have harboured a host of phytoplankton that would have taken root and found support in them. That is why these shells and stones glistened and shone in vibrant colours on the beach. They were alive in their home. They lay where they belonged.

Instead of subjecting these shells and stones to unnatural processes such as painting or chemical treatment to bring back their shine and colour, I will take them to the beach on my next water vacation and offer them back to their mother. I have learnt my lesson. A hat or a scarf, a coaster or a magnet, anything artificial serves as good a souvenir from any place we visit. Allow nature to be where it belongs. After all, you can take away the shell from the sea but you cannot take away the sea from the shell.

This article was published at Hindustan Times.

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