For R.D: In memoriam
On the beach, wind-blown tendrils of yellow gritty sand:
reminiscent of the joss sticks garlanding your photograph
with their tremulous, teary smoke and sickly-sweet fragrance.
My five-year-old son decides to delve deep into my past.
Hoping to excavate oysters from this Goa beach,
he exhumes boyhood memories instead
from this monsoon seascape of exile and grief.
No pearls here, not even a seashell.
His cache is bathetic: Pepsi and 7Up bottle caps,
ice-cream wrappers, a plastic Bisleri pack,
and muddy brown coconut shells.
Nothing to write home about, I tell him.
But what about the susurration of the windswept years,
the sharp tang of murky seawater, the drying spindrift like dribbling spittle?
The salt-sting in our eyes, the crunch of gritty sand in our mouths?
And the memory of how you floated up on the rocky shore
almost a day after you were swept away by the rip tide at this beach,
by the undertow of cashew Feni and callow exuberance.
I remember what the autopsy report said.
Eighteen hours alive in the Arabian Sea, battling the waves,
gasping for air, for life, and for hope,
under sand and stars and wind, with the arrack inside your guts;
fresh out of college, only twenty years in this world,
and twenty more in your friends’ nightmares:
this, my requiem for youth and brash bravado,
cast into the sea’s blasé indifference.