I heard the calm sea even before I tasted it. Yes, I relished the moist, dense, salted air with mouthfuls of breaths. And there was that smell, that raw, seaweed aroma that brought with it another kind of scent; a scent too familiar, too nostalgic—the fragrance of my fathers’ heady cologne.
I opened my eyes; a seven-year-old me was holding my father’s hand, the ankles of his trousers rolled up to his calves as he held my hand while I pulled him towards the sea. I laughed as the waves rolled under my feet, and the soft sand slipped, squishing between my toes, creating an illusion of the moving Earth.
Papa laughed along and picked me in his arms, taking me back to the resort, where the Flamingos strolled around the lagoon. I look at him and sulk, making a pout he adored.
“You have been gone so long, why didn’t you call. I have been waiting.” I complained as he put me down by the lagoon, pointing to a pair of pink flamingos that made me squeal with delight.
“Papa, will we come here again?” I asked him as I tried to near one of the pink, exquisite birds.
He nodded with enthusiasm and kissed me, “Every year if you like it so much here.” he said. I needed nothing more. I looked around for my mother, who was approaching me with a camera in her hand. She tried to take a few pictures with the flamingos and me in the same frame.
I clapped, and just then I slipped into the lagoon, sinking lower and lower into the depths of the water. I struggled to breathe, flapped my arms to get to the surface but was drowning fast, and when I thought this is the end, a hand grabbed my shirt and pulled me out.
I woke up from my dream struggling for breath, covered in sweat as I looked around madly for my father. He was not there; he was nowhere, but in my thoughts, in my memories and my heart.
I went to Fishermans Cove, a resort in Mahabalipuram with my parents as a kid. On the same trip, I drowned in a swimming pool, and my father pulled me out. I had seen flamingos for the first time in my life there and had believed we would visit it again and again. I know I won’t go there ever again, and flamingos will always bring back a slight smile to my face.
The days I miss my father too much, he comes to visit me in my dreams. I guess the only lesson here is that those who die never really leave us behind. A part of them lives inside us, forever.