Bali Revisited.

Or, That Time My Mother Nearly Drowned. 

My uncle organised a family holiday in Bali a couple of months ago. My cousin Rajeet finished his master's degree, and was about to embark on a teaching job, Pria had finished her undergraduate, and so had I, and my uncle, who is quite possibly the grumpiest person who has ever existed and also the most generous, gave us this holiday as a present. 

He rented a villa for the entire family and eloquent though I attempt to be, I don't think I'll be able to do justice to the villa, so here are some photos instead. Bear in mind that they don't really do it much justice either. 

 Anyway, this really isn't about Bali, or the villa. This is about one fine sunny day when my mother and I walked down to the beach which was about ten minutes away from the villa. The others aren't really beach bums (my uncle doesn't approve of sand, he thinks it's too messy, ding dong!), but my mother and I adore the sea, and we went swimming at every opportunity. The stretch of beach we used to frequent was actually a surfer's beach. The waves were large, and they were strong, and they tossed you about. It was great fun. We'd wade out and we'd wait for a huge wave to come crashing towards us, and then we'd dive underneath it, and wriggle around in the ocean until it passed, before emerging to tackle the next one. Sometimes, when they were large and gentle, we'd keep afloat, and be lifted up with them, before being let down again. Anyway this one day, the sea was deceptively calm. The previous day, the waves had worked themselves up to a fury, and had flung us around, and we'd emerged quite bruised. But we'd also been more careful. My mother is more cautious than me, but we were both more confident than we should have been, and we made the fatal error of floating on our backs. I'm not sure what happened, but the current must have been incredibly strong. I'd only been floating a few minutes, when I heard the lifeguard's whistle. Since I am spineless, and terrified of disobeying authority, I looked up straight away, and got a bit of a shock. The shore was really far away. Really really far. The people on it were like a speck. I was starting to feel every so slightly panicky, but I shoved it away. The lifeguard blew his whistle again. 

"MOTHER!" I yelled. "SWIM! SWIM! SWIM! WE'RE GOING TO GET INTO TROUBLE!" She was a little further out than I was, but not too far. 

I began swimming back to shore, and I looked over my shoulder at her. She wasn't moving. 


She looked at me then, and I'd never seen that expression on her face. It wasn't fear exactly, it was bewilderment, it was a sense of helplessness, it was something that I'd never ever associated with my mother who has the strength of a rock and the hide of a rhino, as she is fond of proudly proclaiming. 

"I can't move," she said. 

"What do you mean, you can't move? SWIM!" 

"I CAN'T." 

I looked at her in bewilderment. I just couldn't comprehend the fact that she couldn't swim back to shore. It was something that my brain was just not being able to process. 


She made a few feeble attempts to move, but she did not. It didn't occur to me then (thank god) that she was stuck in a rip tide. 

"I can't make it," she said. "I won't be able to swim back."

This is it, I thought. This is the end. She's going to go under any minute, and obviously, I'm going to be obliged to save her, and obviously I won't be able to, and we'll both be drowned. So this is my post college life. I end up dead. Typical. Just typical. 

These were the thoughts going through my head as I began swimming towards her. I wasn't scared, or if I was, the terror was locked firmly away somewhere for the moment. I was just annoyed with the universe in general, and my mother in particular. 

"Don't come towards me," she said. "DON'T!" 

The lifeguard. I lifted my arms and waved for him. I waved and waved, all the while, moving my legs desperately so I could bob in one place near my mother. I saw two of them come towards us with their surfboards, but I was still scared, I was scared that they wouldn't reach in time, I was scared that my mother would be pulled out to sea or go under, I was scared that she'd die, I was scared that I'd die, and funnily enough, I only realised I was scared later, not just then, I didn't actively feel anything just then, these thoughts and emotions skimmed the surface of my mind, but I couldn't pay attention to them, because all my concentration was directed at my mother, and making sure she was alright, and on staying afloat myself. 

It took the lifeguards a few minutes to reach us, but they did, and I thought then that everything was going to be alright. One of them hoisted my mother onto his surfboard and kicked off back to shore (I made it a point to sputter that I was fine, that I didn't need any help), and the other, after I waved his surfboard away with a look of disdain, started swimming alongside me. 

It was the most difficult swim of my life. I started off alright, repeatedly remarking to my lifeguard how weak my mother was, and how I was just chilling, and how this was no trouble at all, but eventually, I started feeling really tired, battling against the current. I realised then - it sent a shiver through me - that if it hadn't been for the lifeguard next to me, I wouldn't have been able to make it. He provided this sort of mental reassurance to me. I knew it was impossible to drown because he was there, and if my arms and legs stopped moving, he'd drag me onto his surfboard, and it was that knowledge which enabled me to keep swimming. But the shore was really far away, and I was very tired, and I realised, probably for the first time in my entire life, just how powerful and forbidding the sea is. You can love the sea, you can speak to it, you can be its friend, you can never ever be its equal. 

My mother by this time had reached the beach. I was swimming and swimming, using all the will power I'd ever had, and then the last wave picked me up and threw me on to the shore. I looked up at her with a faceful of sand. 

She was dancing around. "Did you see me catch the wave? DID YOU? DID YOU SEE ME RIDE IT ON THE SURFBOARD?"

No Mother, I did not, because I was busy battling for my life. 

"Are you okay?" I said tenderly, realising how close I'd come to losing her, though I was feeling less fond of her than I'd been before she started describing her new found surfing abilities. 

"Well, I was really worried."

"Me too."

"I was worried that my bottom looked too big. It was shoved right in the lifeguard's face. He was quite good looking. I really hope my bottom looked okay." 


It hit her eventually. She woke up feeling frightened in the middle of the night.That woman has the survival instincts of a passenger pigeon. Although, I  have to admit, she stuck to the pool for the rest of the holiday. We both did. We blamed it on the sand. It really is quite messy. 

1 comment:

Priyanca said...

That was scary, but glad everything turned out alright.