As gullible as it may sound, it is the one reason that gets me to the beach every evening, in this faraway Turkish town.
Everyday at sunset, she passes me, running in the opposite direction, as I am halfway through my run. And for one split second, our eyes meet and I catch that smile.
I can’t really say if it is in those blue eyes or on those pink lips.
But for the next twenty-four hours I keep reminiscing about that one special moment, dreaming about it, and waiting for the sunset all over again.
I don’t know what it is about the smile that is so alluring. But it makes me come back day after day after day just so I could see that captivating twinkle in some blue eyes for half a second.
The evening sun rays sweep over the waves lashing the shores of Antalya’s Konyaalti beach, making them shimmer in gold. I catch the glint from the side of my eyes with every step I take.
But my heart races for that one exhilarating moment. Because the glimmer in her eyes supersedes the glimmer of the whole wide sea by a thousand times.
The shoes dig into the ground with each step and throw back loose rocks as I push forward. The flat pebbles on the shore make it difficult to run. That is exactly why I am running here.
The brow is beaded with sweat and the calves are begging me to stop.
And that is exactly why I keep running.
It may be considered a sort of insanity. Something that requires a degree of lunacy to understand why one should grind through the torture when holidaying in this breathtakingly spectacular Turkish coastal town.
Or maybe you should crazily be in love with the smile in someone’s eyes.
Every day, like a whiff of fresh breath she comes along.
And goes by.
And I am left playing it over and over in my head a million times. And wondering what it could mean.
I turn around to see if she is looking.
She isn’t. She never turns around.
She simply runs along, her dark brown ponytail swishing side to side. So flawlessly elegant, that it makes me want to stop and gaze.
Should I call out to her? Should I run back and talk to her?
I don’t know. I am from a small countryside town in India, and all I see is dark brown, sunburnt skin belonging to people who talk only if they recognise you. This is a totally different world for me.
And so, heart fluttering, I keep running forward. Every single day I decide to talk to her. And every single day I fail. I just can’t seem to gather enough courage. And whatever courage I gather over twenty-four hours, I lose in a flash upon seeing that smile.
The sun is almost touching the surface of the sea now, turning the water into a shocking shade of crimson.
The summer breeze from the sea tastes of salt. Just like how it is back home.
And yet, this is a totally different world.
I smile to myself. My heart is filled with warmth. It is the last evening of my month-long backpacking trip. As much as I think I will miss this place, I am eager to get back home.
I miss home.
But as much as I think I miss home, I know down to the core of my heart, what I am going to miss over and over every single evening. That smile.
That when I am back home and running into the setting sun, there will be nothing more that my heart yearns to see as much as that momentary gleam in the eyes of the unknown lady. That lady who would forever remain unknown.
I don’t know how different this world is from mine. But today I don’t care. Today I am determined to smile back and talk to her. It is today, or never.
I run past the rows of shacks, each playing their own music. Like a different world every few meters.
The reclining beach chairs are mostly empty. The sun-bathers have all dressed up and left. The rays of the sun are too weak to tan their skin.
It seems strange to me. Back home, the people would hide from the sun to avoid getting tanned.
But I am in a different world, I remind myself.
But still, it seems unfair, that they should leave without admiring the sunset.
The sun is about to go down. She should be here any moment now. I take a break from running. I don’t want to end up panting and missing the last chance to talk to her.
I sit down on one of the white reclining chairs facing the sun.
I can’t help but wonder what a strange planet we live on. A planet with so many different worlds.
And as I leave this world behind at sunrise tomorrow after having spent a month here, and fly back to my own, I wonder if anything would ever feel the same again.
And yet, here I sit, watching the very sun that would rise at home, miles and miles away, on the other side of the globe.
A young waiter comes up to me and asks if I would like to order something. I tell him I am just taking a break and that I would start running again. A look of disappointment sweeps across his face, as he turns to go back. From his perch at the entrance of the shack he keeps eyeing me in case I change my mind.
The world, I realise, runs on hope—
I signal to him and order a lemon-soda.
—And hope, it seems, never disappoints.
I look around. Still no sign of the girl. Just the rhythmic swishing of the waves. And the humming of the breeze. Could she be late today?
I turn my eyes back to the sun. It is halfway into the sea now. It is just a matter of seconds before it disappears completely.
And yet, the world goes on.
Because there is hope. There is hope for a fresh new sunrise, a bright tomorrow. A brand new beginning.
And with that hope, we go to bed each day because hope, they say, never disappoints.
And the sun, as we know, will rise again.
Somewhere not far at another shack, a blue eyed girl, with her dark brown hair tied in a ponytail sits, waiting patiently for a brown skinned Indian guy to go running by.
I remain seated outside the shack on the white beach chair, sipping the lemon soda, lost in thoughts. A soft glimmer of hope still keeps dancing in my eyes.
She will come.
A soft remix of Magic by Coldplay plays in the background. I hum along.
Call it magic, call it true.
Call it magic, when I’m with you.
It is an intoxicating song. Sitting in the fading light all by myself, in a world far, far away from home, it gives me goosebumps.
To be honest, it makes me think of that smile even more. Well, to be honest everything does. The song. The sunset. The breeze. Would we have been sitting together sharing the lemonade, if I had smiled back and spoken to her yesterday?
I would never know.
I hug myself. The breeze feels a bit chilly. The song makes me feel lonely.
I decide to sit there for a while longer. Until the song gets over.
And I don’t, and I don’t, and I don’t, and I don’t, No, I don’t, it’s true.
I don’t, no, I don’t, no, I don’t, no, I don’t want anybody else but you.
There are very few people on the beach now. Mostly hobby fishermen. One end of the rope in water, they hold on to the rod, perceptive to the feel of the tiniest tug. Some are reading in the light from the shacks. Some are listening to music, staring aimlessly into the pink horizon.
Each one of them has hope dancing in the eyes. Hope that holding on for a while longer, would yield results. Just a while longer. Just five more minutes.
Or just until the song gets over.
I wonder then, if there is any difference between me and the fishermen.
We are people with different coloured skin. People who speak different languages. From two different worlds. And yet, we sit together, in the dying dusk, hope in our eyes, a smile on our lips. A smile from the thought of what hope could do.
It is a beautiful feeling, as we sit together united by the silent, invisible fabric of hope.
I decide to start running into the direction that she usually comes from.
Behind me, a fisherman swings his rod deep into a more fruitful spot in the sea.
The moon is high up in the sky now. It seems to illuminate the entire sea in silver light for me, as I run along its shore. It is an enchanting sight. If it wouldn’t have been for the shimmering metallic silver ball swimming in the waves, I would have stopped running.
But then if it hadn’t been for that smile, I wouldn’t have started in the first place.
Hope is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? It makes you run under the moonlight in a strange, far off world, towards a princess who probably doesn’t exist.
Do you say it is a betrayal? Do you call it deceitful?
No. Why? Why would it be deceitful? As long as it brings this smile of unfeigned relish to my heart, and this strong will to keep running, nothing can be deemed deceiving. Can it?
The waves lash against the shore in agreement.
I glance towards them. They whisper among themselves, as they dance in the moonlight. Every few seconds, one giant wave leaps up towards the sky, lapping up the silver rays as high as it can reach, hoping to touch the moon, only to fall back and merge into the dark waters.
One brush against the silver ball is all they seem to want.
I don’t have the heart to tell them. That they will never get to the moon. That this silver maiden they are in love with is way too high in the sky for them to reach. That her silver hair strands are but an illusion. I don’t have the heart to tell them that their efforts are merely futile and worthless.
For hope is a beautiful thing.
Don’t tell them, the moon whispers to me. Let them keep hoping. For hope is beautiful to see.
The music from the shacks is slowly dying down, but the whispering of the waves is music enough. And I have the tune playing in my head to keep me company.
And I just got broken, broken into two,
Still I call it magic, when I’m next to you!
And the waves seem to laugh at me for hoping to meet a blue eyed maiden on the beach. But they remain silent. For, they know what a beautiful thing hope is.
Looking at the waves jumping up to touch the moon, I am reminded of my own self. As I run through the streets every morning, the finish line only keeps moving away. The lofty goals I aim to reach someday are like the silver moon.
I would probably never reach them. And yet, every single day that I lace up and head out, I hope stronger than ever to make it.
Do you say it is a betrayal? Do you call it deceitful?
No. Why? Why would it be deceitful? Because, believe it or not, it does make me smile.
Because hope, my friend, is a beautiful thing.
And hope, they say, never disappoints.
The dim stars appear in the night-sky, as I watch the waves, now half asleep.
No brown haired princess turns up. My heart breaks a little. Soon, I would leave this world behind and travel back to my own.
Leaving behind the sanguine waves and the hopeful fishermen.
Leaving behind the brown haired maiden and the twinkle in her eyes.
Leaving behind an incomplete story.
But if I look at it, maybe incomplete stories are far more enchanting than complete ones.
Because with incomplete stories, there lies a scope for imagination. And hope.
More often than not, it becomes the reason for a casual daydream, a gratifying fantasy, a dreamy smile and a twinkle in the eyes.
A twinkle in the eyes of someone who passes you by as you run along the shore.
Maybe the brown haired lady has one such incomplete story that gets her the twinkle in the eyes. One ray of hope that makes her smile every evening as she runs.
And maybe, just maybe, that incomplete story is me.
I don’t remember how many minutes or hours pass. But I wake up back on the white reclining chair on the pebble beach. The lemon soda glass lies empty before me, tipped to its side. The young waiter looks sleepily at me from his perch, hoping for a repeat order.
Behind me, the song is just coming to an end.
And I sing along.
And if you were to ask me, after all that we’ve been through
Still believe in magic?
Well yes, I do
Oh yes, I do
Of course I do!
And the shimmering waves leap towards the moon yet again in agreement.
# END #