Battling the Atlantic

A couple of days ago a friend shared a beautiful article on Facebook titled ‘Three days to See’ by Helen Keller written by her in the year 1933. She speaks about how life is very short and how we tend to take things for granted.

Reading it took me back to year 2006 when we were living in Liberia, West Africa. Our daughter Nisha who was then studying law in Gujarat, had come over for her vacations. All expat employees lived in one compound and Sunday evenings were usually spent at the beach watching the beautiful sunset and grabbing some dinner.

lovely shades of atlantic

As was the routine, we all drove to the Silver Beach resort and my daughter along with others was frolicking in the Atlantic Ocean. There was a sudden tide and she lost her footing and was dragged away. My husband and I were sitting at a table blissfully unaware, watching the people around us. We suddenly heard a commotion and stood up only to see to our horror Nisha being dragged by the tide.

Nisha is a good swimmer and has participated and won in district level championships. There is world of difference between a swimming pool and the open sea. But our brave girl did not panic. She started swimming against the tide towards the shore. The tide dragged her along parallel the shore but not a soul in the watching, screaming crowd ventured out to help her.

My husband is a good swimmer but by the time we saw what was happening the tide had already dragged her along some distance. He ran along the shore keeping her in sight.  She saw her dad running along towards her and kept fighting. He fell twice in the sand and water but got up and kept moving. When he saw that she was tiring, he went in, swam the last few metres and pulled her out. I can see the entire scene play out in technicolour even today.

We were numb with shock for some time. Later she said she lost hope when she saw her dad fall down twice. She thought he wouldn’t be able to reach her and that was when she decided to give up. That night, I kept walking into her room just to reassure myself that she was fine.

Tougher than the ordeal at the beach was listening to Nisha’s question the next day… ‘Would my body have been recovered if I had drowned? If the body had been recovered, would you have performed the last rites here or taken me home?’ I had no answers to the questions that she put to me. They still haunt me.

As Helen Keller says and I quote ‘We know that one day we must die, but usually we picture that day as far in the fture. When we are in buoyant health, death is all but unimaginable. We seldom think of it. The days stretch out in an endless vista’, unquote.

That was the day I realised how fragile lives are.

Today she is happily married and a mother to a 13 month old son. Not a day passes without me thanking God for his blessings and mercy.

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Jogging along on Day 3 of BarAThon reflecting on Fragile Lives.

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6 thoughts on “Battling the Atlantic

  1. Bharath Kumar P A

    Excellent narration Uma..can visualize the ordeal your family must have gone through. True we take life for granted and don’t appreciate unless and until we are stretched…

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  2. Oh, that was horrifying! Life is unpredictable, and filled with several ‘what ifs’. Fighting and keeping your hope alive are best things we can do.

    Your picture looks like a painting. Great shot!

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  3. What a frightening story! I was once caught in a rip tide with my mother in the Atlantic off the eastern U.S. coast. The swirling tide carried us way from each other and out to sea. We, too, were strong enough swimmers and tried to stay parallel to the shore, but we had to be rescued by a lifeguard! In spite of my fear at the time, yours as a powerless mother would be far worse. (My daughter is headed to Ghana to live and work next week. Did you enjoy West Africa?)

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    1. It was a different kind of an exposure living in a place like Liberia. A place with no electricity or basic amenities. Working for one of the largest industrialists in the world, we had a royal lifestyle. So no complaints there. I loved the people I met there, the locals were very friendly

      Liked by 1 person

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