Sunrise on the eastern coast is a special event. I stood at Dolphin’s Nose, a spur jutting out into the Bay of Bengal, to behold the breaking of the sun’s upper limb over the horizon of the sea. As the eastern sky started unfolding like the crimson petals of a gigantic flower, I was overcome by a wave of romantic feelings and nostalgia—vivid memorie not diminished by the fact that almost ten years had passed.
I was a young bachelor then, and Visakhapatnam did not have much to offer. Every Sunday morning, I used to rise before dawn and head for Dolphin’s Nose, to enjoy the dazzling spectacle of the sun majestically rising out of the sea. The fresh, salty sea breeze was a panacea for all the effects of hangovers caused by Saturday night excesses.
After viewing the metamorphosis at sunrise, I would walk downhill along the steep mountain-path, towards the rocky beach, for a brief swim. Each time, I noticed a flurry of activity in a distant compound with a single decrepit building. I used to ignore it, but curiously, one day I decided to take a closer look. It was a fish market. Most customers were housewives from the nearby residential complexes. They were at their “Sunday-worst”—sans make-up, slovenly dressed, faces unwashed, and unkempt hair—in stark contrast with their carefully made-up appearances at the club the previous evening.
I had began to walk away, quite dejected, when I saw her for the first time. I stopped, dead in my tracks. She was a real beauty—tall, fair and freshly bathed, her long lustrous hair dancing on her shoulders. She had large, expressive brown eye and her sharp features were accentuated by the rays of the morning Sun. I can’t begin to describe the sensation she evoked in me; it was the first time in my life that I felt my heart ache with such intense yearning. I knew this was love. Yet, in my heart, I knew that Istood no chance—she had a mangalsutra around her neck. She was married—maybe happily, too. Nevertheles I drew closer to her and made the pretence of buying some fish. Smiling guardedly at me, she selected a couple of pomfrets and held them out to me. I managed to briefly touch her soft hands—the feeling was electric and a shiver of thrill passed through me. She communicated an unspoken “good-bye” with her teasing, dancing eyes and briskly walked away. Too dazed to follow her, I returned to my room and had fried pomfret for breakfast. Needless to say, they tasted delicious.
Soon, I was following this routine every Sunday morning with almost religious zeal. She never missed her rendezvous with me—same place, same day, at precisely the same time, Seven o’clock. Still, not a word was exchanged between us. I was too shy and she probably wanted to keep it this way—a beautiful ethereal relationship—a love so delicate that one wrong move might ruin everything. Meanwhile, I had developed a taste for fried pomfret—quite surprisingly, considering that I had never eaten fish before.
As the years went by, I left Visakhapatnam and travelled around the world, met many beautiful girls at the various exotic places I visited. But I never forgot her! A man’s first love would always have an enduring place in his heart.
And now, I was back in Visakhapatnam, almost ten years later. As I walked down the slope towards the beach, in my mind’s eyes I could still vividly envision the playfully sublime look on her face—her gentle smile and communicative eyes—even if ten years had passed. I could not contain the mounting excitement and anticipation in me; I was desperately yearning to see her again. It was a forlorn hope but I felt flushed with optimism.Reaching the beach, I noticed that the sun was well clear of the horizon. I glanced at my watch—almost seven o’clock. I hastened my step, almost breaking in to a run, and reached the fish market where I stood at the exact same spot, where we used to have our rendezvous at sunrise.
Trembling with anticipation verging on anxiety, I looked around with searching eyes. Nothing had changed. The scene was exactly the same as I had left it ten years ago. There was only one thing missing—she wasn’t there! I had drawn out the short straw! I felt crestfallen. My mind went blank and I stood motionles overcome with gloom, when suddenly, I felt that familiar electrifying touch, the same shiver and the familiar thrill. It jolted me back to reality, as quick as lighting. As she softly put two promfret fish in my hand I was feeling in the seventh Heaven.
Looking at her, I was not disappointed. Her beauty had enhanced with age. Yet, something had changed, indeed. Yes! It was her eyes. Her large brown eyes did not dance so teasingly anymore. There was a trace of sadnes a sense of tender poignancy in her liquid brown eye as she bid me her unspoken “good-bye”. Dumbstruck by the abruptness of the event and the enormity of the moment, I stood frozen like a statue, unable to react or say anything. It was only when she was leaving that I noticed that there was no mangalsutra around her slender neck anymore.