My Indian adventure
One day a few years ago, I was on holiday in a coastal resort on India's west coast. It was the last day before I had to catch a plane back to Heathrow, so my holiday was about to end. What I did not know then was that I had still an adventure to experience before going back home.
That morning, I went to the beach and was amazed to find that no one was there I could not see anyone anywhere, not even several hundred yards along the beach in either direction. This was a lonely place.
The sun was shining, and I saw the lovely blue of the sea stretching to the horizon. The air was very warm and wet at the same time, it was humid so my skin felt quite strange. All of a sudden, I could not help but to strip naked very swiftly and ran down the beach and into the sea. As the water was as warm as body temperature, it was not as refreshing as it always is in Italy. I began to swim toward the horizon very powerfully. I enjoyed the moment very much and felt as if someone had filled me up with energy up to breaking point.
Very soon, I was several hundred yards out to sea. “The tide could take me further out and could not let me back”, I thought. But then: “Well, I have done this time and again in Italy, and I have always returned”.
When I'm swimming in the sea, I always feel in perfect harmony with it. I know the sea would release me every time. What I did not think about then were the different circumstances of the Indian Ocean.
I turned around to swim back. Suddenly, I felt the tide. I felt its full force, felt how it was dragging me further out to sea. Panic was gripping my body. My heartbeat now went even faster than before.
“Don't panic”, I thought to myself, “it will kill you”. I struggled against the tide. I swam for my life. But it was all in vain, a losing fight.
The land now seemed a very long way off. I could not remember at which point along the beach I had left my clothes and had stepped into the water. What did that matter?
I was now eye to eye with death, although the water was so warm that I felt I would stay alive for several more hours or so so long as I would have strength to swim. Maybe someone in a boat would find me and pick me up. I swallowed some sea water at that point. The chances of anyone finding me soon were very slim indeed, I felt. Of course, someone would find my body one day, but that would be too late.
My adrenaline was spent. I still felt the horror of not being able to swim back ashore. The gears shifted in the back of my head. A thought formed; it offered a glimmer of hope: “The tide will take me somewhere”, I said to myself. “Yeah, to heaven”, my mind answered. “If there is one. Or to hell!”
Another thought popped into my mind: “What if they miss me at the Indian tea house?”, which was where I was staying. No chance: “I'm miles away”, I realised.
After what seemed like an eternity, I could make out some land. I was very exhausted, but seeing land mobilised every last ounce of my strength. I made some attempts to swim in that direction, and the tide obviously was not resisting me; quite the opposite. It would take me there inevitably. Patience was all I needed and it was wearing thin.
My body was obviously shutting down. I felt extremely weak; it was only my will that kept me alive.
Dying on the spot would be easier than staying alive!
The tide drew me towards the shore quickly.
It seemed to be quite a tiny island, covered only with palm trees as far as I could see. And there was a beach, of course. And I was dying. I could scarcely move; my head plunged into the water every few seconds. My mind said live, but my body said die. These exertions had been too much for me.
The next thing I can recall is being very close to the beach. I would not have minded to die so close to being saved. Then, suddenly, I felt the soft sand under my feet. It felt as if I was touching land with my feet for the very first time in my life!
I crawled out of the water very slowly and very weakly. I was barely out of the water when my limbs gave way, and I collapsed.
By the time I awoke, I was still alone.
I stood up and looked around. There was what seemed to be some rotten shed behind the palm trees. Curiously, I went there to have a look inside. I opened the door. In an instant, it fell to the ground with a loud bang. It was very dark inside. There was a strange smell, which almost suffocated me. It was quite sickening, and that was when I realised the room was full of fish…
By Florian Barisch
Originally written in May 2002 in Freiburg