As a child, and then as a teenager, and later as a twenty-something, I would occasionally put my head inside our aquarium, and look at the fishes swimming, trying to feel the water in which they swam. I looked at the aquascaping we had lovingly arranged, trying to visualise how life for the flora and fauna was in the aquarium, and must be in the rivers their brothers swam in. It was a beautiful experience, irregardless of the lurking thoughts of foolishness and impropriety. I’ve had aquariums most of my life, and continue to do so, but I no longer put my head in the water. I do, sometimes, pretend I am swimming with the fish. That is a safer way to let your imagination and sensory celebration run amok without being labeled a mutilator of propriety. At any rate, I didn’t attend a finishing school, so propriety doesn’t bother me much.
But depths move me. Unlike heights.
When I had just entered teenage, my interest moved from fiction to belief for a while. I read about horoscopes, birth signs, graphology. The fascination remains, but the compulsion to believe them has drifted away, letting fiction slip right back in. In those times, reader, I fancied a graphology reading. Read my own handwriting, analysed that of those around me. One niggle that entered my mind then, stays with me today is the indicator of preference for glory (heights) and that for profoundness (depths). I tried a lot to cheat and tweak my handwriting to incorporate a leaning towards heights, believing that it would help me conjure a drive to earn money and celebrity. But no success. Soon as my cheater self relaxed, the real me emerged, using pen to show a stubborn streak towards depths.
Meanwhile, my fascination has shifted from mountains to seas. I remember feeling exhilarated in the mountain air. I remember enjoying the spring in my steps, the clarity in my being. There is something so fresh in the atoms that gush through your nostrils there, it is infectious. The ocean’s air, however, has something mellow in it. It surrounds you with a wisdom of wordless knowledge. All my travels to the ocean have been more than a decade ago, and I have never lived next to it for more than a day or two. This generous pull, therefore, fascinates me more than the object itself currently. Could it be the depth in it? Could it be the enormity of it that, when imagined, gives me the shivers? I know not.
When I was 10, I shared a science project with my friend. It was about the deep sea fish. Their colours, their ugliness, their beauty has stayed in my mind since then. The science project didn’t bring us accolades, but it gave me a resident object of admiration. Their adaptation to make up for the lack of sunlight is awesome. And motivating, too. But they are too distant for a mere, very-sunned person like me. The waters they swim under is what I see, visualise and crave. And also the shore that contains them.
I talk from the perspective of a newling. A nobody, if you will; I have little experience of this vast creature, after all. But by that very fact, I become a neutral appreciator, and that delights me. I can look at the videos and pictures of those rippling, surging, heaving waters and allow their vastness to completely surround me, just for bit, in my mind. And become breathless, just as I am now.
Someday, I will discover what it is to live with this creature. I know I will. Until then, I am going to dream of the depths that it nurses in its belly, and the heights that it leaps to.