Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Big Swim - Where My Heart Still Goes On

Disclaimer: All characters in the story are fictional. Any similarity with anyone living or dead is purely coincidental.


April 24, 2007: It is the 43rd day of our trip. An amazing cool day awaits me on the breezy deck of the cruiser. It is an irresistible combination, always provoking a liberating sensation in the midst of the sea. You feel on top of the world, another world.

Let me introduce myself first.

On second thoughts I do not matter here. Let's say I'm a lot like The Anci.. OK, it is the third millenium so it is proper to say that I am like Jack Dawson of Titanic the movie minus his Rose. I had my Rose too but..

I walk ahead and stand near the tip where the railings from both sides of deck meet. This place floods me with memories. My Rose used to stand on this railing with both hands stretched out like wings and eyes closed, dreaming of flying like a proud albatross. A childlike joy dripped from her countenance when she emulated Titanic's Rose or the albatross - I'll never know - and I loved her for it. Fifty feet below where I stand, the cruiser is cutting through the cold seawater at a leisurely pace. It is following four guys that are swimming in the ocean for an ever-nearing destination ahead. Those guys are Oz, Kwi, LionL and SpBok, in descending order of their ranking positions in the quadrennial Big Swim.

The guys are participating in a month-and-half long swimming challenge of several rounds spread across seven seas. The Final Destination is now just five days ahead. I am holding the pre-trip prediction sheet where 90 days ago I jotted down four prospective winners from the starting lot. My heart still wants to take one last look at the piece of paper before jettisoning it with other redundant paraphernalia into the milky turbulent trail of the four valiant swimmers that is being continously devoured by our dogged vessel like a never-ending noodle.

The four names were noted down in large fonts and fourth one was later touched up in a loving red hue. A sprinkling of gold from the morning sun today makes that name look nearly as beautiful as the person herself. I had backed Oz, Green, LionL and my Rose, in that order of ranking, to remain in the hunt when the final week began. Green inexplicably got off at the first port and the other, the love of my life, sank into the depths soon thereafter. But Kwi and SpBok, two of the next three on my rating charts, managed to stay on board. (I had rated Kwi and Windz joint 5th and SpBok 7th.)

Immune to logic, I pick up the pen and circle off the two lost names on the sheet to write Kwi and SpBok above them with a strange introspection. I peep across the sheet at the four moving images challenging the wavy sea in the distance. SpBok was the crowd favourite to win the challenge at the outset. I dedicate a silent round of applause to him for doing better than I thought but his swim (so far) has been more of the seasick guy from my predictions than the prospective champ he was made out to be. Not too many people around would argue that SpBok would have been following the Big Swim on his bedroom telly this weekend if even one of Green and Rose could have stayed on for a half-decent duration instead of letting two valiant but inexperienced prize fighters called Bong and Irlos take their places in 11 of the 24 Swims in the Super Round. If..

The caressing breeze stops abruptly. Logic intervenes along with the smell of rotten fish being thrown out from the deck. My Trance of Lost Romance is broken. Soothsayer designates are not permitted any 'if's. All that reasoning and ranking counts for nothing when two of the four contestants you had backed to be swimming into the last week are out and down by Day 10 of 48. No droplets of mercy for my dead prophecy ever welled up as all the talk of 'two bad days' went around the deck. The format was circulated well ahead of the swim and I laid my bets knowing full well of the rules, the scheduled face-offs and their pitfalls.

There goes my prediction sheet into the ocean. It gets wet rather quickly and sinks. The blue embraces the red Rose and takes her home. I repent not making a boat or swan out of it like childhood days. It could have floated a while longer in the ocean and sung a final song before going down.

April 25, 2007: LionL has eliminated Kwi in the one-on-one challenge last night. The bout between Oz and SpBok is scheduled for tonight. Only one of the two winners gets to complete the swim in the swim-to-finish thereafter. In four days we'll know who gets to stand on the railing with both hands stretched out like my Rose when the ship reaches the Final Destination cheered by admiring onlookers.

The winner will no doubt have earned the applause by dint of stamina, bravado, hard work and good luck. However by then the faithful cruiser ship would have done enough to get a fair share of the applause because strangely the journey has been tougher for the lifeless ship than the living, breathing, struggling and retiring contestants in this edition of The Big Swim.

[Cross posted on Desicritics]

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