Here is a ‘scientific’ article that refers to the calming impact of being on a beach! This is something I have always experienced, but my word as an Economist would be less believable! This incredible feeling is now being termed the “blue space”! Being on a beach changes your brain so that it can reduce stress, increase creativity, reduce depression and change your perspective on life! How many of you have had this mesmerizing feeling on a seafront?
I had lived close to the waterfront all my life, till I moved to this land locked city of Ahmedabad! That was more than half my life-time ago! I felt claustrophobic, like I could not breathe! There was no water in the river Sabarmati, just a dry sand bed in those days. Only now with the great waterfront project we have the Narmada river water flowing, no really stagnant, in the Sabarmati! I am sure Gandhiji would have cried, both seeing the drying up of the river and the un-natural process of diverting Narmada water to Sabarmati! “Sabarmati ke sant tune kar diya kamaal!”
In Ahmedabad there were hardly any swimming pools in those days that Aam Aadmi (common man) could access! There was a Municipal swimming pool at the stadium! We finally found one in Shreyas school that was open to women during particular hours during the summer. Later we moved to Vastrapur and our apartment faced the Vastrapur Lake. The Lake actually had water in it and filled up during the rains in those days. I was grateful to have a water body right in front of us. There was no construction, concrete structures around the area, and the inlets into the lake were natural flow of rain water that was stored in the lake. Even during the three year drought of the mid-eighties, there was water in the lake. In the nineties buildings came up all around and the natural inlets were blocked. The poor Lake dried up. This is the story of most natural lakes in cities. Then again the great engineering feat led to Narmada river water flowing into the Vastrapur Lake as well. A huge waste of a natural resource for the benefit of the elite city dwellers. This year after two years of drought, the lake is a dry bed again, as we discovered to our horror one day when we were walking past the lake. The Sabarmati river is also drying up again!
Chao Phraya River in Bangkok
Childhood and adolescence were spent along the river Hooghly, the outlet to the river Ganga! We regularly visited Strand Road the river front of Calcutta city, Kolkata now. The sight of the steamers, small boats and bouys floating along the calm waters had its soothing effect. We lived in an apartment in front of the Rabindra Sarovar, the largest man made Lake in the country! It was known as Dhakuria Lakes earlier. At one end of this Lake that was a few kilometres long was a swimming pool, or an enclosure of the Lake maintained as a swimming pool for the आम आदमी (Aam Aadmi)! And this is where our father taught us to swim. The first lesson was ‘hold your breathe, duck and stay under the water as long as you can’! Am sure it increased our lung power! We then held on to the bars and splashed water with our legs keeping your body afloat in a straight line. Only after months of this were we shown how to swim with the head under water and later free style. When he was confident we would not drown, father enrolled us in the local Anderson Swimming club and our daily routine was to wake up, be dropped at the swimming pool with the neighbours kids, return, bathe and off to school! We did this for years. I learnt all styles of swimming from the coaches or simply watching others!
I lived in Chennai for many years and even had the good fortune of doing my post graduation at Madras University, with our department directly facing the Marina beach, the ocean! My parents continued to live there for many years! Every vacation we went to Chennai, l would literally run to the beach and gasp for air! The pleasant breeze, the smell of the sea and feel of the spray from the rising waves! Oh what a joy! When our daughter was about two years old, we took her to the beach for the incredible experience! She was not too sure that she liked it, not sure if she was scared by the sound of the giant waves crashing on the beach. It was after sunset and that made the place and sounds a little eerie! We sat there patiently letting her experience the sea. My father who grew up on the seafront in Kerala, learned to swim in the river, was impatient! “Take her into the water, let her feel it!” “No, Dad, she is not ready yet!” He did not understand, but respected our way of parenting. So we waited! After half an hour or so, we slowly stood her up and moved to the water. I put my foot in the receding wave, while my partner held on to her and she watched! After a while, he lifted her and dipped her little toes in the water. She squealed, but did not protest. Slowly he stood her down and the little wave crashed on to her little feet! She squealed again, and started to giggle. Now she was ready to face the monster and feel the thrill of the experience!
When I was narrating this experience to a close Scientist friend, he said, “बच्चो को समुद्र तट और पहाड़ो पर ले जाना चाहिए (children should be taken to the ocean front and mountains), they get a sense of INFINITY”. So we were fulfilling our parental duty as well!
Sunset on a Sri Lankan Beach!
Recently I was in Bellagio on Lake Como, a huge Lake in the extreme northern hills in Italy! The Rockefeller Centre is located on a large hilly campus on the water front of this lake. Oh what a joy and such a soothing experience to sit by the Lake and watch the vast expanse from near, from the top of the hills, early in the morning, late at night, and most beautiful, in the pouring rain!The cloud formations and mist overhanging the Hills that surround the Lake had a surreal effect! I could hardly get myself to go indoors for the meeting. Every time I choose a seat that gave me a view of the hills and Lake. Oh what a joyful, peaceful week!
While I posted pictures of the Lake and view of Lake Como and the surrounding hills, I got a lot of comments and mails! Many of my young friends were cooing, “oh, did you meet George Clooney? Did you see his house?” After the third such message I thought I must find out! Stupid me, had not registered the name! So I did some googling, oh, of course. I even discovered that his wife and he were expecting twins! So I send a message, “I had dinner with George Clooney last night!” My friends cooed “did you get pictures to make me jealous?” Of course no one believed me, one said “you had the time to travel an hour and back to village Laglio. And with him expecting twins I guess he is staying put with his wife in U.K.!” Wow, how much of unnecessary information people gather!
One friend had a good suggestion, “you should meditate by the Lake or high up on the hills. The place has an hypnotic effect!” That I thought was an excellent suggestion. Next morning, I went by the Lake and meditated (at least sat still) for ten minutes! And to pay respects to my yoga teacher, I did कपालभाति (Kapalbhatti)! And yes that was hypnotic! The entire week has been soothing, calming and inspiring! Thank the large water bodies that still exist and that man has not destroyed!