Could you love the sea if you weren’t introduced to it at a very young age? For instance, do you have to introduce dogs at a young age, when they are still wobbly kneed puppies to salt water? Is it then that they begin chasing the waves? Running into froth and diving for pebbles?
I went to my usual haunts in Bombay (or Mumbai – I really don’t give a damn what it is called anymore), and realized that most of them were actually rather close to the shore. Like this one small cafe near Bandra, where you nearly feel the dirty sea spray on your face. And when you lick your lips, you’re no longer sure if it’s the salt of the sea, the piss of a million people drained into the sea or your own sweat.
Is it something in your blood that craves the salty smell of sea soaked air? In Madras, the salt mingles with stale jasmine and fish. In Mumbai, it’s fish and stale shit. Either way, salt conquers all and invades your clothes and the crevices under your nails.
In strange ways, the seaside is democratic. Which is why perhaps I do find Madras and Bombay rather similar. You sit by the beach, all of you equals in some respect. Some driven off the sand more willingly by the cops than others. Some more respectable. But in the end, it costs very little to sit by the sea. Usually the mild cost of a pack of peanuts or something equally trivial.