Of jellyfish, dolphins and the sea

The beauty of our own backyard is often lost on us. However, one always wants to preserve it.

When we think of beach destinations or possible tropical paradises, we think Maldives or Greece. Surely not coastal Maharashtra or Malwan. I find myself kayaking past it, for the second time in my life, when I set off on a 3,000-km solo kayaking trip from Kutch to Kanyakumari. I’ve carved up my first state of Gujarat. I know this land like the back of my hand.

The beauty of our own backyard is often lost on us. However, one always wants to preserve it. Plastic. It is the enemy and no one knows this better than someone who’s seen it strewn all along our coastline. Often, I’m too dehydrated or out of the way to pick it up. Being on the water everyday for 7-9 hours, paddling in the harsh sun, doesn’t allow for too many detours. But when I am 4 km out of the port of Ratnagiri, I am optimistic and feel I can make a difference.

So, when my kayak draws up next to a flat orange piece of plastic, I decide to pick it up. I dip my hand in the water when the plastic pumps. And it’s tentacles run a Mexican Wave. And the orange jellyfish that I was going to pull out with my bare hand drifts away majestically.

I barely snap my hand back as the water around me changes. The clear green water comes alive with orange. My kayak is swarmed with jellyfish. My paranoid mind tells me they are here to window shop for their lunch. I paddle hard and fast out. Then when I am clear of the near and present, I laugh. I turn around and kayak back. I get the GoPro out and take a moment to be with my new found friends.

The next day, I chase a pod of dolphins surfacing together, forming lines of breaking spray just 3 metres ahead of me. One lone wolf consecutively dives out in glee. Just as I catch up to them, paddling furiously, they break away playfully and change course. I laugh and maintain mine.

The waters of Maharashtra are blue. They’re Green. Grey. And Orange. All it needs is for you to think of them. It’s day 36. And I have 47 more to go.

(Kaustubh Khade is an IITian, Asian Silver Medalist in kayaking & a Limca Book Record holder. He recently kayaked the 3,000km west coast of India solo)

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