The monsoon season is a season of transition: where winds reverse direction and immense changes in precipitation occur. There is both a wet and dry period during the monsoon season. It is a gift that irrigates dry land and allows for fruitful farming.
A canopy of clouds covered the sky. Like a mother gently places a blanket over her child, nature slowly draped dark pillows across the heavens. On cue, rain fell anxiously from the heavens, creating the sound of a thousand snare drums. The calm ocean breeze turned violent, into a barrage of winds howling at different pitches. Waves exited their nascent state, increased in size and roared into the rocky shore, providing the beat for the symphony of sounds. It was a beast of a storm.
Two crabs scurried across the sands toward refuge in the rocks. Their speed revealed respect for what was coming. Birds nestled their way into trees and wild boar disappeared into the brush. None of these creatures would take on the weather. They knew their place. But however tumultuous, the storm would bring sustenance. It was the giver and taker of life, the master of fates.
While land provided some shelter from the monsoon, the ocean had no such protections. Two men scurried across the deck of their small vessel, intent on reaching shore before the storm levied its judgment. A fair distance separated them from the safety of the beach. Wind lashed out from every direction, creating a thick mist of salt water that washed the smiles from their faces.
“This might be a little more of a challenge than we thought.”
“Maybe, it has picked much faster than usual, we must get back now.”
“If we don’t get there safely, it’s — “
“… not my fault, if only you were a better sailor.”
“If you weren’t so reckless, we would have turned back in time.”
Both men were confident sailors and both were equally responsible for their predicament. But like most nervous humans, they were unnerved by fear and instead turned to the natural game of blaming each other. Like any other man, each refused to lose face and admit fault.
“We’re only a ways out.” He lied to himself and his companion.
“Yeah, I see that. Just hold the rope and pull the sail taut.”
“You just worry about steering, I need to adjust the jib.”
“Whatever you do, do it fast!”
By barking orders, each thought they could mask their nervousness and prevent panic. But each was an iceberg of emotion: 10% confidence and 90% fear.
Who knows why they were out in the ocean in the first place. Maybe they were fishermen, maybe they were out for leisure. Does it matter? On their own, both men were careful, almost cautious. But together, they were something else. Their competitiveness was borne out of fifteen years of companionship and adventure. It was an extended game of chess and neither wanted to be the loser. They had dared nature before, but this time they were losing the dare. Oh, the things we do for a rush!
“Are you sure we’re making the right decision? Maybe we should tie things down and try to wait this out.”
“There’s no time to think, do your freaking job. We’ve done this before, we’ll be fine.”
“To hell with our ocean adventures! I hate storms, I hate this weather!” he whimpered cowardly.
“Have you ever thought that maybe the storm hates you?” he mocked. “No of course not, the storm doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t know you exist. You exist in its system, not the other way around. If you just sit there and complain, you will be crushed. Fight back. You can’t control it, so quit thinking about it and keep those lines taut.”
Clap. Clap. Crash. Lightning struck with increasing frequency, elevating the urgency. The warning signs were clear as the men fumbled the practiced tasks that were suddenly critical for survival. Every year they faced this season. But every year it felt new. Monsoon season always occurred as soon as things were comfortable. As soon as things were normal. It was nature’s way of maintaining control.
The boat was thrown from side to side with so much force that the men struggled to stay attached. The sun shied away from the anger. Visibility became as elusive as hope. The mast groaned with stress and threatened to give up.
“Pull the lines tighter!”
“I’m trying — the wind is too strong.”
“Hell is coming down, man up and –“
A wave crashed into the men and the line won more length.
“Tie off the rudder — now help me.”
“One, two, three.”
“Again, again. Hold tighter, we have this!”
The men pulled and the sail tightened. They had thrown the gauntlet towards the storm — they would fight their way to shore. For now their arrogance outweighed their doubt. But the actions they thought would save them did nothing. They were as helpless as before, but this did not occur to them. They firmly believed that they could determine their direction — that they had control.
“We are pointed the wrong way! Pull us starboard. If you don’t, we’ll hit the rocks.”
“It’s too difficult, the waves are too strong! I lose handle of the rudder every time I try to aim the boat.”
“Well, we have to do something, move over.” It was a hopelessly empty response.
With the rapidly changing winds and overpowering currents, the boat swung in many directions, like a compass that cannot find true north. Both men grabbed the rudder and pulled. They fought the fight of the old and sick, the fight against death. They fought the fight of the mistreated, the fight for control. They fought the fight of the lost, the fight for direction. But they were losing the fight.
He looked across the boat with desperation in his eyes. What do we do? He wanted to yell. Their world was chaos, coming apart at the seams, but at this moment, at this very moment, time seemed to slow down to a halt and gave him the opportunity to bear witness, a gift of perspective. He floated out of the scene and saw two helpless men trapped in a prison of water. He saw a search team looking for wreckage, not for signs of life. He saw lonely families. The hopelessness was tangible. It left a sour taste in his mouth.
A wall of water crashed into the men, releasing their grasps of the rudder and threatening to send them overboard. In a follow-up move, another wave ripped the rudder from its mount tossing it into the abyss. The loss of the rudder made no impact of the men’s control of their vessel — they had none previously. But the physical removal of their perceived control fractured the reservoir of hope. There were three beings in the boat now: two men and fear. Fear was so present that it took form, creeping onto the vessel, becoming more real by the second. Positioned at the stern, fear stared at them with fierce determination. Every action taken by the men was countered by this foe. It was an unwinnable battle.
“We can still make it!”
“How? We can’t steer!”
“We’ll steer with the sails, grab this line.”
“Now pull, pull harder!”
The grunts and groans of the men were not heard amidst nature’s voice. To the ocean, the little vessel with the two men was inconsequential. For almost thirty minutes, the men tried to wrestle control from gods of the ocean. Blood from worn hands stained the ropes they held. Fatigue loosened their grips and searing pain shot through their bodies as salt water purified wounds. The men tried to shout directions and encouragement, but no sounds came out of parched lips. Fear became larger and positioned itself between both men so that they could not see each other. The men could not take their focus off of this form as it continued to weigh the boat down. More water rushed in, but the men didn’t notice. They were paralyzed. The third occupant was taking the boat down.
“This isn’t working.”
“I can’t hold on.”
“We’re going to die, we’re going to die!”
His friend didn’t answer. The silence echoed through the storm. The men had no strategies left, no clever ideas, no alternate plans. They had tried everything and nothing had no worked. They would die in their marine casket.
So with hands that could no longer hold the ropes, they let go.
The storm continued to wage war against an unseen enemy. The men gripped each other tightly and coiled themselves on the floorboards of their vessel. Closing their eyes, they prayed. Slowly, both drifted off into a deep sleep brought on by exhaustion, fear and anxiety. It was a complete loss of control.
A bright light startled them, causing them to rise. The storm was over and the sun had regained its spot in the sky. The men stood in their boat, amazed at what they saw. They were but a few feet from shore. It was a new day, but the storm left signs of its presence. Broken branches, wet leaves and a new aroma signaled a new season and more storms to come. But the men, hardly aware, skipped quickly across the sands toward their homes.