For the love of the beach…
The beach has always been a part of my life, and living in other cities and countries has made me realise just how much of my heart it holds. It’s not that I’ve ever really been a “beach bum”, or even particularly taken by “beach culture“, the gamut of everything from bleached surfer hairstyles to distressed-wood home decor that seems to sweep Australian society from decade to decade. But it has just always been there, in summer, in winter, with friends or alone. One of my favourite bloggers, Renuka from Voyager for Life, recently wrote about why a beach holiday is always a winner – and she’s right! People go to the beach to swim, sunbake, hang out with friends, have a picnic, do exercise, swim at ocean baths (in some places), play cricket or volleyball, or simply bliss out on the sand and listen to their favourite RnB tunes while forgetting that the rest of the world exists. Or is that just me?
As I sit in Melbourne and write this on a 38 degree summers day, contemplating whether to go to the beach instead of simply writing about it, it dawns on me that I was lucky to have grown up in Sydney where beaches are beautiful and accessible. Beaches in Melbourne have recently been closed due to “unacceptably high levels of bacteria” as a result of storm water draining out into Port Phillip Bay. In plain words, shit – both proverbial and the real stuff (and most concerningly, the human variety) has been not floating, but actually dissolved into the water that beachgoers so look forward to. Gross.
It’s not just that the water at Melbourne’s beaches can be a bit dirty, it’s that they’re just not that inviting when compared to Sydney’s stunning golden crescents of sand. And perhaps as a result, most of the Melburnians I have met simply don’t get as excited (or even remotely as interested) as Sydneysiders do about going to the beach on a hot day – in fact most Melburnians I know start moaning about how prohibitively hot the weather is as soon as the mercury climbs over 25 degrees. It’s as if there’s no joy to be had in the warm weather!
When I moved to Lahore, this was taken a step further; an entire city (if not country) that craves winter and the cold weather! It took me a while to really appreciate Lahore’s obsession with thanda mausum (chilly weather), but it’s all encompassing – people even have particular diets which they follow in a kind of celebration of the cold weather! Conversely, most Lahoris dislike the summer intensely – because they say you “can’t do anything in the summer”. Having lived in Melbourne already I began to understand this, but in Lahore it’s taken a step further because of the problem of loadshedding; rolling blackouts caused by a shortage in the power supply. Oh, and the nearest beach is at least 1,200 kilometres away. Apart from mangoes, what kind of joy could summer bring?
Of course, not all happiness is derived from the beach – but it was only in Melbourne and Lahore that I realised my love of summer, my whole idea of a “sunny summer disposition” – is so inextricably linked to having beautiful, tree-fringed lines of sand and refreshing, crystal clear ocean at close proximity. My chotta bhai (little bro) in Lahore thought it was simply hilarious that I actually looked forward to summer and the hot weather, despite subsisting with tube wells while in Lahore. A few months ago we travelled to Karachi, and took a trip out to Charna Island, cooling off from the intense heat of the Pakistani coastline in the turquoise waters of the Arabian Sea. We got out of the water, lay back on the boat’s deck and let the sun’s warm rays soak into our skin; it was almost energy-giving. “Ok, now I get it…” he said, turning to me with his eyes closed, temporarily blinded by the beautiful sun, sand and salt, “and we’re coming back again next summer.”