Isha Pungaliya‘s essay: The bay

Horse-shoe Bay: A terminal for Ferries; and according to Wikipedia the 3rd biggest terminal for British Columbia ferries. It is at the western tip of West Vancouver. Some would argue it is situated so extremely to the west that it practically is the east, courtesy the roundness of the world.

I visited Horse-Shoe Bay when I went visiting my family in Vancouver three years ago, when the world was mobile and viruses did not exist.

The following are observations I made two days after visiting the place while the memories were vivid. Today, as when I wrote the piece three years ago, it is retrospective. However, more so than that day. In the spectrum of retrospection if the moment-just-past stands at one extreme and three years at the other, I have travelled long, fading slowly, practically discarding the images from the day I visited the Bay.

Therefore, what I wrote two days post experience might be truer than if I attempt to recall that day, those moments today. Here therefore it is, the Bay, three years ago:

This is a post about an experience I had two days ago. I am not writing in the moment but upon reflection. One would think that at the point of experiencing there is only the experience, an inarticulate mass of visuals, sounds and feelings and if one writes at that very moment it would be a structure-less outburst, a process of pure description. But right now, two days later as I recall being at Horseshoe bay, there is no clarity either. Even today it is image upon image of beauty and boats. It is a sudden whole of a morning, a gist, an average.

There are of course distinct incidents of getting a bus, arriving, alighting, the first, second and third spots, where I stopped to take photographs. But these form a factual report at most. Even if a feeling were to be assigned to each of these spots or activities, it is somehow an abstraction. The average of the experience is molded to suite one particular instant; that is all. This gist is constituted of the colours, the incredulity at snow caped mountains surrounding a bay and most importantly, the sense of having been there; a memory of existing in that space for a certain amount of time. And then, time spent becomes meaningless because it can’t be seen as a succession of events at the bay but rather a whole, a representative of the physical experience of its beauty; still and singular, without unit. Time becomes an object, real and present in memory, accessible not as process but as material. It loses its most fundamental property, as it becomes itself timeless.

And Beauty? Beauty too in its turn is here a representative. Not of the experience, but of something rather moralistic, a measure of right and wrong. Here, where more or less everything is organised, at least seemingly, beauty for me, an outsider, is ‘correctness’. The bay is clean, quiet and approachable to everybody. These, as I recall, unhappily, were my first three observations and momentarily satisfying. As the baseness of this definition of beauty dawned on me, I felt hopeless. A sensation of utter loss of standards, not just my own standards but of all, of the world even, gripped me. For isn’t the world constantly mistaking propriety for beauty? After this kind of a realisation, there is usually nothing left. Nothing else but quiet observation; or rather, being there because there is nowhere else to go. That is when I think, the ripples on the water, the symmetry of the boats, the uneven snow-caps, the white hair of the old woman on the bench were seen as if for the first time; as if, all these came to life in that very moment of hopelessness. A newer, more inclusive sense of beauty emerged unforced and organically.

I wondered then if beauty still retained its role as representative for all these further nuanced objects and my action of their observation or were these object, in their very being, representing beauty?

A filmmaker, actor, director, writer and trainer, Isha is passionately involved with a variety of film and theatre projects. With a Masters in Media and Cultural Studies from TISS, Mumbai, and a Diploma in Film Direction from LV Prasad Film and TV Academy, Chennai, she is interested in exploring formal, narrative and thematic factors and strategies that challenge conventional, formulaic and normative practices in cinema as well as theatre. This is her second instalment of the 3-part travel essays.

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