The Jackfruit on the Casuarina tree

I could not believe my luck. She was looking straight at me with those big, beautiful, hypnotic eyes. I wanted to convince myself that it was one of those empty stares at nothingness which happens when people are daydreaming. This until she got up from the bar-stool and started walking toward me weaving her way through the scores of writhing and gyrating bodies on the humongous dance floor. The techno beats, the alcohol in my blood stream, her luscious hair and her voluptuous hips moving in opposite directions yet in perfect harmony were all ratcheting up the nervous expectation within me. She grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the door leading to the deck. I forked out the bottle of bubbly from the ice bath in the nick of time.

We were on the deck, a zephyr held us both in a reassuring embrace and a smiling moon bathed us in its silky glow. We stood there taking turns sipping out of the bottle gazing into the vast expanse of playful waves without uttering a word. She then abruptly hacked the monotony of the moment by dropping the bottle on the floor. She put both her hands around my neck and pulled me in. I instinctively placed my hands on her slender waist drawn in by a magnetism far stronger than I had ever experienced. I swear I saw sparks fly and fireworks go off in the night sky when her lips met mine.

I came to greeted by a sensation of wetness. The familiar and comforting sensation of being in a bathtub of lukewarm water. My head though was throbbing incessantly shooting down waves of pure pain to every part of my body. I slowly started to open my eyes to take stock of the situation. All this while my brain trying feverishly to work out scenarios that would have landed me in a bath tub. The horrible feeling of shame and self-loathing at having had too much to drink and then passing out and worse still puking all over myself in the presence of such a magnificent creature swept over me. “That must have been it.” “They put me in the tub to get me back into my senses.” I mumbled.

The first thing I saw was a clear blue sky staring down at me as if I were a complete stranger. I moved my palm and the sensation was a familiar one. It felt just like the velvety Egyptian cotton sheets that I had gotten so used to within the last week of my tenancy of the royal suite of the ‘Master of the Seas’. The sense of touch contradicted my sense of sight. How could I be in the tub fully clothed and in bed and also under the open skies all at the same time! The cool breeze on my face was so soporific. It could have been was opium laced. But despite the overwhelming urge to close my eyes and go back to my slumber something told me it was time to wake up and confront reality.

I sat up and the vista that lay in front of me was perhaps straight out of an advert for life in heaven. It was at least a couple of miles of pristine beach on one side and emerald green water on the other. I dug my palms into the stunningly white sand and this time my brain made the correlation between the Egyptian cotton sheets and the sand.

A big wave crashing into a rock formation behind startled me. I stood up trying to grasp the enormity of the situation. What had happened? Where was I? Was this a port call? Did I go overboard? My mind was racing at a million miles per second trying to make sense of it all. I looked around to see if there were any signs of habitation. There was nothing to be seen as far as the eye could see but lush green foliage amidst the never ending coconut grove. The most prominent geographical feature was a solitary hill that jutted out from the thick virgin forest and stood like a sentinel which I reckoned was about a mile away. I decided to get up there.

The sun was out in its full glory and the leaves glistened as the rays bounced off of them. I was already beginning to perspire profusely in the humid conditions. I took my shirt off and tied it behind my back. I couldn’t help but wonder as I trudged to the hill through the thick forest that I hadn’t encountered any wild animals. The prospect and accompanying fear of wild animals and snakes has crossed my mind before I decided to embark on this little trek. A part of me was relieved at not having seen any fauna but the other part found it highly unusual considering these forests would have made for a rich habitat for a variety of animals.

I stood at the base of the hill and surveyed it to chart a potential pathway to the summit. It wasn’t too steep but I figured it would take me at least 30 minutes each way. I was extremely thirsty by now and the headache was becoming worse. I rewinded my trek through the forest but couldn’t remember seeing any watering holes along the way. My eyes stopped at the sight of coconuts lying underneath a gigantic coconut tree a few steps away. That was it! I started scouring the place for any sharp edged pieces of rock I could find to use to pierce the husk and get the actual nut out. I couldn’t find one that was sharp enough to impale so picked up one that had been rounded by the elements. I decided to use it to bludgeon the husk to loosen it up enough to then use my hands to pry it open. It took some doing but I was finally able to free the nut out of its natural layer of protection. I smashed the nut on a sheet of rock at the base of the hill and held the fractured coconut over my mouth allowing gravity to do the rest. I drank the second one as well. The sweet refreshing liquid did wonders to my flagging energy and spirit. The headache began to show signs of subsiding. I was ready to make that ascent.

It must have taken me an hour or so to get to the summit. I grabbed the trunk of the solitary tree that stood on top of the hill and leapt forward onto the bald, flat head of the hill. Nothing in this world could have ever prepared me for what I was about to witness. The hill was bang in the middle of an island. A contiguous beach wrapped around three fourths of the island. The diameter by my estimate was 5 miles at the widest point. Virgin forests covered every single inch of the island except for the beach. There were no other land masses in sight for as far as the eye could see; only a vast expanse of emerald green water. I was marooned on an uninhabited island!

Tears rolled down my cheeks and a current of fear ran down my spine forcing me to sit down under the tree. What was I going to do now? Was anyone looking for me? Did they even know I was missing? How would I survive? A flurry of questions bounced around in my head as atoms do inside a Hadron collider. It was impossible to focus and think straight. I lay down partly out of exhaustion from my arduous climb and partly in an attempt to calm the massive wave of anxiety that was sweeping over me.

I woke up feeling a lot calmer. The panic attack has passed and my anxiety had abated. I must have been sleeping for a couple of hours as the midday sun had shifted position and was moving westward. I gathered myself and looked around for one final time in the hope that things might have changed within those two hours. Alas! There was no sign of a resort that I was hoping to miraculously find. Crestfallen, I decided to head back down to the beach.

The descent and trek back through the jungle wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. As I emerged through the thick brush and onto the beach the juxtaposition of the pristine white sand, the emerald green waters and the azure sky left me spellbound. I stood there transfixed with my mind completely empty just soaking in the miracles of Mother Nature. Nature’s art had managed to lift my sullen mood. Hunger pangs broke that spell and food was on my mind.

The unmistakable aroma of ripe Jackfruit that I had subconsciously picked up on my way back from the hill was my cue. I headed back into the forest and all I had to do is follow the aroma trail. I carried back two of the ripest ones I could find and sat down under the shade of a Casuarina looking out into the ocean and started gorging on the sweet and slimy goodness. I put away the Jackfruit that had survived my cavernous appetite for later,  sandwiched between two coconut leaves after I was done feasting.

Food wasn’t going to be an issue after all. I had discovered Banana, Guava and Papaya trees and although I couldn’t tell for sure I think I also saw a Passionfruit tree as well. What was going to be an issue though was fresh drinking water. I hadn’t seen any fresh water sources from my vantage point on top of the hill. For some strange reason my mind went floating back to a movie and a book for a redress to this issue. I had read ‘Robinson Crusoe’ when I was a kid. It was the story of a man who was marooned on an island after he was shipwrecked and the narration of how he came to terms and carried on with life thereafter. The movie ‘Castaway’ which I had watched during early adulthood was along similar lines to the story in the book with the exception being the causality of the marooning being a plane crash as opposed to the capsizing of a ship. A notion forced its way through into my consciousness that the protagonist had used emptied coconut shells to harvest rain water in both cases. I sprang into action of prepping the ‘coconut cups’ realizing a shower could be round the corner in this neck of the woods.

True to form, a torrential downpour ensued just as I had finished carving the meat out of the coconut shells and lining them up on the beach for unobstructed harvesting. The meat I had carved out was stored bundled up in a broad Banana leaf. The first taste of fresh unadulterated rain water after a long hiatus was magical. I thought to myself “Ambrosia the nectar of the gods must taste like that!”

The rain stopped and I took off my drenched clothes and wrung the water out and spread them out to dry on the sand. I sat there on the beach stark naked without an iota of inhibition with the balmy wind caressing every nook and cranny of my body. The approaching dusk prompted reflection on the bygone day. I didn’t even know her name. Did she see me fall off the ship? She must have alerted the crew. A massive search and rescue effort must be underway. I told myself that I just needed to hang in as it was only a matter of time until they located me.

The optimism was short lived. My mind slid back into dissecting the multitude of worst case what-if scenarios. My brain kept vacillating between potential rescue scenarios to solitary confinement on the island for the rest of my life. Darkness had set in. It was a starry night. The wind had died down in intensity and the waters were calm. The lone symphony was that of the insects in the forest. A bewitching fifty piece orchestra that would play all night long. I slowly reclined into a supine position on the velvety sand and closed my eyes.

“Daddy, wake up. You promised to take me to Monkey Joe’s today”. I opened my eyes to see my elder son standing by the bed eager and excited to go. I wished I were back on that deserted island.