Joy walked down the sandy, partly rocky path. Even though it was dark and late in the evening, he knew each rock and turn that led to the beach. Even as a young boy, he had used this short cut to escape his life – to hide, think and make peace with the way things were turning out!

Joy did not look like the average Goan man. He was tall and lanky; his skin was fair but it had tanned to a warm amber under the sun. His hazel-coloured eyes, which often spoke volumes, were set in a face with an exceptional bone structure, framed by a curly mop of hair. His mother was of Portugese descent – fair, pretty, and petite – while his father was also a good-looking man in a dark, rugged Goan way. But today, Joy looked as if he had lost a war. The lines creased on his forehead; the wind had ruffled his hair into an unruly mess. His eyes seemed confused, and his shoulders had a droop to them.

He had a special spot to himself behind a patch of Suri trees where it was breezy and cool. There was a large, lava rock on which he could sit, quite comfortably, and watch the sea, the sky and the birds. A fish would occasionally flip out of the sea and dive right back in, and the sea creatures would crawl out of the sea when there were no humans around.

As the colour and mood of the sky and sea changed, so did his own. After a few hours of contemplation, he would walk back to the life he had left behind. Nothing about his life ever changed unlike the sea, the sky and the animals – these were somehow always new. He learnt by just watching them. Nature was so dynamic, but his life had been stagnant for a while now.

Tonight was no different. Only that he was now 34-years old. In his youth he would escape from fights with his father, or violence at home, or his failures and heartbreak by running away to his safe spot. A couple of hours later, when he had made peace with himself, he would walk back home to his little room and turn on his transistor. As he grew older, he felt that the only way to escape this life he was stuck in, was to get far away from his father, his home and Goa. So, he studied hard and made sure he topped his class, which made it easier for him to get better opportunities abroad for higher education.

Whenever he talked about studying abroad, he would often end up arguing with his father. His old man point-blank refused to support him if he left India. However, that did not deter Joy. After borrowing some money from his mother, he managed to get admission into a good college in England. While attending college, Joy worked two jobs – one in the day and another at night – to support himself.

He got by, barely managing on four hours of sleep that took a toll on his health. But he persevered. Finally, he graduated with honours and landed his first job in England. His dream was slowly becoming a reality. The job required his complete commitment. He worked till late in the night and would rush to the office in the early morning hours. He remembered working all the time, being called a workaholic by most, a perfectionist by some, and a genius by others.

His colleagues wondered what drove him, but he alone knew that he had created a mental checklist, a sequence of life plans – leave Goa, foreign education, job, car, house, wife, children and lots of money – all of which would guarantee a happy life. He went about systematically, ticking off the boxes. All he needed now was a companion in life.

 “I bet all of us in this room have also made a mental checklist. We call it goals or dreams. We fail to realise that at some point we have to stop and take stock of what our mind desires. We need to ask ourselves if these wants, needs and dreams are genuinely ours or just a by-product of our conditioning. Does our wish list nourish our soul and make us better human beings? Does it help make the world a better place? We, humans, are masters at manifesting all we want, just like Joy
and his checklist, but will it help us awaken to our true light and potential? Are we born to fulfil a wish list or is there more to this thing called life?”  

So on one of Joy’s trips back to India to meet his mother, he bumped into Maria – his childhood crush. She was as beautiful as he remembered. They ended up dating. Interestingly, they had a lot in common and shared the same beliefs. She reminded him of his mother and she had no qualms about living in a foreign country, which suited him perfectly. She was the best candidate for the role of a wife in his life. They were married without much fanfare. He picked up a better job and they both settled into a beautiful, new house in the bustling city of London.

The few moments Joy got to introspect, he realised that his life was on a fast lane. It was difficult to slow down, even if he wanted to. At such moments, he wondered if he really liked the life he had so carefully crafted. Each day was just like the previous one. But he could not even complain because it gave him the money, the lifestyle, the security and control that he had always wanted from life.

Arribada: The Arrival

Excerpted with permission from Arribada: The Arrival, Samantha Kochharr, Rupa Publications.