I tried to open my eyes. The water around me reflected darkness. This darkness which I thought I belonged to was beginning to scare me and I longed for a flicker of light.
Death is inevitable and reality is cruel. Grief coated with insecurities and hopelessness is toxic. Nevertheless, there is power and beauty in overcoming obstacles in life. The problems of this world are as vast as the dark sea but amidst all these chaos discovering the power of hope is liberating and courageous. The Sea and I is one such where it builds a story of breaking out from darkness, despair and ultimately discovering one’s true self.
I wanted to break through the darkness. I wanted to see the light.
The Sea and I is a coming-of-age contemporary fiction by Tangkhul writer Chirmi Shimray. Set in the city of dreams, Bombay, the novel is about conquering self-doubt, overcoming insecurities that life offers and emerging victorious in life. It is told from the first-person perspective of the protagonist, Afi, as she looks back on her life as a college student living in Bombay. Through Afi’s first-hand account readers see her transforming herself into a hopeful fierce person from a self-doubting diffident person that she used to be.
I tried to move my legs. But my whole body was unable to move. Then I began shouting aloud in my mind that I want to live.
Life, for the sixteen-year-old Afi, was all roses until the cruel hands of death snatched her mother away. Afi’s fairy tale world collapses leaving her in utter despair. The sudden loss of her mother broke her but her father bringing home another woman after her mother’s passing devastated her. Stricken with inconsolable distress, Afi shuts herself away from the world. Unable to cope with reality, Afi finally decides to give in to despair. She attempted to drown herself in the dark deep sea but like the light at the end of tunnel, the light of dawn seeping through the dark sea gave her hope for the first time. The flicker of light that shone on her while she struggled to breath in the deep sea was the breaking moment for Afi. It was then and there that she decided to break through the darkness and live. She mustered her courage and conquered her fears. She accepted life and defeated despair and there was no looking back since then. She began to see things differently- in a more positive perspective and that has made all the difference.
I stood up to my feet and walked away from the sea. I was not afraid anymore.
Fast-paced and written in simple language, Shimray weaves a story of what it feels like to discover hope. The stories that encircle each individual in the novel show a glimpse of the characters. Afi’s best friend Mimi is fiery on the outside yet lonely on the inside; her charming crush Jay Matthews is caring and sticks with her till the end of the novel; her father is kind-hearted who took in the terminally ill Lucy as stepmom for Afi; Lucy, whom Afi misunderstood in the beginning, is the most positive person that came into Afi’s life.
Everything is perfect like I have always dreamt of. I am happy and satisfied.
Though Shimray writes in a rapid and light-hearted manner, one can still sense the moving temperament of Afi, which is overly dramatic at some point. The themes of the novel include hope, death, love, coping with loss, facing reality, friendship, family relationship, accepting change and overcoming fear. The title of the book, The Sea and I is indicative of the vast world and the difficulties that lingers in it. The Sea waves are fierce but it always settles down at one point. So the the sea in the title is suggestive of a metaphor for any obstacle in life—no matter how big or small a problem is there is always a solution just like how the sea calms down after every fierce wave. The Sea in the title is also symbolic of difficulties, pain and sorrow.
I smiled and without a second glance in the mysterious clear water, I stepped back and turned to walk away…to walk away from pain, from sorrow.
The Sea and I is one of those books which you want to read it for the positive message that is associated with the life of the protagonist. It is simple and spirited and deals with overcoming difficulties in life and defeating fear. It tells you about never giving up even when everything is trying to stop you from living a happy life.
I knew that there was light because I have made up my mind that I wanted to live.
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Publisher: Notion Press, 2019