A. was gone for a good half an hour for snorkeling and swimming. The fat south Indian guy was back and was busy interviewing the (presumably) Central European father, who had two cute little kids with him. "How old is this one?" he asked in a school masterly fashion about the young boy dressed in an orange t-shirt. (I am sure everyone knows what a school masterly or alternately a headmistressy fashion). "er...he is four years old replied the father. Then he quickly added, "no, no...he is five". The other boy was a year younger if I remember correctly. He sounds like my father, to this day he has no clue how old I am! The best thing about my father's 'forgettery' is that he always thinks I am half a dozen years younger than I actually am.
The second in command/jack-of-all-trades would come every five minutes, grab a few oranges from the fruits' tray. He was probably the only person on board who lived the tour company's claim of 'unlimited refreshments, fruits, and drinks throughout the day'. Then a small speed boat stopped next to our dhow, and two Omani guys handed over three large parcels of food. It was barely 12'O clock by then. Is it time for lunch already? And this is the alluring buffet lunch which they had promised us? I couldn't help but smile and shake had at the silly notions of grandeur about the 'cruise'. Well, at least mine were a little moderate compared to A's, who when we were going towards Telegraph Island that there was going to be some dining place where people from various dhows would gather for a grand buffet.
"Mmm...smells good!" the Chinese guy said with a wide grin. I wish it had tasted good too. Yes, I am admittedly finicky about food, but that buffet lunch was the only negative point of the entire trip. I didn't even dare touch the mixed vegetables, the rice were okayish, but the chicken curry was a disaster! And that was all we had in the name of a 'buffet lunch', unless you count the accompanying hommous and khubz as a separate dish. Since I was waiting for A. to get his share too, and am a very slow eater, almost everyone had finished their food by the time we tucked in. Since the food wasn't very palatable, it took even longer to finish it. The jack-of-all-trades fished out chilled Pepsis and Mirandas from the icebox and now everyone was drinking them. There was something 'funny' (in a nice way) about how when one person chose bananas from the fruits tray, everyone else would have bananas too, and if one person began eating oranges everyone else followed suit too.
Almost everyone had finished eating (except for slow eaters like me), and now a general ennui seemed to descend on everyone. Some were lying on the mattresses, others lounged about lazily, and some lazy souls were actually trying to fall asleep! The south Indian family was back to reading their choicest bestsellers. There were still no signs of the much promised dolphins, who according to our jovial tour guide were always playing about the boat. They must have had a really rocking party last night, and had probably had too much to drink in A.'s opinion. Being the occasional skeptic, I expressed my uncharitable views about the tour guide's claims and was convinced that they just used the dolphins to lure more tourist on their cruise. We were in the middle of our food, when the Chinese lady next to me suddenly shouted excitedly, "Dolphin!" Yes we all did see a small splash of water, but there was no dolphin. Were we all acting like the shepherd boy in the story who shouted, "The lion". Whether she had actually seen a dolphin or not, every single person on the dhow got up, even those lazy, sleepy folks too.
And then it actually came, a dolphin! Everyone went wild with excitement. But the elusive dolphin dived under the boat and was soon gliding gracefully on the other side, everyone clustered at that one sight, in a frenzy to get as many pictures of it as possible. It only stayed there for about 5 minutes and then it was gone. But everyone kept standing near the edge, and staring hard in hopes of spotting another dolphins for quite some time after that. Then everyone got tired and went back to their places. Except for the kid in the central European kid in the Orange t-shirt. Both of them had now become permanent fixtures next to my seat, where the first dolphin had appeared. "Hello Mr. Dolphin" he hollered. "Please come out". Everyone began to chuckle, then someone began to whistle loudly in a bid to attract more dolphins. Gradually the excitement died down again and everyone else sunk into collective ennui again.
I was sitting a bit higher now, propped up on my pillow and staring at the water, though I didn't shout 'hello Mr. Dolphin, please come out', I couldn't help but long that dolphins would actually come and follow our boat. I had only caught a brief glimpse of the last one. "How nice it would be, if a dolphin comes right where I am sitting and begin to follow me like a pet dog or cat". The words had barely left my lips and lo and behold! A dolphin appeared right where I was sitting and began to swim close to the dhow! That has easily to be one of the best moments of my life. Normally, I only have to wish for something to make sure that it doesn't happen. But today, fortune smiled on me as they say, and my wish was instantly granted. I excitedly motioned to the kid in the orange t.shirt who had been earlier requesting Mr. Dolphin to come out. Everyone gathered in our part of the dhow now. More video graphing and photo shooting ensued.
There has to be something magical and charming about the dolphins. Because, regardless of their age, nationality or ethnicity, everyone at that time was excited like a child. And although my dolphin(mine because it appeared on my wish!) glided with us only for 5 odd minutes or so, soon enough we were in an area where a whole school of them was playing, diving in unison in a synchronized movement. We were in the midst of a real life 'dolphinarium'. Everyone gushed with happiness, the pure, innocent kind of pleasure that normally only little children can experience.
To be continued....