At Niagara falls, I board the iconic “Maid of the Mist” with my parents. It’s their 25th anniversary and this trip is my gift to them. Before boarding, we are each handed a blue plastic poncho designed to protect us from the worst of the torrential spray that is expected to unleash it’s fury on us; we who seem to mock the might of the falls by daring to venture so close.
I have been warned that the ponchos, which are essentially just recycled garbage bags, will be of no use and we should expect to get drenched. That prediction is partially correct. As the boat makes it’s way past the American falls, the spray reminds me of the worst rain Mumbai has to offer. But the sight of the falls is so mesmerizing that I stare right into it, taking in the worst.
Moving past the American falls, we approach the even more magnificent Horseshoe falls. We are enveloped on three sides by the falls and the spray thrown up by the millions of litres of water that tumble towards the ground from hundreds of feet above resembles a tropical thunderstorm that one might expect to encounter in the Amazon rainforest. It completely overwhelms us and many passengers scurry to the back where they are somewhat protected. I want none of that. I stand right in the front and welcome the deluge. It is no surprise that I am soaked when we finally get back.
This experience makes me think about life, about growing up and about learning through experience. In a somewhat poetic mood, as I always am when overawed by nature, I muse that the poncho is akin to the comfort and protection that parents seek to provide. They have experienced much in life and seek to pass on their wisdom to the next generation. But deep down, they know that like that flimsy poncho, their words would only protect those who seek to remain in their shadows and actually want us to go out into the world and discover what life is really about.
There are those who find comfort in the fact that they are protected and perhaps do not feel that need to test the poncho. There are those still who are completely mindful of the fact that it may not be a great idea to test it out, but do it anyway. When you are exposed to world, ideas and perspectives rain down upon you and completely engulf you. You see, you feel, you think, you learn and once you experience the highs and traverse the lows, you never want to go back. The poncho exists whenever you want it, but ultimately, it is just a notional concept and you would like it to be nothing more.
Like the falls, life is spectacular. But to really know what is about, you have to welcome it with arms wide open and a smile on your face.