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Time obliterates, and one of the first things it alters is memory.

Writing from memory is a good exercise if current inspiration is in short supply. You hope that the elusive “muse” or whatever it is would come back, hand in hand with bits and pieces of old memories.

I was sifting through the pages of my memory and wanted to write about something bright, bursting with unalloyed joy, warm and full of light. And then I thought of when I saw dolphins for the first time in my life.

So here goes an attempted description from memory:

It was a bright sunny day, almost too bright under the thin Australian air and there were kids and adults of all shapes and sizes lathered in sunscreen, clad in shorts, t-shirts, caps and dark glasses milling about me at the entrance.

The air was balmy but somehow charged, or maybe it was just my anticipation getting away with me. When we made it to the low stadium where the dolphins perform (it is a semi-circular enclosure with a huge man-made lake instead of a grassy expanse, and a small island on the opposite side), the place was alive with people, with ice-cream and popcorn vendors, occasional squeals from the dolphins themselves, and the squawks of a few gulls as fights broke out between them.

(These gulls are very dainty, all white with red beaks and toes, but their behavior strongly reminded me of the crows back home. They are shooed away just like crows, and I was possibly the only one there who took any notice of how good looking they were).

The dolphins were excited too, they clearly associated the gathering of people around their area with show-time, and of course, with being fed. They kept coming near the shallow shore and giving us the eye, checking us out just as much as we were looking at them, bouncing around like so many excited puppies, racing each other around the perimeter or leaping clear out of the water just for the joy of it. I had forgotten to breathe and gulped in huge amounts of air as the show began.

The trainers kept flicking their fingers and tempting the dolphins with fish, and there, in front of our eyes was a whole show, just exactly how I had seen before on-screen.

But this time the spray kept hitting me, this time was for real.

The dolphins swam and jumped in tandem, waved at us with their tails, “walked” on the water, balancing their bodies on their tails, and even pushed their trainers ahead with their noses, carrying them short distances.

As I watched these creatures jump out of the water in unison, mouths open, like laughing children, falling back with splashes, showing off by doing things they hadn’t been asked to do, I felt full somehow, emotion pushing through my eyes and trickling down my cheek. I was giddy, lightheaded and for a time was completely alone in the crowd. I have always loved the idea of dolphins and now that I had seen them, I fell in love all over again.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

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