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     Volume 7 Issue 41 | October 17, 2008 |

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The Pursuit of Happiness
White sands of Myrtle Beach

Azizul Jalil

Myrtle Beach, South Caralina.

We had gone to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in the summer of 1983, with our sons when they were young enough to still enjoy holiday trips with parents. We drove about five-hundred miles south from Washington to reach 'A Place on the Beach"- a condo which we had rented for a week. This year in August, we flew from Atlanta with one of our sons, daughter-in -law and their two children and stayed at a resort hotel right on the beach. Our main interest was to be with our grand children and play with them, building castles not in the air, but on the sandy beach with small shovels and pails. The family-friendly, sea-side tourist town has changed a lot in the last twenty-five years, with many more houses and condos, golf courses, restaurants, shops and amusement centres. It is all very clean, green and provides a charming holiday ambience. Happily, we saw a fair number of people from the minority communities of USA, including the blacks and the Latinos. Last time that was not the case. America has indeed come a long way in the last quarter of a century as evidenced by the variety of the candidates in its upcoming presidential elections.The sand of Myrtle Beach is white and very fine -almost like flour. It is quite unlike sand in most beaches, which is yellowish and coarse. I had gone with an aching left heel and wondered whether I would be active and playful with the boys. But from the first moment of my stepping on the beach, the sand molded my heels like fine soft plaster, and as I walked on it, massaged my feet in a way that the pain was much relieved. The vast blue ocean seemingly meeting the sky at the horizon, the mild breeze and the constant roar of the ocean was also relaxing to the soul. We had the usual complement of books and magazines with us but were often distracted. The eyes would wonder around, vacantly looking at nothing in particular, engrossed in idle daydreams.What is it in the vast expanse of the ocean and the relentless sound of the waves that make you temporarily oblivious of the worldly concerns and earthly acquisitions? Such a feeling one often gets at a mountaintop, looking down on earth. I am still searching for an answer! The large bluish canvas of the sky covering the ocean like a giant dome provides a variety of images. You can see clouds in the shape of distant mountains with white mane. At places it looks like a mighty explosion of white dust creating mushroom clouds, like pictures seen of the first nuclear explosion at Bikini Atoll more than half a century ago. Occasionally, almost as an anti-climax, a small plane will fly by the beach with fluttering banners advertising mundane things like suntan lotions, shampoo and floating boards. We play with our grand kids- five and seven-year old boys, with balls throwing at each other. We then sit under large rented umbrellas in low easy chairs, which expand enabling you to rest your feet. These reminded me of the comfortable old maharaja easy chairs in the railway station waiting rooms in Bengal during the British times. On the edge of the sea, the young and the old are walking and jumping as the waves routinely come and go, washing their feet gently. And the sea air, so full of oxygen, purifies the lungs of the accumulated pollution of yester years. Amidst all these, as if to distract us and bring us down to earth, a young woman comes pushing a cart selling frozen lemon and strawberry drinks. Our grandchildren run to get their treats, with grandma trailing behind with her purse. We lovingly stare at the little ones and share with them the joy of licking their sweet, coloured and icy stuff on sticks. Either before or after a long session on the beach, the older people sit around the many swimming pools of the hotel, some especially for children. Our grandchildren enjoy wading in the pool or floating on rubber floats, often pulled by their parents. There is a Kiddy Park with slides, where the kids end with a splash in the water, and inflated, colourful Sesame Street animal figures. As always in a place like this, snacks and ice creams are available in kiosks at many corners much to the delight of the children. It was clear that devoted parents had come here for the heavenly delight of giving their kids a really good time before the school year begins in a few days time. In the evenings, we visited the amusement and shopping areas which are open till late evening in the summer months. Particularly attractive to the young and old alike was a manmade lake, surrounded by all sorts of fancy and souvenir shops, restaurants, stores selling cotton candy and offering miniature car racing games and a small park for the amusement of children. Under the watchful eyes of their guardians, children, including our grandkids, were running and jumping around in the swings, bars and other facilities in the park. We found that in most family groups, grandparents from the father's or mother's side had tagged along, showing a new-found energy and having the time of their lives. Our fiveyear old grandson upon entering a Pizzeria rather loudly exclaimed adult-like, “I can't believe it!” He must have been hungry after spending all day in the beach, the pool and enjoying the games in the park. Looking at the crowd inside, it was natural for him to complain aloud about the possibility that we may have to wait a while before being seated. The long happy weekend over, with enough of the sand and the surf but never enough time with the grandkids, we returned to our normal habitat waiting for another such summer to come- God willing.

A perfect place to spend with children and grandchildren!

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