Of sails and anchors | Sunday Observer

Of sails and anchors

This is about a comment on a photograph. It was a family photograph of a father with his two sons and his only daughter. The daughter lived abroad. One of the sons posted the photograph on Facebook, commenting that he missed his sister and their late mother very much.

The sister responded with this: ‘We are adrift, in many ways, and must find our sails and our anchors however we can. She gave us both. Even though sometimes her sails were her tears and her anchors were her rage. Or vice versa.’

Nice analogy. There are always sails available but they are not always used. Some are good, some not. Sometimes the winds are fortuitous, but sometimes they just die on us. Not everyone knows how to use sails. Some actually don’t even realize that they have sails. It’s the same with anchors. You got to realize you have them and you need to know when to drop them.

There are all kinds of sails and anchors. There can can be all kinds of sails because there are all kinds of vessels and all kinds of winds. It also depends on the destination, and therefore direction. There are also random sails, those which don’t come with a map and destination.

We don’t think of life in these terms usually, but if we are a bit imaginative we could turn most anything into a sail. A poem, a song or even a line from a verse. A word even, yes. A feeling can be the wind that allows us to move as we tag ourselves to a word-sail.

A degree is a sail. Determination. Empathy. A cardboard box and the flavour of pomegranate. A telephone line and a data card. The sentence lost in the explosion of urgency. A thin stream of moonlight that has escaped the clutches of the trees. The flight path of a balloon. A blade of grass, a drop of dew and its inevitable capture by the sun. Any of these and a lot more can take you on wonderful journeys. Anchors are different. They are limiting factors. They don’t forbid movement but they nevertheless guard against straying. Anchors are heavy. They are for stability. They speak to confidence and offer clarity and ensure steadiness in unclear situations.

Mothers do that. Fathers too. Books that we cherish, philosophies that make sense, and unforgettable films. They can at times be sails but they can also be anchors. It’s about fundamentals.

Years ago, addressing the assembly in his alma mater after being a member of the team representing Sri Lanka in her first Test, Ranjan Madugalle made an anchor-observation. No, he didn’t use the word but that’s what it was all about.

‘There are times when I am out of form, when I keep getting out the same way. That’s when I go back to my fundamentals, such as, the stance, the back-lift and keeping bat and pad together when playing a defensive stroke.’

He used the analogy to talk about life in general, about straying too far and into uncharted waters, losing one’s way and not knowing what to do. He talked about going to basics, returning to precepts and recalling values. Such things. Anchors.

The anchors and sails of mothers are qualitatively different though. ‘Sometimes, her sails were her tears and her anchors were her rage,’ that, was the observation. It can be interpreted in multiple ways, but both anchor and sail in this case were wrought and stitched using the raw materials of the heart. There was tenderness in both. There was always tension, the push of urging exploration and the pursuit of dreams and the pull of concern and fear. And so, no one really got lost.

And now, even though there are no tears and no rage, there is memory and lesson inscribed in heart and mind. They are proxy sails and proxy anchors which she knowingly or unknowingly, but tenderly crafted. That’s empowerment.