Wednesday, 8 April 2020
G is for Ghaut #AtoZChallenge
She followed the ghaut down to its natural end, soon leaving hard-packed dirt for coarse sand. The soft breeze stirred her hair, warm and balmy, but still a slight relief for the sweat that dripped down her neck. She reached up and caught her hair up, twisting it into a bun. Holding it with her left hand, she dug into her pockets for something to tie it with. All she found was a blunt pencil. She fiddled with it a little, then stuck it into the bun. It held.
A few more steps and she'd be in the water. The wooden pier on her right continued on into the sea. At the end of the pier, fishing boats congregated, her father's among them.
The cool water lapped against her toes. She wiggled her toes in the sand, digging them in. The sun burnt her skin, harsh and hot directly above her, triggering a headache. Still, she stood there, watching the sluggish activity at the end of the pier.
Why are they not searching?
Hardly anyone was out in the heat of the day. Her father often left before the sun rose, returning with his catch whilst it was still rising. Except today, he hadn't returned. His fellow fisherfolk had brought his boat back without him. They'd go out again in the evening when it was cooler, and he wouldn't be with them.
The water was cold against her knees. She slumped against the wooden stakes of the pier, sheltering in its slight shade.
If you wait for me at the ghaut, he'd promised her as a child, I will always return.
She waited. He didn't return.
From the Oxford Dictionary of Foreign Words & Phrases, 2nd edition.
Ghat (also ghaut), from early seventeenth century Hindi:
1. (In the Indian subcontinent) a mountain pass.
2. (In the Indian subcontinent) a flight of steps leading to a riverbank; a landing place.
3. A level place at the top of a river-bank ghat where Hindus cremate their dead. In full burning ghat.
...which also solves the mystery of why, along Beach Street, we have Church Street on the right and Church Street Ghaut on the left (and others, all along the street), except that the ghauts don't reach the sea anymore. They just reach Pengkalan Weld (Weld Quay), which used to be the port until it was reclaimed and the jetty pushed further out.