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I wake up again from a state of half-sleep as the train screeches to a halt at yet another station. I have stopped counting the hours since I have been on this train. Is it a dream or did I really walk out of the life I used to know?

I am Tapashi Devchoudhury. I was born in the Assam province in the far Northeastern corner of India to a Hindu Brahmin family. Traditions are important to us. Along with regular education, I have been passed on values, legends, legacies and traditions that entailed building a life that brought honour to my family. For the most part, I have fulfilled the dreams my parents had for me. I went on to get a Masters’ Degree in Business Administration and then a managerial job in a government-operated company. I could hear the pride in my parents’ voice when they spoke about it.

But the truth was, I struggled to go to work every morning knowing that my heart was not in it. I was always waiting for Saturday evenings when I could take the train after work. It was a long ten-hour journey but it was worth it. I had to wait for an hour to change trains in a small station in the middle of nowhere but I got about two hours of surfing at the end of it. And for that, I was willing to give up a full night’s sleep.

On those Sundays, I would eat my breakfast and lunch with a local fisherman’s family. Ramu would bring in the catch of the day while his wife Lakshmi would cook the fish left after they sold the most part. Their three sons and Melville, a local man working for the state’s sports authority, gave me my first surfing lessons. I caught my first waves with them and spent the most memorable weekends while I was there.

The difficult part was taking the same route back on Sunday afternoons, trying not to fall asleep so as not to miss the train change, to begin on Monday mornings six more days of insipid, uninspired work. My computer screen had a picture of a beach with rolling lines of waves. Every time I looked at it, it hit me hard somewhere deep inside… telling me that something was terribly wrong. I could not possibly spend hours of my life trying to achieve what seemed hollow and soul-less, wishing I could be somewhere else, living another life. I was living for two hours of surfing on the weekends and, after a year and a half of this routine, I knew I had enough.

It was just another Saturday afternoon when I left a note on the desk of my boss before going back home to put my whole life in a backpack. I left the big two-bedroom apartment with everything I had filled it with -television, washing machine, refrigerator, microwave…-. I asked one of my close friends to donate the rest of my clothes to an orphanage she used to work with.

This time, I was taking a train to Bangalore to meet my sister before moving to Mahabalipuram on the East coast of India. The train happened to be overbooked, like it often is the case with long-distance Indian trains. There was no seat available for my thirty-hour journey but I could not bear the thought of going back. The only option I had left was to buy a ‘general’ ticket that allows you to travel from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ but does not guarantee you a seat.

When the train arrived and I got on board, I found out that there were what seemed to be hundreds of other ‘general’ passengers. I literally had to step over people to go from one coach to another, looking for some space to sit down. I did manage to find that little spot next to the toilets but was soon asked to move by one of the train attendants. After about fifteen hours of moving around with my backpack, trying to find some space to stretch my legs out, realizing I was only halfway through my journey, my body was going numb and my mind zombie-like. I was starting to question my decision. I did not have much money on my account and for the first time in my life, I did not have a plan! I was beginning to realize the enormity of the choice I had made. But deep within, my soul felt strangely liberated and I knew I was never going back.

It has been over two years since that thirty-hour train ride. I did not regret once my decision. In fact, I am happy I had the strength to step out of a comfortable but meaningless life. Since then, my life has changed in a way I had not imagined possible.

I do not have a ‘respectable’ government job. My skin is tanned -not something the Indian society shows much appreciation for- and my hair is burnt. But I get to be in the sea amidst dolphins on a surf or SUP board every morning! I found love in a man who shares my dreams of living a simple, soulful life. Together, we run a SUP, surf and yoga camp in Goa on the West coast of India. We teach and we learn every day in the little village of Mandrem that we have started to call home for half a year.

Right now, I am on my way to begin the third season of Waterwalk India. This year, I am looking forward to reaching out to as many local children as I can with free swimming, SUP & surf lessons while also creating some awareness on how our actions affect the environment, especially the sea. We have already started a project called Bebo, in which my husband and I are supporting Peddy, a young local from Mandrem, to make his dreams come true. It was impossible not to see his passion after he shaped some boards on his own and asked us to try them out. We then invited a friend and shaper to come visit us in Mandrem and coach Peddy. He is now trying out his newly learnt tricks by shaping some boards for the school. We also have a weeklong yoga, SUP and surf retreat and a women’s camp planned for the season. And for once, I can say that I cannot wait to get back to work!

I am a girl from the hills who fell in love with the sea. I am actually living my salt water dream.

Tapashi Devchoudhury is an ambassador for the stand up paddle brand Starboard. Along with her husband Cédric Reynard from the Swiss Alps, Tapashi runs from October to April Waterwalk India, a SUP & surf center in Goa. As a yoga instructor and educated by her parents about traditional philosophy, she contributes to SUPrana contents.

You can contact her or ask her more information on : waterwalkindia@gmail.com or FB page: facebook.com/waterwalkindia

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