This short story is participating in Write Story from Picture India 2012 – Short Story Writing Competition.
On a warm summer morning, I woke up with a light giddiness in my head. The clock strike made me realize that it was already seven and time for my morning walk. My five year old granddaughter Diya came running and asked me if we can go for a walk. My eyes searched for her twin sister Divya. “Where is Divya?” I asked Diya. “She is sleeping grandpa” she said pulling my hands.
I walked to their room and woke up Divya. She got up reluctantly and changed her dress and then we went for a walk.
On the way Divya’s dress got stuck in the thorn bush and started crying. I saw that her dress was badly stuck in the bunch of thorns. The thorns got stuck on both the sides making me difficult to remove them. I thought it is easier undress her and then take the thorns off from the dress. I managed to undress her with few scratches and started taking her dress back from the thorns carefully. After few minutes of struggle I could take the dress off the thorns. In the meanwhile, my Granddaughters were playing near the river side. They were in their own world, unaware of my struggle with the thorns.
I have lots of memories associated with this river. This place is a mouth of the river where river meets the sea. The river looked very different today. The dark blue water and swift breeze had a mystic power to soothe anyone on the shore. The shallow water with shining pebbles and soft mushrooms on the swamp made the place more pleasing. I was able to see a little island at a far distance, the sight of which is not a pleasant one for me.
It was around 45 or 50 years ago, when I was around 20 years. We were 7 siblings. My father had a coconut farm and we had a small house, mainly constructed in wood. The doors, ceilings, windows were all of teak wood, the most expensive one. All our neighbors and relatives envied but that made my parents proud. My mom spent most time cleaning and wiping the house. They loved it more when my elder sister’s kids came home during their vacation.
They sent me to a local school bearing all the cost with the little money they earned. House and the coconut farm were the only property. The river was our home and the sea fish was our staple food. Things were fine until one day we heard the heart breaking announcement in the radio on a rainy day. The Arabian Sea level was raising and the forecast announced the coastal neighbours to evacuate the place in three months.
It rains cats and dogs in the rainy season in western coast of India. My parents were clueless. Tears started rolling from my mother’s eyes. The fear of losing the only property earned in their life time ate them up. Only thing we could do was to get all the coconuts from the tree to a safe place which can earn us some bread for time being. My father planned to get all the costly wood in the house and other stuff shifted to my elder sister’s place which was around 50 km from this place. The thought of losing the beloved house was very painful to all of us and especially my mother. But we had to act quickly. We had very less time. We did not sleep that night.
Transportation was a major problem. All people from this region were migrating. To shift all the stuff as planned we would need a minimum of 2 months. Cutting down the coconut was a major problem. There were no folks available to get this done. Everyone was busy re-locating. We sent a telegram to my sister and brother in law to come immediately and take our younger siblings with them. I and my father worked day and night to cut the coconut. My brother in law took few workers with him from his town, who helped us dismantle our house.
Two weeks passed and few houses close to the mouth of the river collapsed due to loose foundation. Nights were more horrible. The sea water would rise from below and pull the nearby coconut trees upside down. People mourned everywhere. Our farm and house was not very far from the sea. Within another week, trees from our farm started turning upside down. We were not even half done in shifting the coconuts and it seemed like we had hardly a weeks’ time to relocate.
My parents were in a dilemma whether to transfer the coconuts first or the costly wood. We had only one truck and transferring coconuts were easier than the wood. Though the wood had all sentiments attached we had to concentrate shifting the coconuts. Water slowly surrounded our entire place. My father asked my mother to leave to my sister’s place.
My father predicted to have 5 more days in hand to shift the rest of the stuff. He planned to cut as much coconut as possible on the first day and send it uphill on second and third day. And on fourth and fifth day, he thought of transferring the costly wood from the dismantled house. We worked day and night in the heavy rain. We were satisfied with the amount of work we could do on the second day. But the rescue squad which arrived there on the third day forced all of us to leave the place immediately. There were cries all over the place. We had to leave the place with whatever little wood we could carry. A day after or two, we heard that the entire area was submerged in the sea.
Coming years were even tougher. We had no place to live and very less money to survive. Though things changed after ten years, the horrendous experience had everlasting effect on my parents. Now after 50 years or so, the place is slowly rising amidst the water and has formed an island, pulling out all those old painful memories.
“Grandpa! See what we got for you” my two little angels came running to me. “It is an old coin Grandpa. It was buried in the sand.” I took the one ana from their little hand and looked at the far island of painful reminiscence.