SURVIVING… ( Part 1)

She looked at the clock. It was past 9.00 AM. The cool December air was making her too lazy to leave the bed. She closed her eyes and snuggled back into the blanket. “What the hell..! It is one day after Christmas and I have atleast six days to laze around like this before routine takes over” she told herself mentally as she tried to get back to sleep.

“ Hello sleepy head” he whispered into her ears. She smiled with her eyes closed and tried to get back to sleep.

“ Hey stop it..” she murmured as her husband tried to entice her into wakefulness.

“Stop what ?” he whispered again.

“Amma, wake up. Priya akka is here. She has a strange story to tell” shouted Mini as she barged into the room.

She got up. The moment was lost.. ! She slowly made her way to the bathroom, passing Priya, their domestic help on the way.

Priya was agog with information. “Akka, you know there is something strange happening. I heard that the sea waves have washed away the buildings around the Marina beach”

“Don’t  be crazy” she muttered as she continued brushing her teeth.

“Amma can we go to the Marina and see what is happening” asked Mini jumping up and down  with excitement.

“I don’t know please ask Appa” she said as she wiped her face

When she emerged from the bathroom she found her husband in front of the television watching the news. There seemed to have been an earthquake in Indonesia which had caused some tidal action along the east coast of India.

“What is this all about” she asked as she poured out the coffee from the flask into her cup.

“Tsunami” !  he said grimly.

“Tsunami..? But isn’t that a Japanese thing?” she asked puzzled.

“Well apparently, it is also an Indian reality. Huge killer waves have caused havoc along the east coast. Nagapattinam is the worst hit” he said.

“Nagapattinam.. don’t tell  me!” she said, her eyes widening with horror

“ I tried calling Sister Veronica in Tranquebar. Unable to get her” he said before she could ask ..

Tranquebar or Tarangampadi.. the beautiful little Danish settlement on the east coast. A fort on a cliff , some lovely period buildings, a convent, a printing press and a school, besides a ruined bungalow belonging to a former Danish governor.

When they had first visited the place in 1995, she had absolutely fallen under its spell!


He was a fisheries economist who had approached the NGO  she was working with to help him gather data on fish catches along the east coast of India. A NRI, he could only speak halting Tamil. She was deputed by her boss to help him with translation.

After spending about two weeks with him traipsing along the various fishing villages, she was ready to quit the assignment. She spoke to her boss about it “ he is so pompous and sarcastic!  Is it my fault that I am vegetarian? And anyway, who said that only people who eat fish can understand fisheries and fishing communities”

Her boss, a former  Jesuit Priest was a very wise man. He had selected her to accompany this man because he felt that this would be a good opportunity for her to understand the fishing community. She was still fresh from college and few could orient her better than this visiting scholar from abroad. He decided to have a word with this fellow to be kind to the girl.

When they boarded the train at Egmore railway station  that evening, she was preparing herself for another round of sarcastic conversation. She had decided that she would not rise to the bait this time. She looked at the reservation chart. “Arrived” he had scribbled against his name! “What an ass! Is there no better way to let me know that he has reached the station” she muttered to herself as she got into the first class compartment. She dumped her back pack on the lower berth , took out a novel and started reading it.

She looked out on to the platform – the idiot was getting into the coach with two cups of coffee in his hands “What is this great book that you are reading” he asked her with a grin offering her a cup of coffee. “Umm let me see.. who is the writer – Penny Jordan. Is she related to Jane Austen?”

“Thanks for the coffee but the rest is none of your business. ” she said taking the cup from him and  burying her face back into the book.

Meanwhile there was some commotion outside on the corridor. A horde of policemen were getting into the coach. And along with them was an extremely fat woman laden with gold jewellery. She was obviously a VIP-wife of some high ranking police honcho.

“Is she travelling or is she moving  house” he asked the girl. She could not help giggling. Meanwhile, the people who had come to see her off began to arrange her luggage across the four berth compartment- pushing to one corner the two back packs that the duo carried with them.

The train started and the lady settled herself comfortably. He was staring at her open mouthed! “Is all that jewellery on her real ?” he whispered into the girl’s ears. She nodded. “ Her husband must be either very rich or very corrupt” he said. “Shh.! “ she said trying not to laugh. She was afraid that the lady would hear them. “Don’t bother I doubt she knows anything other than Tamil” he said with a laugh. “And anyway she is not going to understand this British accent of yours. By the way, where did you pick it up? You have been abroad only for a few years now. You said your parents are in Kerala” she asked him

“ This is Malayali English” he said with mock seriousness. She burst out laughing.

He took hold of her book and started reading aloud from the page she was on           “ her heart was beating aloud. She could feel the heat of his body through his shirt” She grabbed the book from him. It felt ridiculous when someone read aloud from a romance novel like this.

The lady on the opposite seat wanted to sleep. She instructed them to stop talking and switched off the lights.

The train was rattling along the quiet countryside. A meter gauge coach, the lower berth was just big enough for both of them to sit comfortably along with their back packs. She looked out of the window. The moon was out and the entire countryside was bathed silver in the light.

“When do we reach Nagapattinam?” he asked her/  “We don’t reach Nagapattinam. This train goes to Mayiladuthurai” she snapped angrily at him. Idiot! He had spoiled the magic of the moon.

“Sorry! I did not mean to disturb your dreams about the handsome hero of your book” he  said softly in  mock apology/

“How do you know I was dreaming?” she challenged him..

“Oh, I can easily tell.  I have spent more than a month in your company” he said with a smile.

“Get on to your berth and go to sleep” she said with mock stern ness

“Madam, this is my berth! Yours is the upper one” he said laughing!

“Then you go up. I want to sit here by the window” she said

“Okay. Your wish. Happy dreaming..” he said as he clamoured up to the top bunk. She looked up to make sure that he was settled so that he would not trouble her again with his annoying remarks. She giggled as she saw his feet dangle from one end of the berth.

“Don’t laugh! If I had known that these berths were designed for midgets like you I would have taken a bus” he grumbled adjusting his six foot something frame on it!

The lady on the opposite berth was snoring very loudly. The moon was still beautiful but the spell was broken. She sighed and stretched herself out using her back pack as a pillow.

Eight more hours to go for Mayiladuthurai. The train was slated to get there by 5 AM. There was a bus for Tarangampadi that left from the railway station by 6.00 AM. Sister Veronica at the convent there had been informed about their visit. She had agreed to let them stay at their training centre.

Tarangampadi.. the place of the dancing waves. She was looking forward to the visit!

( to be continued)


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. KP
    May 07, 2012 @ 20:12:43

    Great start.Looking forward to the next part


  2. Jack
    May 07, 2012 @ 21:33:52


    And I am looking forward to the next part.

    Take care


  3. Bikramjit Singh Mann
    May 07, 2012 @ 22:08:56

    wow a long post , took me long ot read it all ..
    so when you putting part 2 then 🙂 lovely start to the story


  4. Meera
    May 08, 2012 @ 17:30:22

    @ Bikram.. sorry it is so long..! I tried my best to cut it short but somehow some parts are just not ” editable” ( if there is such a word) 🙂


  5. Kameshwari-kate
    May 08, 2012 @ 21:38:09

    I enjoyed how I could feel like I was a passenger in the train car. When the extremely fat woman bombarded the car, I had a good sense of her presence that remained along with her snores. You give good visual descriptions. I’m glad I waited until part 2 arrived, because I can head there right now.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: