The havoc wreaked by the recent Tsunamis in Japan has made me re-live the horror of 2004 and brought back to memory many of the related incidents. One such sad incident involved an ill-fated police inspector of bad repute who was amazed by the extensive low tide and rushed to explore the newly exposed sands for pearl shells on his new bike. That became his last journey as he was surrounded by many feet high mud springs splattering from underneath the sand and that was the last time he was seen. There was another man of similar repute on another island with a better(?) fate...
He was known to one and all as 'Raghu's Father' in the nondescript town of Shivpur. Raghu was still a middle school student while his friends were about to complete their schooling and was better known as a notorious character. Not every one was known by his children's names in Shivpur. It depended on who, the father or the son, was known more.
Raghu's father was a lineman in the electricity department and his job ensured that local drink 'Handiya' never ran out of supply for him. He made the best use of his wages by keeping himself drunk day in and day out. He was the last person to be called in case of any line faults as no one wanted to put his life in danger. Sooner than later it started creating problems, especially when he was the only lineman on duty at night and a minor rainstorm disrupted the town's power supply. Complaints against him started escalating and he was eventually punished by being transferred to a remote island of Kanata with a population count of double digits. Some suspected that this disciplinary action was a boon in disguise for him as it gave him the opportunity to drink more freely and frequently.
Almost all of the houses on the Kanata Island were beach facing and presented an exotic sea view. This arrangement was for rather practical than aesthetic reasons. The land was flat for a few meters along the shore and the rest of the island was hilly. There was a dispensary atop the hill and a single narrow winding road led to it. A huge party was held there on Christmas night and people returned home at midnight, heavily inebriated. The compounder had to stay behind as the Engineer Sahib was taken ill after the heavy bout of drinking. Power supply was disrupted at three in the morning and by five all the candles were exhausted. It was now that the compounder started for lineman's house. He had a very tough time waking him up and it was already six by the time they could start back for the dispensary. The compounder was still wondering how he could manage to wake up the drunk lineman.
Suddenly there was a huge roar. The compounder thought he was hit on head by the drunk man. The drunk man thought he was dreaming. The roar continued and appeared to be approaching near. The compounder turned behind to see a huge wall of water approaching and he froze. It was now the turn of the drunk man to turn back and see his house being engulfed in water along with everybody else's. For a fraction of second he thought he saw a couple of souls trying to run away from water and failing to do so. He shook the frozen compounder by the shoulder and both of them started running frantically towards the dispensary. When they looked back the next time, it appeared that they had landed on a new island which seemed to have suddenly risen above the sea waters. There was no sight of the till now existing civilization.
The news of Kanata's destruction reached Shivpur after four days. By that time, every one had already assumed that not a single soul would have survived there. There was mourning at Raghu's house and people were already discussing who should take up the job that will be offered on compassionate grounds. Some rooted for his mother taking up the work, others supported Raghu. But everyone was generally relieved that the family could finally get rid of the drunkard. It was a scene of mixed emotions.
Soon it was first January. Unlike previous years, it was a day of despair and mourning. The ten o'clock bus brought an unbelievable piece of news. An engineer, a compounder, a carpenter and a lineman from Shivpur were the only four survivors on the Kanata Island. The crowd started towards Raghu's house with mixed emotions once again. In his mother's own words, 'the Almighty had kept me on slow poison, then he paused only to resume with a higher dose.'