~~Overcast sky, a coffee mug in hand, soft Mohd. Rafi numbers playing in the background and a hammock to laze in, made the perfect setting for Supriya to shed the byproduct that life brings along with it, that is, stress. And there from the comforts of her hammock in the sea-facing bungalow, the surreal waves looked magnanimous when they rose up high almost touching the sky and then lashed on the beaches with a ‘never say die’ attitude.
As she lay there letting the music soothe her nerves and the windy breeze play with the strands of hair on her face, her 14-year-old son Saransh came running to her and said, “Mummy can I please go out with friends for that special plan I told you about yesterday.” Saransh had planned for kayaking and fishing with friends in the neighbourhood, but Supriya was hesitant to let him go. However the young teenager coaxed out mommy's permission by promising to wear safety vests and not being adventurous while out in the sea.
That was circa 2004, in the tiny hamlet of Nagakollam where Supriya went for her annual ritual, detoxifying her mind, body and soul. The much sought after annual getaway that she always looked forward to since she was a child. Earlier it used to be the eagerness to meet her maternal grandparents, talk to the waves, build sand castles and try some hands at fishing with the local fishermen, which attracted Supriya to Nagakollam. But now as a professional interior designer, worn out between juggling roles of a mother to a teenager, wife to a busy bee investment banker and the demands of a highly creative job, Supriya sees Nagakollam as that island of tranquility where family time and rediscovering herself are the only things that she concentrates on. Her relationship with this place was more than three decades old. This was the place where the little carefree Supriya interacted with nature as a child, the place where she met her soul mate, and in fact this was the place where she felt her baby for the very first time. Though her grandparents were no more, the beach side hamlet was like a matriarch figure for Supriya that gave her all the joys of life.
After her son Saransh left for his day out with friends, and she knew her husband Arjun was sleeping in the bedroom, Supriya lay cocooned in her world soaking in every bit of tranquility that she could. After all, it was just the last two weeks of the year that she got to spend in this place. Lazily lying on the hammock without the tension of deadlines to meet and timetables to maintain for son, work and husband, she travelled back in time recalling her childhood days in this place. As a child she loved watching the azure skies which played ‘catch me if you can’ with the roaring sea at the horizon. Then the young Supriya, a college girl came visiting her grandparents. She used to love the beauty of the sunrise and the sunset here. Supriya used to spend hours watching the lovely hues the sky got painted in during twilight. It was during one such sunrise moment that she came across this hobbyist photographer, visiting his relatives, who was equally enthralled with the beauty of the place, but at that point seemed slightly more interested in Supriya’s beauty than that of the sunrise. That’s how she met Arjun who later went on to become the love of her life, and then her husband.
After marriage, though her visits to her grandparents place reduced, she always made it a point that she was with them to celebrate the New Year every year. And the ritual continued, even after her grandparents passed away. She had inherited their house and so she made it a point that each year she would continue to bid adieu to the present year and ring in the New Year in that special place, which always made her feel alive and kicking. “Oh yes! It was here that I had felt the first kick from baby Saransh growing within me,” thought Supriya to herself while tears welled up her eyes.
Unnoticed by the reminiscing Supriya, somewhere nearby, something else was also welling up. It was the sea that seemed to be bellowing and hungrily approaching towards the land masses with a vengeance. Wrapped in her own world Supriya had failed to notice the sudden emptiness of the beach in the past few minutes. She was jolted back to the present with the piercing words, “Amma, where is Saransh Baba? We have to run; the sea has become a monster.” It was her cook Parvathi, who was calling out frantically from the gate, as she came running towards her. That was when Supriya realized that there were monstrous waves that seemed to be right behind Parvathi. Something was wrong, for sure. The beautiful blue sea and the waves playing on them had never seemed so hideous. Her husband Arjun came running out of the house, and she saw the look of horror in his eyes. Supriya still could not register the unfolding calamity in this place that was dear to her. She did not like the sight of the monstrous waves, and her mind was transfixed on Saransh. She was just trying to recall how long ago he had left and was hoping against all hopes that he had not ventured out for his kayaking plan with friends.
At that thought, she sprang to her feet and darted out of the bungalow, almost colliding head- on with the huge waves, as her husband and cook kept calling out her name and followed her. Supriya kept running into many of the neighbouring, now-empty houses through their wide open doors; in others, there were people who were on their way out, trying to run as far inland as possible and save themselves from the vengeance of the waves. She kept hoping that she would see Saransh with his friends running out towards her from one of these houses. Her mind was a kaleidoscope of thoughts; what if Saransh and his friends got delayed in preparing for kayaking? What if one of his friends was not well and they had cancelled the plan? What if they were still in one of the friends’ house instead of being in the violent, unruly sea that seemed to be ruthless beyond imagination? After all it was not more than an hour ago that Saransh had bid adieu to mommy before going to the friend’s place, where they were supposed to meet before heading out to the sea.
Supriya found herself wading through waist deep water, in the neighbourhood where she loved strolling. Her eyes were looking for Saransh in every possible corner, her ears straining to hear him calling out “Mummy, I am here”, amidst those roaring waves. She wanted to go to the beach and wait for him, to see him return safely, from those gigantic waves. It was a mother’s hope and she felt that it would be true. Nagakollam was her place, it knew her so well, and it had nourished her, now it can’t devour her son. This place had given her so much, now it cannot take away her everything. Her eyes looked far and wide, searching the beach where she could go and wait for her son. But there was no beach anywhere. It was just gushing waters all around her and far beyond there was the turbulent sea which had suddenly metamorphosed into the cruelest carnivorous predator on earth.
Supriya felt lost. She had never before seen the beautiful sea in this monstrous avatar. Her hamlet looked different to her. She had never before seen fear, death, and tragedy from such close quarters. While looking for Saransh, she saw all kinds of things floating beside her. Be it the most precious of material possessions or the priceless relations of people in the neighbourhood. She could not bear the sight of corpses floating around her. She was already in chest deep water and calling out for Saransh. Her husband Arjun and her cook Parvathi, who had followed her, were also nowhere to be seen. She was surrounded by floating objects, lifeless bodies and helpless people holding on to their dear lives. Amidst the roaring sound of the gigantic waves, she suddenly felt that there was no ground beneath her feet and that she was engulfed by the rough clutches of humongous waves. She closed her eyes and thought to herself “the waves will take me to where Saransh is; dead or alive, we will meet.”
And then Supriya woke up, in a plush room, with satin bed spread and soft coloured curtains that blocked the bright rays of the sun. She thought it was heaven and expected to find her near and dear ones there, hoping she had left the hideous past of Earth far behind her. But then she saw the white robed doctor and realized that it was a hospital, and standing next to her bed were her husband and parents. “Saransh? Where is he? Did he return back safe from kayaking?” were her first words. There was no response from any of them. Her parents and husband had their heads hanging low, avoiding eye contact with her, as if they had failed her expectation. Supriya was not willing to take no for an answer. She wanted to stand up, but she could not. The IV(Intravenous fluid) wired to her held her back. She wanted to take them off and go to the beach to look for Saransh. She thought that he might be waiting for mummy to bring him inside. But the nurses and doctors held her back. She wanted to free herself from their clutches, unlike what she had done with the waves when they were engulfing her. She thought the waves would take her to her son, but they didn’t. Now she herself wanted to go out, but the doctors won’t let her. She was frantically calling out for Saransh and trying to run out, but her husband held her tight, looked into her eye and told her that it was a fortnight since the Tsunami had ravaged Nagakollam and that rescue operations were still on, but there was no trace of Saransh yet.
That was it. Supriya didn’t want to hear or speak anything from that moment. She could not believe Nagakollam had taken her son away. Though she was discharged from the hospital as her physical injuries had healed, but her mental scars were far too deep. Supriya had lost herself, her world in Nagakollam. Nothing meant anything to her now. She gave up work; in fact she gave up on life. She was living with Arjun and her parents, but living was just breathing to her and nothing else. Months rolled to years, a couple of them, and Supriya didn’t seem to be healing.
That was when her parents took her to Nagakollam saying that they had decided to sell off the house and that she can go there for one last time, if she wanted to. Reluctantly she went, just hoping to relive Saransh’s voice as she had heard it the last time. The minute she stepped inside the house she heard “Mummy, I am back.” And she fainted. This time she woke up in the bedroom of her house in Nagakollam and she found her husband Arjun and her parents standing next to her bed, beaming with joy. In her heart she felt that Saransh was coming back and the white robed doctor in the room nodded his head and smiled to her saying “Yes, you are pregnant.” Nagakollam was indeed the matriarch, as it was here that she felt Saransh coming back to her again!