by Rema Nair
(Cochin, Kerala, India)
Laxmi sat at her door steps looking at the distant sea.The waves breaking into the sea shore were enormous. Sea with all its magnificence is so deceptive. The same sea which filled thrill in her, now sends shivers down her spine. The sea took her two most precious lives - her husband and son, and the sea also took thousands of other lives. Like all deceptive characters the sea too behaves as if nothing happened and continues with its dancing waves,sometimes soothing sometimes intimidating and many times beckoning to join it and enjoy the cool frothing water.
It is almost three years since Laxmi started her vigil at her doorsteps. She felt that from those frothing waves her dear ones would materialize and come holding their hands. At first her neighbours tried to reason with her, later they left her to fate and loneliness.
It was on a cold December morning that she decided to visit the hill top temple along with a few of her friends. By the time she returned it was too late. What a mayhem!! She could hardly see any thing, the entire bustling village had transformed into a battleground with bodies and belongings vying with each other to find a space. Everything was beyond comprehension. What she called her home was nowhere to be seen. Listlessly she wandered, at times she sat near the spot where she thought her house stood, too stunned to utter even a feeble cry.
When she regained her consciousness she was in a camp along with thousands of others sharing her same fate. After a week or so she silently slipped away from
the camp and came to her shaty and tried to salvage whatever she could. She wanted to make it at least livable so that when her husband and son return they should have a cover over their head for she firmly believed that her family would return and it was for this purpose that God had spared her life. Daily she set out to neighbouring villages in search of her missing family. At night she prepared her husband's favorite dish in case they returned at night and kept her kerosine lamp burning. Her quest went on, days changed into months and then years. Sometimes despair and disappointment crept in, but her firm belief in the hilltop God kept her going.
One night she had her food and as she dozed off,she heard a faint knock and footsteps. With thumping heart she opened her door! A crumbled form of a child was on her door steps! She quickly brought him inside, washed and fed him but she could not make out what he was speaking, he was speaking a different tongue!
Next day the village folk gathered and advised her to hand over the child to the police for it was quite evident that it was not her son. Laxmi tried to placate the terrified boy and thought about the advice given by the elders. The innocent face of the child craving for love and care tore her heart. Finally, she made her decision,her quest ends here, she quickly gathered whatever she could and holding the hand of the child slipped into the darkness of night to a different destination and a new identity. ***