Repossession by Fehmida Zakeer

It was still dark. Cream coloured moon beams travelled past wispy clouds and lighted up the expanse of water all around. Waves crashed on the sentinel of rocks guarding the tiny slice of land sitting by the much travelled waters.

The old man came out of his hut and looked into the far horizon. He sighed and looked down towards the cluster of huts dotted on the sides of the small hillock sloping into the beachside coconut grove. There too everything was still and silent, except for the sound of waves caressing the land every now and then.

He shook his head and went back to his tiny hut. But instead of going back to sleep he sat cross legged on the rough fibre mat on the floor and closed his eyes. He sat thus, unmoving, even when men and women from the huts groped their way down the sandy path towards their boats to eke out their livelihood.

Moments later his eyes flew open at the unusual cacophony of sounds from below and he quickly got up to investigate -- the dark canopy above had given way to swirls of pinks and blues, yellows and reds -- men, women and children were running out of their houses with plastic tubs and buckets of all shapes and sizes. A woman stopped when she saw him and walked up -- she folded her hands and bowed, “Swamiji you have brought us great luck. Only one month since you’ ve come and you’ ve done this miracle." She pointed to the sea and he turned to look at it.

He inhaled sharply at the sight in front even as the woman went on speaking breathlessly, inching away from him all the while.

“Fishes, crabs, mussels, all for our taking without any trouble, we don’t have to go out to the sea today, it has opened itself to us.!

She did not wait for a reply and ran to re-join her friends for their foray into the waterless sea bed where aquatic life the sea had sheltered for eons lay exposed, vulnerable.

“NO NO," he shouted, “Don’t go in, please, I beg you all. Don’t go into the sea; go back to your homes." His grey hair escaped from the neat knot it was always confined to and tangled with his long beard, sweat dripped from his forehead as he shouted to the people to stay away.

The fishermen pretended not to hear him and went as much further as possible, but the women could not ignore his pleas and paused. They conferred among themselves and decided to send back the children.

The children muttered and shot dark looks at the old man as they climbed up the hill. The Swami shook his head and his brow creased into a thousand little lines.

The men and women chattered and laughed as they filled up tubs and buckets.

Suddenly they heard a roaring sound and every one turned -- a high wall of water, seemingly higher than even their little hillock was racing towards them. The laden tubs collectively tumbled down scattering its contents while the hapless men and women tried to out run the massive waves. The sea had come back to regain the possessions it had momentarily exposed and was not in any mood to spare anyone on its path.

Zakeer c 2009

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