Tsunami - going back, coming around
I think I was waiting for all the dust to die down. The dust that the first anniversary raised, almost as high as the first destructive wave of water.
I will not rush, fall and tumble in the urgency to tell the tales, I thought. And when they are all done, I told myself, I will tell my tale, just the way I want to.
You know why going back was good now? Because everything is coming around, you see. Everything is live, finally. Now, when you go back they ignore you, your flashing cameras, your black spiral notebooks, your imported sun block. Because they are busy fishing, mending nets, stiching raw fish bait onto small steel hooks, running their petty shops by the beach.
The memorial plants I had once written so elaborately about are dead; black wiry casurina stumps on dry ground. It makes a friend sad, but it makes me glad because I think the fishermen have better to do than carry garish blue-green buckets of water to memorial plants and sit by the saplings, forgetting the water, washing them with tears. The only salt that crusts on their cheeks now is the salt that they are used to; the residual salt from the sea-spray evaporating under a blinding sun.
For me though, the biggest hope is in the children, those who lived, those who survived and those who were born. Krishna and Amirthana were children of the tsunami, born on the morning of December 26, 2004. The two survived as the mothers scooped them up and stood on the only bed in the Akkaraipettai Health sub centre, in Nagapattinam and the fathers ran, clutching spouse and kid overhead, above water.
As if in penance for having borne the dead after the tsunami (all the bodies were piled up there), the Akkaraipettai Health Sub Centre decided to give life, on the first anniversary of the disaster. A healthy male boy was born, all of 2.75 kgs on the morning of the anniversary.
On the roads, little children waddle past in school uniforms. One of them, in a green skirt, stops and says to me, "English madam." "Who? Me? I'm one of you," I say. "Really?!" she wonders in amazement. I pull off my shades and cap.
"O.k. then give me your cell phone," Priya says.
"And what will you do with it?" I ask her.
"I want to call my teacher. But I don't know how to call her. So you do it for me."
"O.k. tell me her number... " She reels seven numbers in quick succession, but can't remember the last three.
Pouting, she says, "I cannot remember. Are you sure this is not enough?"
"No, baby. This won't do. I'll wait for you, go bring her number."
"It's o.k. I'll see her at school tomorrow. My house went off in the tsunami. But we have a house now," Priya says, tugging at the eaten-edge of her white school shirt. I give her a couple of biscuits and taking them, she thanks me. And thinks it fit to end the conversation with the booty, "Byeeee..." she said. And swishing her skirt, she walks away.
You must agree, it can't get more normal can it? That is why the going back was good.