‘Varun, please pull me up. Please, Varun. Don’t do this to me. Not now. Please.’
 
Her shrieks were no match to the sound of the dark sea that funneled into our balcony. I was on the terrace of the beach house, with the soup of debris and water rushing around it. It was already raised above the sunshade where Rebecca had taken refuge. From her cries, I knew that the water had reached her chest. I did not dare to peer out and look at her dying eyes. After all, I was the one who locked the balcony from the outside, abandoning her to the watery grave. I might not live to tell the tale but I knew I was a murderer.
 

I heard water’s wrath drown out the sharp scream of my wife. As if the flooding sea was not deadly enough, debris collected along the way, large shards of wood and glass, broken lamp posts, tumbling cars and trucks were all hurtling by, ready to annihilate anything on their way. I saw several limp bodies hurrying by, probably some unlucky fisherfolks, who went out to fish early. From where I was crouching, I could see the water churning and twisting around the buildings and the landscape.

 
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — –
 
This year, 2004, started well. Our business venture, Hunger Pangs, a food delivery business, which delivered any meal, any time, at the doorstep with just a phone call, was doing great.
 
Mobile phones were becoming common and we stood we stood to gain by it. Soon we were planning to take orders through the net as well. Rebecca, Nitin and I pooled in to start the venture. I was able to pay off what I owed my father in the first year. So now I owned 60 percent of the company, while Rebecca and Nitin owned 20 percent each.
 
Meanwhile, Rebecca and I were going to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and I had made a down payment for our small beach house near Mahabalipuram. I was going to surprise her on our anniversary with the house.
 
Nitin had grown morose lately. But with a large family looking up to his financial support, I assumed it was expected.
 
I saw a child, not more than five years old, clutching his mother, inside a locked car. It was fast filling with water, as it floated by him.
 
What would the mother do?
 
Open the door and brave the eddy sea or resign to slow drowning?
 
The eyes of the mother and the child would haunt me forever. My eyes would stay with them too. After all, nothing bawled fear and helplessness as much as the eyes do.
 
The sea rushed through the balustrade and was fast filling the terrace and I climbed up the roof of the water tank. As I waited for the water to sweep me away, I thought about Rebecca and her betrayal that brought him here on the fateful Sunday morning of December 2004.
 
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — –
 
I didn’t want to be the mistrusting husband. But I heard things, a word here, a look there and I turned a blind eye to them. Soon, I could not dismiss them totally. Why would something always crop up, when I had left the office already. Was I overreacting?
 
On the Christmas evening of 2004, she seemed to be very restless. With Nitin being away, two of us had been on our feet all day long. Weekends were usually busy, especially during vacations. We returned late to our apartment. She took a phone call in the balcony and from then on she acted weirdly. The next day was a Sunday and we knew it would be hectic. Out of the blue, Rebecca said she would be late to the office tomorrow. She was going out early and would meet me in the office, she said. I started to protest but was too tired to fight after a long day.
 
It was December 26, the boxing day. I woke up to the sound of our apartment door closing. The alarm went off beeping incessantly at 6.30 o clock.
 
6.30 Indian Standard Time-The third largest earthquake ever recorded rips the ocean bed, off the coast of Sumatra, with the power of 1500 atomic bombs. It lasts for 10 minutes and sets off a giant ripple, waves soaring several hundred feet high.
 
Would I be a paranoid husband if I follow her? I thought. Fifteen minutes later, I was following her in my car at a safe distance and intuitively, I knew she was going to our beach house.
 
6.45 Indian Standard Time-Andaman and Nicobar islands are the first to be hit in the Bay of Bengal. The indigenous tribe of Andaman and Nicobar scramble up the higher planes after mild tremors. But 1900 unfortunate people die when the wave hit their islands.
 
After an hour, about 7.30 as in my dashboard clock, I was in the bylane leading to my beach house. The crisp morning breeze did not distract my sullen mood.
 
7.30 Indian Standard Time-The tsunami wave, reaches Phuket, snuffing out more than 6000 lives in minutes, many of them tourists, belonging to 37 different countries.
 
I saw her car parked on the porch and I left mine on the road and sneaked into my beach house. When I entered the house, I heard voices from the balcony of the first floor. As I stealthily climbed up, I could hear the sea waves at a distance. I hid in a niche that framed a large window, which gave an expansive view of the sea. I noticed something strange. The sea was receding fast, baring its seabed. I saw a family of four, two kids and their parents being animated about the bizarre way the sea acted that day.
 
Is it ominous or just a small glitch in the pattern? Rebecca’s voice took my attention away from the water.
 
‘Please be practical, Nitin. You should marry the girl your parents have in mind. Did my marriage come between us? Nothing will change between us. We will find a way to work around it, just as how we found a way when I was married.’ Rebecca’s voice hit me like a whip. My throat went dry.
 
‘But I cannot do that to an innocent girl’ Nitin pleaded. ‘Stop acting ‘holier than thou’. If I had not married, we both could never afford the kind of life we have now. We would be stuck with a 9 to 5 job, eagerly waiting for our pittance every month.’ Rebecca justified her actions.
 
I could not take it anymore and I come out to face them. It was precisely 8.32 on the wall clock when my cheating wife said, it was not what it was looking like. The time would have not made a difference in a situation I was in if it had not been 26th of December 2004. Nitin moved away from me all the while repeating that he was sorry.
 
8.32 Indian Standard Time, Tsunami hits Sri Lanka and Southern India. Tamil Nadu paid the highest price of 16400 deaths and many more fatalities. Worst affected is Nagapattinam, a fishing town that protrudes sharply into the Bay of Bengal. 
 
With their back facing the sea, Rebecca and Nitin, were pitifully trying to explain themselves. But my eyes screwed at the sea beyond them. There was something there that was more sinister than them. There was a huge wall of water approaching us at a great speed. They followed my gaze and realized the grave danger we were in. I bolted up the stairs leading to the terrace. I could hear them following me along with the deafening sound of approaching doom. I stepped out on the terrace just in time to lock it from outside, when the first wave hit the land. The sea flattened out the coconut trees lining the beach in seconds and took with it whatever stood on the way.
 
I could hear Rebecca’s voice pleading with me to let them out. I could not hear Nitin though. Rebecca had gone back to the flooding balcony and climbed on to the sunshade of the first-floor window and tried reaching the terrace. I continued to ignore my unfaithful wife’s cry. I waited patiently for my turn. A motor trawler swirled in my direction. Before I could act, it dashed against me with all the might, crushing the whole of my left side. As I blacked out, I saw the child’s eyes fading into darkness.
 
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — –
 
‘He is alive. Want some help here. This man is breathing’ I heard the relief workers as they pulled me out of the viscous sludge, one mile away from the place which was my beach house once. The rescuers were taken aback by my hysterical laughter. But nothing shocked them anymore, not after what all they saw on that fateful day.
 
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — –
 
He would have liked to boast that he cheated death. He would have liked to brag that he got away with two murder. But, he had other things in his mind now. He had soiled his diapers and his attendant hated to change it. It would then involve some physical and mental assault. Wouldn’t death be a boon? He thought as he was lying immobile in his bed.
 
The Tsunami of 2004 is one of the deadliest natural disasters, killing around 3,00,000, its deadly trail extending as far as Africa, 8000 miles away from the epicentre. It left a staggering 5,00,000 people homeless.
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