Sagar was mesmerised. The exquisitely formed Ganga swam past his desk. As she passed him, his eyes followed her every move. Her undulating, graceful movements hypnotised him to the point of distraction.

His eyes were drawn towards her perfectly formed, ample midriff and loved the way her figure gently tapered towards both extremities. Beautiful pearls adorned her earlobes and the webbing of her fingers.

Sagar had developed a crush on Ganga right from the first day of his first job; nay right from the day he had first swam into the office for his interview. She was the receptionist and the first thing he noticed were those almond eyes.

And when she asked him to wait, giving the sweetest smile in the ocean, her eyes non-blinking with only the eye membrane making its involuntarily, sideways movement across her eyes, he was drowned in their fathomless depths.

So here he was, working in the Design department of M/s. Galleria Reefs Private Limited, the biggest Construction firm in Mumbai Aqualture, having the biggest silent crush on the most beautiful woman his eyes had ever seen.

——

Mumbai Aqualture!

Though existing from times immemorial in the form of seven small seas, divided by landforms, the Aqualture was given its current homogeneous Sea form by the British, who saw its location as most suited for having their Base on the Greater Indian Aqualture, first for a Trading post and then as a seat of political power.

However, before that, they had to connect the seven small seas to the Greater Indian Aqualture by connecting them first to one another and then to the main water body.

They achieved this by blasting away the dividing land to connect the seven seas and then tunnelling through the remaining land to connect to the main water body of India.

Over a period of time they built strong coral structures for Administrative purposes in the southernmost part of Mumbai Aqualture which served as their seat of power.

They also built a network of dedicated routes through the waters which served the fast transportation needs of the native huphins as well their rulers from the far off British Aqualture. On this network of routes ran the lifeline of the seven seas, the Dolain.

The natives established their living coral colonies in the northern part of the Mumbai Aqualture, making daily to and fro journeys to the Administrative offices of the south.

——

It was in one such Coral Colony, in North Mumbai Aqualture, that Sagar had migrated to, from the deeper Ocean, Pune Aqualture. Every day he transited to the southern sea through the Dolain.

The Dolain was a chain of fast travelling, surface skimming vehicles which glided over the water, on well laid out routes, carrying the huphins from one end of the Aqualture to the other and back.

Sagar met his colleague, Ruthwik upon leaving the South Sea Dolain halt.

“Yaar, Ruthwik. You know I am madly in love with Ganga. At least, today, please set her up with me.”, pleaded Sagar with his more gregarious senior colleague, as they swam towards their office.

Ruthwik liked to play with his junior’s emotions. And Sagar’s infatuation with Ganga amused him.

“What do you mean, set her up? Come on, be a man, woo her. Why are you begging me almost everyday. Remember the saying; when you desire something with all your heart, the whole Universe conspires to make it happen.”

“Are you not part of the same Universe? Then why don’t you help me?”

And so their friendly banter continued as they entered their office at the topmost level and entered the drop. The drop was aesthetically designed with a flattened sea shell for a roof which allowed the sun rays to drown the drop in bright light.

But today there were 2-3 huphin shadows which were moving at rapid pace, working on the top of the office coral building, casting their shadows inside the drop.

——

Mr. Shyam Kripalani, the CEO of M/s. Galleria Reefs Private Limited was a worried man. Recently he had been on a walking trip in the lands near the Mumbai Aqualture. Specially designed footwear made it possible for the web footed huphins to walk on land and a face mask facilitated breathing in the air.

Though disguised as a pleasure trip, it had a more deep rooted reason. He was on a survey along with his top officials to reclaim more sea and extend the waters of the Aqualture; to have more water mass for their Coral construction company.

But what he saw on land worried him. Firstly there were more trees. More the trees meant more soil retaining capacity. It would make the task of reclaiming more difficult.

But more worrisome was the waterline mark on the obelisk standing near the land front. It was much lower than his last visit 1 year ago. Which meant the land mass was increasing; or rather, the water levels were falling.

And he was horrified to see the GR (Galleria Reefs) Logo, placed on top of his coral office building, peeping just above the sea level and shining brightly in the Sunshine. He knew that his building, if exposed for long under direct sunlight, would start getting brittle over time and might collapse. And the ebb and flow of the tides would worsen the situation.

“Sir, we built our building too tall, almost reaching the water surface. But we never conjectured the fall in water levels. We will have to do something about it”, said Raman, the Resident Architect.

“Raman, do you take me to be a fool, that you need to tell me the basic. The ocean salt is one of the key binding agents for any coral construction on the sea floor. Appoint few workmen to bathe the building top in ocean water daily, 24X7. And come up with a permanent solution within a week if you love your job”, thundered the Boss.

And though huphins don’t sweat, Raman broke into a sweat that day.

——

“Friends. Today I have called this meeting to discuss an urgent matter; a matter which will define our future. The future of us, huphins.”

The CEO, Mr. Kripalani had called an urgent meeting in the morning itself and all the main stakeholders in the Company were expected to be present.

The CEO, the main Architect Raman, the GM (Constructions) Raghav, the Finance head Ranganathan were present along with Ruthwik and Sagar, who represented the design department.

“Before we come to the point on hand, let me take you few years back. Nay, many centuries back; how we huphins evolved.”

Now evolution of huphins was a subject of secondary school but since the lesson was coming from the CEO, all present feigned interest. They glided forward in their aquaseats.

“All of you are aware about the alleged great nuclear war, some 10000-12000 years back. We Indians say, it was the Bharata war, the Europeans say it was the battle for Troy while some others say, it was the war in which ancestors of the Maya were involved”, the CEO had entered the story telling zone, as most people in apex positions do.

He continued, “Well, who fought or who won, or whether it really took place, does not interest us. But the fact is, the lands were rendered inhospitable, nay toxic due to some reason.”.

“Sir, it is also conjectured that the cause was entirely natural.”, it was Ruthwik.

The CEO glared at him but continued, “And the ancestors of the huphins, those land based surviving humans entered the waters, which though poisoned, were relatively hospitable”

While Sagar stole a glance at Ganga outside, through the transparent partition, the CEO continued.

“Year after year went by and the humans started adapting to the life in water. Since the air was still polluted, it was in their interest to remain under water for most part of their lives.”

“But Sir, how did they survive under water?”, Raman asked an intelligent question with wonder writ large in his eyes. He was yet to come up with a permanent solution so he had to retrieve his situation with the Boss.

“Good question Raman. It shows that you did not pay attention in your history nor in Biology lessons.” Every one laughed, after all the Boss was cracking a joke.

The CEO raised his hands with a smile which was a cue to all to cease laughing. He continued.

“They held their breath under water, their lung capacity increasing year on year, generation on generation. This resulted in bigger lungs, a bigger heart, subtly changing their appearance over generations. More and more, they mirrored the Dolphins.”

He continued, “The women lost their hourglass figures, the men their V-shaped torsos to be replaced by a bulging midriff.”

“Sir, let’s discuss the area of our interest now.”, Ruthwik interrupted.

The CEO gave a scowl but continued his monologue.

“Well, over a period of time, we huphins developed the art of construction by combining the stone quarried from land and the naturally occurring coral reefs to reach today’s sophistication in construction where we can control the speed of reef formation.”

“Today, though the stone percentage has decreased as compared to the past, it still makes up the skeleton of any construction of corals.”

Ruthwik was fidgeting with this unexpected lesson but since it was coming from the Boss, well Boss is always right.

On the other hand, Sagar was day dreaming. Already few cute little Sagars were playing around him when he was suddenly brought to his senses.

“Sagar!”, perhaps the CEO sensed the boredom in the Boardroom. “You’re the designer, right? What is the percentage of stone to coral in our constructions?”

The cute Sagars metamorphosed into a hammerheaded shark with a likeness to the CEO which then popped off his mind, and Sagar managed to mention the percentage.

“Henceforth increase the percentage of stone”

Sagar and Ruthwik looked at each other quizzically and then at the CEO.

“Shyam, increasing the stone content will affect our P&L. We are looking at huge investment in mining and transportation. Are we ready for it?“, the Finance Head interjected.

“Sir, if I may ask, what prompted this sudden decision? After all, we are doing fine with the current mix. There is no complaint from any of our sites.”, it was the GM Raghav’s turn to ask.

“Foresight, Raghav, foresight. Let’s have the laser show. Only three photos; three signs.”

Sagar glided through the water and switched on the laser projector.

The three pics were played in loop, while the CEO explained, “1. Thick green forests; we will have to work harder to reclaim sea by displacing the land. 2. Marker on the obelisk at lower level; sea levels are falling, means more land exposed. This is especially dangerous for a reclaimed sea like ours which is not so deep.”

The third image on the screen paused, focusing on the GR logo, shining above the sea level.

“Doesn’t it look gorgeous, Sir”, exclaimed Raghav.

“You never look beyond the obvious, do you, Raghav?”, exclaimed CEO, sarcastically.

Then he thundered in rage, “Was it supposed to be seen above the water level, Raghav? It wasn’t. But now you can see it. And even the top of the coral building is exposed. Can you comprehend the danger?”

A sudden realisation dawned on Raghav. “What do we do now Sir? How we protect our building against the elements?”

“Am I paying you to ask questions? I need solutions, not dumb questions.”

Then turning to Raman, “Are you ready with your solution, Raman? Did I not give you a whole week?”

“Sir, I have already put a few men on the job. They are constantly bathing the building top with sea water”

“Bullshit! That, I told you to do. That was temporary. Where are your brains!”. Then suddenly realising he was shouting, he brought down his tone.

“I need the solution from you, my friend”

Then turning to the others he said, “Now you understand my friends, why the percentage of stone in our constructions needs to increase. I foresee the pace of water level depletion increasing with time. Our coral towers need to be maintained at the highest levels, hence over a period of time, they will be exposed to the harsh sunlight and the elements. Only stone can give you that resilience.”

“Sir…I don’t know, but I have a wild suggestion. Why don’t we start re-locating back, on land? Then the entire construction can be with stone only, it is in perennial supply and we won’t have to worry about the falling water levels”

As everybody stared at him astounded, Sagar felt he suffered from the foot in mouth disease.

The CEO waved his hands to signal the end of discussions. At the end he had no workable solution yet and a very startling suggestion.

——

The waters across the global Aqualtures were rippling.

Every huphin had only one thing on their mind. Whether to gamble with life and grab a one in a million chance of making history, if all goes well.

The world famous GR constructions from the Indian Aqualture had recently announced their most ambitious project.

Branded “Conquering New Frontiers”, the project called on young people across the globe to be a part of a group which would make a historical attempt to colonise land once again and be the pioneers returning to the land of ancestors.

Of course, before that they had to undergo number of medical tests to ascertain their physical fitness, mainly concentrating on their endurance levels to withstand the naked environment of air, wind and the Sun.

Remaining away from the embryonic embrace of water for so long was one challenge, however the biggest challenge remained staying away from their loved ones.

As it always happens in any corporate office, the person giving a unique solution is asked to implement it, it fell on Sagar to fructify his outrageous vision.

It had been 2 years since Sagar had given his suggestion. Mr. Shyam Kripalani had given it serious thought for long, even though his other colleagues forgot all about it outside the Conference room, and slowly he made up his mind.

“Sagar, we have been discussing your suggestion for long and now I think the time has come to start implementing it. I have decided that I need an innovative and qualified person like you to head this important project which will define our future; the future of the huphins. Please think it over and let me know.”, the CEO made his move.

It was a no brainer for Sagar; he was going. He loved the little excursions on the green land, whenever he could find time away from office. He was not going to pass this opportunity, especially when Shyam said that his salary will get credited to his father’s account and an equal part will be his bonus if he succeeds in this ambitious project.

However he held his horses. “Sir, it is a great offer and I a honoured. However I need to discuss it first with my parents. Request you to give me a week off.”

——

Miles away from land, in the Pune Aqualture…

“Sagar, beta, are you sure you want to do this? I have never told you this but today I need to be open with you.”, Sagar’s father sounded worried.

“Tell me what Baba?”, Sagar was curious to know.

“It’s about your great-grandfather. He was hand picked by the British along with many others to establish their land colony. They wanted to mine the land for precious minerals but their own people were too fragile for it.”

“Either they succumbed to the intense heat or the mosquitoes feasted on their fair skin. We Indians were their Guinea pigs with benefits. They ran their medical labs to study the effects of Sun and the elements on huphins, while at the same time, used us for mining”, Sagar was now listening intently to his father.

“But Baba, how did great-grandfather get involved in all this?”, he asked incredulously.

“Do you think he had any choice? They just came and fished him up and carried him away.”

Baba’s eyes moistened as he recalled, “And one day they just dunked him off outside our adobe once he was of no use to them.”

“Why, what happened Baba?”, asked Sagar, holding his arm.

“He had pneumonia which didn’t allow him to work long hours. For them, he was done.”

Suddenly he remembered something. He swam frantically towards an old bag and opened it with shaking hands.

“Here. This is what I was searching for.”, and he pushed something in Sagar’s hand. “Read it. Your Great-grandfather recorded all his trials and tribulations on these parchments. But be careful, these are fragile.”

——

The volunteers for “Conquering New Frontiers” were ready for the training.

They had to undergo intense training for 6 months which involved walking daily on the designated strip of land, earmarked for training purpose, in those specially designed footwear for long hours, the face masks always attached.

Their leader Sagar led from the front, his enthusiasm heightened by the arrival of Ganga, in the group. Though she had been designated by the CEO to monitor the training process and report the progress to him, she too had to don the paraphernalia in order to survive.

The records kept by his great-grandfather came in handy for Sagar to foresee potential problems and solve them. This helped him in taking charge of the whole group, who looked up to him due to his cool and confident demeanour.

Ganga was intrigued by this leader. On one hand he was the epitome of confidence, always on top of the game, whenever directing the training activities.

On the other hand, whenever she tried to talk or discuss with him, he was nervousness personified. And she found this aspect of his, charming.

Soon they were exchanging smiles whenever their eyes met. Everything was going well for Sagar.

“Sagar, will you help me with the assessment? I feel there are a few individuals here, who are not able to cope with the daily activities. Can you go through this list?”, as she said this, she held his arm.

Written on the parchment was something else, something which made his heart miss a beat, “Shall we have dinner tonight?”

——

The dinner broke the final barriers of inhibition between them. Ganga’s request for joining the project on a full time basis had been granted and she joined the training earnestly.

Finally the day arrived.

Conquering New Frontiers” was officially launched and the group of 235 selected huphins were given a grand send off by the euphoric, excited masses let by CEO, Shyam Kripalani.

——

A diary entry of the CEO –

It is not known how huphin history will see these pioneers, on their way to explore and settle a new frontier.

Of course they will have to clear the jungles and mine the land for the construction raw material which might result in displacement of the original residents of the land, and in some cases, extinction of other species.

They would have to hunt for food and when they get bored, they would have to hunt for pleasure. But so what, a committed huphin is entitled to such luxuries in their spare time.

Somewhere down the line they would have to develop faster means of transportation on land; they would find their own solutions.

It is also possible that in future, the placental connection to the waters might get interrupted due to any reason. The resourceful huphins led by Sagar and supported by Ganga or their descendants would try and develop long lasting, non-bio degradable products so that they don’t waste time in producing new products.

In short they would do everything for the larger huphin good.”

Thanks for reading.

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