Monday, January 25, 2010

Taste of Salt

A short story written a while back after a visit to a fisherman's village in Nagapattinam which even 3 years after the tsunami, resembled a ghost-town where time had stopped the day the wave hit shore.

“More fish?” asked Nagamma, ladle full of fiery curry poised mid-air.

“No, I’m full”.

Murugan pushed away the half-eaten plate of food and rose to wash his hands.

Walking outside he savoured briefly the sound of his sleeping daughter. Her tiny frame lay curled on the mat, sleeping the deep sleep only children know. A smile played at the corners of his mouth.

  Nagamma watching from behind her pot of rice knew it well. That smile tinged with sadness. It had come to rest on her husband’s face ever since the waves had come to their village.


Murugan balanced himself in his boat. He gathered the net and planted his feet. It had to be just right. Otherwise the net would land in the water with an ungainly plop instead of the graceful splash. The water was the deepest blue edged with gold from the rising sun.

But something was different that morning. A strange current kept rocking the boat, throwing Murugan off balance.

“Amma, let me cast my net so I can feed my children?” he addressed the sea as he often did.

 But that day she was in no mood for his entreaties.


 A year had passed since the Big Wave roared and claimed the fisherman’s village.

The boy had been sleeping outside. He would fall asleep on the sand after Murugan set out with the others, and awaken on their return. It was a ritual adored by both father and son.

That morning the waves reached shore much before the boats.

“High as palm trees. Loud as a ship” The survivors would tell camera crews and journalists again and again.

“My child”

“My mother”

“My family”


 “Murugan, the waves came and took everything!”

 Distraught, Nagamma clung to her husband who had become stiff as a tree. The only life left, streamed from his eyes.


Loss echoed through the village, down the highway, over the borders, through the television and into the ears of philanthropists. They came in droves to the little-village-that-was.

“We will rebuild it. No more huts on the beach” the Minister declared before his chopper sped away.

His audience returned the triumphant enumeration with mute stares. The new rehabilitation housing colony was to be set up 3 km away from the sea.


Murugan lay on his mat beside Nagamma staring at a hole in the thatch roof of his home by the beach.

“Why don’t you try to sleep Muruga?”

“I won’t be able to hear the waves Nagamma. Smell the salt. Or feel the sand in my house.”

Waving off a fly she closed her eyes.

“You weren’t there” she said. “When it happened, you weren’t there.”

Murugan was silent. He was listening to the distant rumble of the waves. In a few hours he would get up and push his boat into the water.

Turning on his side, Murugan stroked Nagamma’s forehead. She twitched slightly.

“I have lived as a fisherman as long as I can remember. And it is the only life I know how to live” said Murugan sensing his wife’s anguish.

“Do you know what I see each time we bring our boats ashore? I see land as I have never seen it before. Each day the waves have wiped the sand clean of yesterday’s battles. You will see. Tomorrow the sand will be free of yesterday” He said gently.

 “Get some sleep Muruga. The day will break soon.”

A solitary tear rolled down a fisherman’s sun-worn cheek and left the taste of salt in his mouth.



Monday, January 18, 2010

Greens are Good For You

I got to work on two fun projects last year. An informative book about plants and trees called 'Hari-Bhari' by Nirantar was one of them. Nirantar has a great track record as far as illustrations go so I was more than happy to work for them :)  These are just some of the illustrations that I made. I have always had a soft corner for all kinds of flora so this was right up my alley. 

Second fun project....coming up soon.