‘Tsunami Religion’ by Anjali Prashar (India)
Short story selected for the 2011 New Asian Writing Short Story Anthology Laughter and bells of happiness constantly rang from House No. 22 on Flute Avenue, a house which had otherwise been empty for the past few months. The three of them were always together and so joyful. Something about this man in his late forties and these two young girls that accompanied him made me want to know more about them, who they were and where they had come from. Mrs Wellington, a boisterous old lady who lived next-door to the newcomers, said: “They are a happy family, who have just moved into our neighbourhood. They have drawn a rainbow of happiness on the street!” I returned to work on Monday having forgotten about everyone but myself. The 30-minute long underground train journey into the City of London was not always the most interesting of journeys unless there was some good gossip in the ‘Metro’ newspaper. But today was going to be out of the ordinary. From the corner of my eye I spotted the Mr X from House No. 22 seated opposite me. At Baker Street, when the carriage was almost half empty, I got a chance to pull up beside him without any congestion charge. I took this train every morning and so did he and slowly our relationship culminated into a strong bond. Mr Karan Patel, a fine Indian gentleman, held a prestigious Chief Executive position in an American Company. What a perfect ‘global chutney!’ Mrs Neena Patel, his wife, had died from a brain tumour some years back, leaving behind a devastated husband and a shattered little angel named Meera. Karan decided he would never re-marry so, he brought up Meera on his own. A couple of years ago, they both decided to go for an exotic holiday and pinpointed Phuket as their chosen destination. Phuket is a beautiful, mostly mountainous island, set in the southern part of Thailand. They chose to go to Patong beach, as Meera loved eating bananas and Patong in Thai means ‘the forest filled with banana leaves.’ “Let’s celebrate Christmas on the beach,” she told her dad. That was it then. They landed at Phuket International Airport on Christmas Eve. It was party time. Jet-lagged or not, they were not going to miss the Christmas party at their hotel. But something bothered Meera: “I had this odd dream on the flight. Mom said to me that she was missing both of us and wanted us to be with her, but the time was not right! I don’t know what to make of the dream. Anyway, never mind, you and I will celebrate now.” For the rest of the evening, they discussed the next day’s plan and Meera expressed her wish to visit Kamala beach. On the morning of the 26th, they grabbed a quick breakfast and could not wait to jump into the blue waters. Meera was a great swimmer although try as hard as she would, she never managed to glide over the waves as her father could. She watched him as he swirled over the waves like a fish. She turned around to look for an ice-cream stall on the beach, then she turned back to look at her father. He wasn’t there! To her utmost horror, all she saw was a giant monstrous wave about thirty feet tall ready to consume the earth. *
“Happy New Year.” Karan tried to turn his head towards the voice. It ached as he slowly opened his eyes to a white uniform. The nurse had come for her daily round and was happy to see him finally out of his semi-conscious state. Karan held her hand and did not let go until the story unfolded along with her words. Tsunami! Where had he heard of this word before? Probably in a geography lesson at school. At a snail’s pace, it finally dawned on him. Meera’s dream! “No,” he told himself, “Meera cannot die. Neena had said the time was not right. I have to find her, and fast.” He tried to get up, but it was hard to move. His left leg was wrapped in bandages. He was relieved to find out that the bandages would be taken off that day and he would be discharged in two days. Up until now he had not looked around him. The effects...
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