At the Seaside
At the Seaside
Ten-year-old Sami loved to visit his grandfather's house in Puthur in Tamil Nadu.
Grandpa's house was near the beautiful blue sea. At the seaside stood thick and tall palm trees with green coconuts hanging from them.
When the coconuts fell down, the children would break them open and drink the coconut water. Sami loved it there.
Sami liked to play with the rabbits and squirrels scampering about in the trees and bushes. He would go fishing in the little ponds with his friends. It was always great fun to spend the holidays at Grandpa's place.
This winter vacation, Sami was surprised when he came to his grandfather's village. There were hardly any trees left. What lay at the water's edge were mere sticks in heaps and mounds of mud. He saw houses built near the sea.
Logs, branches of trees and stones lay strewn around. People had cut down many palm trees and there was hardly any greenery left.
“Grandpa, where have all the trees gone?” asked Sami.
“People have cut them down for wood, to be used for fuel and furniture,” replied Grandpa.
“There will be no more trees then; where will the birds perch and the squirrels play?”
“Let us hope that that day never comes,” sighed Grandpa.
Grandpa's house was different. He never allowed his trees to be cut. He hugged each palm tree in his courtyard. He also worshiped the two big trees near the front door. He called one of them Petu, and the other, Betu. He had planted them with his own hands and today they had become large, massive trees with thick trunks.
They were tall and green. They gave the sweetest, juiciest coconuts and the ladoos made out of them were Grandpa's favorites. He always enjoyed sharing these with Sami.
Sami looked at the blue sky and the blue sea. He was very excited. He forgot everything else and made sand castles and played the whole day. He loved jumping into the water and splashing around. The sea was calm and was calling out to Sami, “Come in, Sami, do play with me!” And Sami paddled and swam in the waters. In the evening he had dinner with Grandpa and went to bed.
Late that night, Sami was awakened by a strange sound. He could not sleep. He tossed and turned in bed. Suddenly, the ground shook as if the earth was splitting. He sat up straight and then ran to Grandpa. He clung to his grandpa tightly. Grandpa cried out, “It's an earthquake, it's an earthquake!” They ran outside the house. They thought that would be safe.
Suddenly, there was a loud sound; the earth was not splitting but the sea was roaring. People were shouting, screaming and crying, “The sea is rising, the sea is rising.” The villagers started repeating these words and started running away from the beach. Sami watched dumbstruck.
The waves were rising higher and higher.
Sami thought, “How big the waves are!”
Sami went into the house again.
He saw water coming in from all sides. He was scared.
Sami remembered his mother telling him long ago, “You must always get out of the house if the floods come too near.” He ran outside the house with Grandpa. But the water came surging in.
Waves about twelve metres high came rushing in, drowning everything. Water was all around and everywhere.
Huge waves from the sea came crashing
into Grandpa's house. They touched Sami and Grandpa, then drew back again over two kilometres into the sea, dragging whatever came their way.
Grandpa held Sami's hands tight. His dhoti was torn by the force of the currents. Another huge wave came swirling and separated Sami from Grandpa. Grandpa fought the waves and tried to keep his head above the water.
Grandpa caught hold of Petu, one of the palm trees in his courtyard. He panicked, and screamed out to Sami but could not see him. He climbed the coconut tree, held on to the coconut palm tightly while the sea was all around. He clung to the tree.
“Sami, Sami!” Grandpa cried and wailed. “Don't be scared, little one, come to me, quickly.”
“Oh Grandpa, I cannot reach you!”
Sami could not swim, the high waves had come with terrifying speed and force. A wave carried him round and round. He was caught in a tsunami which was bumping and banging him. He was thrown on top of a big coconut palm. The wave went back. Soon there was calm.
Grandpa had told Sami of earthquakes in the sea, when massive walls of water took everything with them within minutes. The power of water swirls everything around. “Indeed, this must be the tsunami!” thought Sami.
Sami was terrified and alone; he hung on to the coconut tree. It seemed a giant today while everything around the beach was destroyed. He could hear the cries and moans of people in pain.
He saw fallen trees drifting all around.
“Oh, why, why did people cut down the coconut palms! They would have saved so many people!”
He felt very lonely. It was quiet all around. He came down the tree, very frightened. He began to call out, “Grandpa, Grandpa!” as loudly as he could. He could not see their house. Poor little Sami! He started walking. The flood waters had carried away every stick, stone and house. Looking around, he saw a grey, old, lonely man hanging on to a tree. He went closer. It was Petu, the coconut tree, and it was Grandpa. “Grandpa, Grandpa, it's me, Sami. Open your eyes!”
At a distance, he could see many people coming. Sami waved out to them and held on to Grandpa. He looked at the coconut tree which had saved him. It stood like a rock, strong and steadfast. “Though it does not know it, and does not speak, it has helped me.” Sami and Grandpa were taken home by the people.
Grandpa is still very, very proud to have the tree, though his house has been washed away. Every day, people going to the seashore turn behind and look at it– the great, green palm which stands tall and strong, saving lives. It shines in the long, bright, flashing rays of the sunlight and through the rising waves. “It stands quietly and majestically as if nothing has ever happened to it. It is a symbol of courage and patience,” says Grandpa.
“Perhaps it is hoping that the sea will not uproot it, that the coming years will be more peaceful than the last one.” replies Sami.
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