‘The Date: 26th December 2004’ by Nishath Nizar (India)

Short story selected for the 2011 New Asian Writing Short Story Anthology

Little Raju was asleep in his little cot in the town of Velankanni in Tamil Nadu. The time: 5.30 a.m. Mother Thresia was up and awake to go for the morning prayers. She slept beside the thirty or forty other children in the orphanage of Mother Velankanni. She loved all of God’s children. But she liked Raju the best. It was not because he was the most innocent of them all; it was only because he was the youngest. He was seven years old. He had been living in the orphanage for the past seven years.

The town was coming to life. It was the day after Christmas, and there was no lack of bustle. The fishermen were gathering their nets and getting ready to leave their loved ones behind and go and live with their second mother at sea. The time: 6.30am. Raju had risen, brushed his teeth, combed his hair and even finished praying with his other friends at the orphanage. Little Raju liked living in the orphanage. He never felt isolated. He had all the love he ever needed. He also liked Mother Thresia very much. Raju decided to go and play. Since there was no one as young as him in the orphanage, he went all alone to the beach and started playing with the sand.

The time: 7.29 a.m. Mother was calling from the distance asking Raju to come and have his breakfast. Raju never disobeyed. He listened to mother Thresia’s orders. The breakfast was the meager one, but it was all they could have. Raju never complained about the food or about the amount of anything he received. He received very little, since the orphanage could only offer very little. After breakfast, Raju ran back to his favorite spot on the beach – a secluded area covered with shells.

The time: 8.23 a.m. Raju felt bored. He had had enough of playing with the shells, sand and water. That was when Raju noticed something strange with the beach. All the fishermen had left for the sea. That was normal. But there was something that caught Raju’s eyes. He looked around. There were seagulls and other sea birds, of which he didn’t even know the name coming away from the sea, calling each other in their own language. That was strange and it had not occurred ever before in his short time of two years he had spent playing on the beach. Also he noticed that the crabs were hurrying away from their homes beneath the sand and were heading inland. A small crab even scurried over his legs. He decided to go back to the orphanage. He was getting scared. He wanted to see Mother Thresia. He wanted to be in her arms and maybe even go to sleep on her lap.

The time: 9.00 a.m. Raju couldn’t find Mother. He went on roaming all around the orphanage. That was when Sister Daisy told him that Mother Thresia had gone along with Father Marcos to see an ailing patient. Raju was frightened but he did not want to show it out to anyone else other than Mother Thresia. Gathering up all the courage that was left in him, he decided to head back to the beach. Little Raju reached his secluded little place and decided to build something in the sand. But then his eyes fell on the sea. Something was drinking up the all the water. The waves were disappearing. Raju moved a step back. He looked in astonishment. He wanted to know who had drunk up all the sea. He stepped forward. He saw something huge making its way back onto the beach at very high speed. It was a colossal wave. He had never seen anything like it ever before. He decided to run and hide in the church, for Mother had always told him that the Lord will always help him. The tiny feet took their last few steps …

The time: 10.00 a.m. The town that was, didn’t exist anymore. The water had swept away all and spared none. The Lord had helped none and punished all. The beach was gone, its people ruined. And as for little Raju, the Lord had taken him into his hands.

An earlier version of this story was published in March 2008 on nonsenseofnishath.blogspot.com.

Illustration by Alan Van Every

About the Author:

Nishath Nizar is a 24-year-old Indian national who completed his M.A. in Convergent Journalism at A.J.K. Mass Communication Research Centre in Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, India. Originally from Calicut, Kerala, South India he spent most of his childhood in Muscat, Oman. He has worked as an assistant director for a six-episode mini-series produced for Doordarshan, India’s national TV channel and is currently a Sub-Editor with Sports Illustrated India. An avid reader, he likes writing poetry and is also a huge movie buff. Visit his blog at nonsenseofnishath.blogspot.com.

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