The eyes are Pavlovian. The mind might be lost in some wayward dream, the brain thinking of the next meeting and the hands trying to shove the cabin luggage into the narrow space above. The moment a book is in the vicinity, the eyes latch on, unabashedly. Usually, it is accompanied by a neck that contorts itself into some complex gymnast move, it was easy today, though. The gentleman in the next seat had t opened it yet, and there it lay bare, ‘Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy,’ Sheryl Sandberg.
Seat belt on, I delved into my bag and brought out my companion for this trip. And the man in the next seat started trying my circus moves. With a wide grin, I showed him the cover.
“Sethu,” he said. Ah, a fellow Malayali.
“What is the book about?” he continued.
“It’s the story of Muziris, the ancient port town that is supposed to have been somewhere near Kodungallur. There’s been these recent excavations in Pattanam that has brought out some interesting facts,” I replied.
“ I’ve read only one book of his, forgot the name, though.”
“Yes, that one.” Was there a tinge of sadness in his words?
“How’s your book, sir?” I had read some excerpts and had loved it.
“It’s good, and I need it for a session that I am going for. Our company is organizing a workshop for people like me who will be retiring soon. We need to learn to live alone, when it comes to that. Can’t expect the two of us to go together. I mooted this idea and the management agreed, luckily. Ten of us, away from the madness, in Karwar.”
“What do you do, sir?” that was a cliched question, I know.
“I am a scientist,” he was a little reluctant to say anything further.
“That Sethu book, I lost it,” I had not imagined that sadness, after all.
“Last year’s Chennai floods. We stay on the ground floor, water went up to the ceiling. Almost 2000 books, all of them gone. Except a few, maybe.”
For once, I was lost for words.
“Go on, read your book,” he said.
The Tamil professor Perumal was replying to the protagonist Aravindan’s question on the great flood of 1341 that may have destroyed Muziris without a trace.
‘പെട്ടെന്നൊന്നുമല്ല, നൂറ്റാണ്ടുകളുടെ സഹനത്തിനു ശേഷമേ പ്രകൃതി ഇത്തരം കടുംകൈകൾക്ക് മുതിരുകയുള്ളൂ. അന്ന് ഞാൻ പറഞ്ഞത് പോലെ കടലും കരയും തമ്മിലുള്ള നിലയ്ക്കാത്ത പോര്. കര കാക്കാൻ മനുഷ്യർ മറക്കുമ്പോൾ കടൽ അതിന്റെതായ വഴികൾ കണ്ടെത്തുന്നു.’
~ സേതു, ‘മറുപിറവി’
‘but why, all of a sudden?’
‘It’s never all of a sudden. Nature bears all, suffers for centuries before attempting such catastrophes. The eternal war between the sea and the land. When men forget to take care of his land, the sea finds its own ways.’
~ Sethu, ‘Marupiravi’
Yes, the sea, the nature, is finding its own ways, across the world. Will we ever pay heed to the desperate call, the lonely cry of our land?