Turn the Page, Turn the Life | A Writer’s Battle for Survival | Help Her Win
Turn the Page, Turn the Life | A Writer’s Battle for Survival | Help Her Win

The Lost River

The Lost River

9 mins
22.6K


The foam and froth of the sea beckoned her with a disarming charm.

Since her childhood, her parents had always taken her out on vacations whenever time, and their budget, had permitted. The day their family physician, Dr. Abhay Ghosh, had declared that their daughter was suffering from a chronic pulmonary disease Tuhina’s parents had been distraught with anxiety.

“No. There is no cure for the disease, until she reaches her puberty. Till then, make sure that your daughter gets enough oxygen for her lungs to sail her through these years.”

Tuhina. The apple of her parents’ eyes. Her father, Amitabha Pal is a school teacher, who teaches Mathematics in a local primary school. They live near Ilambazar area, in the district of Birbhum in West Bengal. Their locale can be regarded as ‘mufussil’ by the standards of modern living. Everyday Tuhina’s mother, Ichamati, has to travel by bus to reach the nearest vegetable open market, from where she buys their necessary veggies and fruits.

“Your mother was born when your granddad and we were crossing the river, Ichamati, to come and make this land our home,” her grandmother was satisfying her granddaughter’s curiosity to know more.

“So Ichamati is the name of a river, Grandma?”

 “Yes. Ichamati is the river which forms the boundary, separating the two lands of India and Bangladesh.”

When Tuhina was diagnosed with the serious disease, it was her grandmother who had suggested that they venture and explore sea beaches during holidays and vacations.

“A sea beach offers that extra amount of oxygen which would be vital for Tuhi. Go to Puri in Odisha. I had been there years ago, when your wife and my daughter, was just about the age of my granddaughter today.”

 “Do you know any decent place where we may stay for the week, with Tuhi? It has to be a good one. If it requires me to take extra classes as private tuitions, I am more than willing,” Amitabha was asking his wife.

“We can stay at the Puri Hotel. My cousin brother had recently visited the place along with his family. I can ask him about the rates and also whether we can book our rooms there in instalments, maybe?” Ichamati replied.

“Forget about paying in instalments. Can we not rely on our Fixed Deposits which are maturing soon?” Amitabha’s eyes were shining and he looked at his wife with much trepidation in his heart.

Amitabha Pal is a pure Bengali at heart. When he is not teaching, he divides his spare moments in helping out Tuhina with her studies and reading Bengali poetry. Ichamati, his wife for the past two decades, even considers him handsome. As for her, her husband had once compared her to the poet Jibanananda Das’s muse in his poem Banalata Sen. But that was years ago, when they were still courting each other.

Listening to the doctor’s advice and his mother-in-law’s words of caution, Amitabha decided that Puri would be their destination for the coming Durga Puja vacations. Both his own and their daughter’s schools would remain closed for a period of two weeks, long enough to venture and return, with ample time to spare.

“Baba, I have heard such a lot about Puri from Didu. Is it a very far off city? You can watch the sea beautifully from there, no?”

The sea at Puri is much removed from other sea beaches along the Bay of Bengal coastline.

“Was that the dusk, Baba? See there. It’s almost molten orange in the skies out there.”

Tuhina points to where the setting sun had cast a spell of incandescent light over the stage that stretched as far as the eyes could travel. The three of them are sitting on cane chairs in their room at the Puri Hotel.

“The sea here is more serene than found in other parts of the state of Odisha. Your mother is very fond of Odisha saris. Tomorrow, Tuhi, we are going to visit the local shops and the Emporium and see what we can find there.”

 “Baba, why don’t we visit the Jagannath Temple here which Didu said is very beautiful?”

“Tuhi, we are going there early morning tomorrow. Because then the crowd, hopefully, would be lesser and we can see the vigraha or the presiding deity at close quarters,” Amitabha replies. Before coming to Puri, both Amitabha and his wife, Ichamati, had decided that they are going to offer prayers at the Temple here for the speedy recovery of their only daughter.

 

“I have heard that the Sun Temple at Konark is marvellous and I think our tour can well accommodate a visit to Konark. Am I not right, Tuhi?” Ichmati slipped a surreptitious wink towards her daughter, while addressing her husband seemingly.

Amitabha had already laid open the road map of the state. He has borrowed this from the manager of the hotel. The latter had been open –handed in his advice.

He had creases on his forehead as he was bending over the map, intently.

“If we leave early, we would be able to catch the bus which leaves from here everyday to take tourists to the Sun Temple.”

“Six in the morning would be just fine. Tuhi, don’t try to stay up late reading books. By ten we should be able to pack our things, have dinner and arrange for a wake-up call at five thirty.” Tuhina’s mother, Ichamati had already started picking up their scattered clothes, which were lying here and there. 

 

Puri to Konark by road is the most enjoyable for travellers. As one travels along the coastline, one gets the feeling of having had a kinship with the sea for a long time. It was aptly put by Tuhina. “Baba, doesn’t it appear that even though we have left the sea far behind us, it is unwilling to let us go?”

They had reached Konark by noon. Amitabha lost little time to approach the booking counter at Pantha Niwas, the government tourist lodge.

“You are very lucky. Yes, there are a few rooms available at the moment,” the receptionist said.

 

“How far is the Sun Temple from here?”

Ichamati was so excited that she could hardly contain herself.

“The Sun Temple would be a mere fifteen minutes by rickshaw.”

Tuhina hadn’t heard about this temple before. It was believed that this particular temple was devoted to the Sun God and called the ‘Chariot Temple of the Sun’. There were seven horses, representing the seven colours of the rainbow and they seemed to pull this ‘Chariot Temple’.

She was completely taken aback when she was suddenly tapped on her shoulders.

“Interested in the Sun Temple, are you?”

A tall, grey-haired man, with a very noticeable drooping gait and an inviting, friendly smile was addressing Tuhina, while looking at her straight in the eye.

“Yes.”

 “The Konark Sun Temple was built around the thirteenth century by King Narasimhadeva. He had constructed it as his homage to the deity he worshipped, the Sun. The sea beach near Konark is also a very scenic spot. Have you been there? Hello. I am Govind Dikshit.”

The self-introduction was totally uncalled-for.

“It would be wiser for you to see the temple in the early hours. It is said that the temple is so constructed that the first rays of the sun falls on its principal entrance. What is your favourite subject? Oh I forgot! I hope you are a school student?”

“Yes, I am. And my favourite subject is geography.”

“Really!! Excellent. You may be interested in my field of study. Yes, I am also a student like you. I am a research scholar.”

Govind Dikshit, now turned towards Ichamati.

“I have been noticing your daughter for quite some time. Does she suffer from some ailment? By the look of anxiety on both of your faces, it seems that you may be in some trouble. By the way, I am a research scholar of geophysics at the University of Odisha. I have come here to perform some field study.”

 “Yes, you are right. We have come here for our daughter. We can go to any extent to ensure our daughter’s complete recovery.”

“So this is it.”

So saying, Govind approached Tuhina, whom he had noticed earlier, was sitting on a chair, with her head bent over her knees.

He slowly put his arm around the girl and said, “Have you noticed the beach while you were coming here? Have you?”

It was Ichamati who came towards her daughter and shook her by the shoulders.

“Didn’t you hear what Uncle is saying to you?”

Slowly, very slowly, Tuhina raised her head. She looked up at her mother first, then at Govind.

“Yes, I have. It is called the Chandrabhaga beach. It’s all written here.”

“You are absolutely right.”

Govind Dikshit had a broad smile over his countenance.

“But do you know why it is called so?”

“No.”

“The beach has been named after the river Chandrabhaga, which had existed here centuries ago. It has become a mythical river now. The river finds mention in our ancient scriptures as well as the preserved palm-leaf drawings and sketches at our museums.”

“There had been a river here?”

Tuhina is sitting straight by now, knees held together.

Glad to find an audience, Govind rattled on.

“You see, I have been researching in this field for the past year and a half. I have definitive proof that there is a ‘palaeochannel’ existing around this UNESCO World Heritage site. Oh, by the way, do you know what a ‘palaeochannel’ is?”

By this time, Govind, Tuhina and Ichamati had been seated on the sofa in the main lounge.

To Tuhina’s “No I don’t”, Govind continued, “For us, a palaeochannel means the remnant of an inactive river or stream channel that has been gradually filled up or buried by younger sedimentation. The Chandrabhaga palaeochannel passes through the north of the Sun Temple. This river believed to have gone extinct, has rekindled further analyses and research work. “

“Do you mean to say that the river Chandrabhaga was running adjacent to the Sun Temple centuries ago?”

Ichamati, whose knowledge of geographical texts extended to the ones her daughter bought as her study books, suddenly became keenly interested.

“I had read about the Chandrabhaga river in Bankimchandra Chattopadhay’s novel, Kapal Kundala. But I had never in my wildest dreams ever thought that I would ever visit the place where it had flowed.” Ichamati’s curiosity knew no bounds.

While her mother and Govind Dikshit were conversing, Tuhina noticed that her father Amitabha had detached himself from them and was carefully reading the newspaper kept there.

Ichamati had also noticed this sudden attitude of detaching himself from the others in Amitabha. She, after having provided due apologies to Govind for her husband’s behaviour, approached him.

“Why did you not acquaint yourself with this man? Have you any idea who he is?”

“Who the hell is he? We can’t even say whether he is a fraud or not? The great things that he is talking about, have you ever thought whether these could be true? Look at Tuhi! How she is sitting in rapt mesmerism!”

“Surjo, what will he think? You could have befriended him. “

Her voice was just above a whisper when she came near her husband, who suddenly was acting as if he were a recluse.

“She is a little girl. And don’t ever forget that we have come here for her speedy recovery.”

Even when they fought with each other at home, which occurred very rarely, it was always Ichamati who brought things to a proper resolution. Here it was no exception.

As their daughter, Tuhina, sat listening rapturously to what her Govind uncle had to reveal, Amitabha and Ichamati had joined hands, after years, and were heading towards the exit gate which led towards the beach.


Rate this content
Log in