The Unforgettable Episode
The Unforgettable Episode6 mins 214 6 mins 214
It was the winter vacation. The Covid-19 pandemic had lasted for nearly two years and the children were very upset that they had to be indoors for such a long time. They felt bored without their normal activities, like going to school, or having fun with their friends. So we decided to take them out for a holiday just to unwind.
We decided to go to Digha by car, as it was the nearest tourist spot. Sonu our eldest son, was dreaming of making sand castles, and chasing after red crabs, as they sped across in merriment in their absurd fashion, sideways. Our three year old daughter had taken out her brightest swimming costume to go swimming with Granddad. Grand mother said she would bask in the winter sun, as she felt the sea breeze would be too chilly for her. As for me, I remembered with nostalgia the two three times, I had visited Digha, with my parents, when I was still a school –going child , my Father would take us to the beach and we, my brothers and sisters, crowded round the carts, selling all sorts of snacks, prepared from fish, which they had freshly caught. How we loved the treat! There was an assortment of titbits, but we had to taste them all. The fried prawns tasted so good, that we could have spent the entire evening relishing the delicacies, so crunchy and crisp!
The fried Pom frets were also a feast for the eyes. The shiny silvery fish attracted one from a distance, and when marinated with exotic herbs and spices added to the mouth-watering items. The “fish cakes,” and cutlets, were so tasty that we consumed them as soon as they were out from the bubbling oil. I was determined that my children should also experience the fun of eating on the beach from the stalls, right out from the hot smoking frying pans. The children looked forward to their usual horse –ride, and my husband thought the Digha tour would give him an opportunity to get some exercise, by being able to take long walks on the beach, and enjoy the sea-breeze at the same time.
We were determined to enjoy to the fullest. So the very first morning we planned to see the sun-rise. It was a beautiful sight, with the inky black shimmering sheet of water, being bathed in gold. From a distance we could also see fishermen with their trawlers. They were in the process of towing their catch of fish in nets, which they had spread out in the sea for a mile in length, the previous night. There was a lot of excitement, and shouting, as they tugged the ropes with all their strength. There were some fishing boats also which came in overloaded with fishes.
The curious tourists crowded round. I also joined the throng. From the boats the fishermen unloaded a massive fish, with the hook still stuck inside its mouth, twisting and turning in a desperate attempt to get free. As the men made a gigantic effort to lift the fish out of the boat, with one stroke of its tail, the fish dislodged four of them into the swirling breakers. I felt like going up to the fisherman to ask him to take the iron hook out of the poor fish’s mouth. I felt the agony and the trauma which the fish at that moment must have been subjected to. The hungry fish unsuspectingly must have been tempted by the bait, and had opened its mouth and got the razor sharp hook stuck inside its throat. If I could have only freed the poor fish struggling helplessly!
Then the fishermen with whoops of jubilation unfolded the net on the sandy shore. Fishes of all sizes and color poured out. They wriggled, turning and twisting, flipping and flopping. They were a pretty sight. The Hoteliers rushed to get the best fishes out of the ones which were caught. Jumbo Prawns were very much in demand. There were fishes of all kinds, the edible ones, as well as the inedible such as Sword fish, Blubbers, Eels, and Mackerels. Thrashing and lashing with their tails they fell on the sandy beach in a huge heap. But what caught our eye was the dead body of a woman, still clad in expensive “ salwar kurta”, with a gold chain conspicuously adorning her neck. The gold pendant had the photograph of a child, which was not very clear as it was partly covered with sand. Somebody had notified the police who had already reached the spot. Reporters also appeared in no time and they started taking photographs. Seeing the corpse, my hands and feet had become cold. The crowd were abuzz with excitement.
The next day I saw in the Telegraph that it was reported that the woman had most probably been murdered. From the pendant the police had concluded that she was the same lady with a child who had been kidnapped, when there was a bus-hold-up at Contai, a week back. After taking her valuables, the miscreants did not know what to do with her, so they murdered her and threw her into the raging see. But after a second thought it occurred to the police that all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle did not fit in. Why then was the gold chain costing several lacs still on the person?! The miscreant responsible for the bus hold-up had taken all the valuables from the passengers. Then they started making a thorough search of the locality for the missing child.
After combing the area, they came to an Institution which was a Reformatory for women. When the Police interviewed the inmates, who were not allowed to venture out, they discovered that the lady with the child, who was kidnapped, had been kept there under strict vigilance. Now the Police were in a fix. Whose then was the corpse? They identified the photograph in the pendant as of the lost child, whom they had found to have been kept with his mother, in the Reformatory. Now the question arose, how did the pendant happen to be on the corpse? Pieces of the jigsaw puzzle now fell into place.
The Corpse was no other than the famous Dacoit Queen, Minakshi. She had appropriated all the valuables from the bus, during the hold-up. She had also started wearing the gold necklace which she had snatched from Krishna, the mother of the child. The police had got wind of the nefarious act and had come looking for the miscreants. She must have come to know that the Policemen were on the prowl. So when they gave her a chase, she took recourse to running into the see to save herself from getting arrested, and did not even have the time to take off the necklace. As she must have found the police closing in, she selected the lesser of the two evils. It was much better to suffer for five minutes when drowning, rather than be kept in solitary confinement in a cell, for the rest of her life.
Our vacation ended, but we are still going through the after-effects of the excursion. For me the Sea has lost its charm. I can only associate it with death. As for the children, they have night mares whilst sleeping, having seen the corpse. It was truly an unforgettable episode!