There was pandemonium in the Roy Family. Excitement and frivolity was at its peak. Each member had a suggestion how best to spend the seven days of Puja Holidays... The three brothers were very attached to each other and had decided that they would always be together even after marriage. The eldest was the most docile, no airs about him despite being the privileged one. He considered it his sacred duty to look after the younger siblings, and was tolerant of their bickering and squabbles. Though he was good looking with sharp features and a wheatish complexion, he seemed to be unaware of his assets. The second in the line was three years younger to him. He was robust and stocky and had moustache which twirled upwards like well-fed caterpillars. The third, much younger, was pampered by the elder brothers and always got whatever he wanted. He was lean and skinny and his orbicular eyes on sunken cheeks gave him a comical look. The three brothers had three attractive wives, and the three wives, vying with each other had three delightful children. And of course to head them all was the venerable granddad and the doting granny. This made up a fabulous Family of seventeen members.
Granddad being ‘ Patriarch ‘ convened a meeting of all the members at dinner time. “Since a Resolution has to be passed as how we should spend our holidays. In order to do so we must take the concurrence of all members present.” His solemn face gave everybody the impression of the gravity of their decision, but when he looked at their serious expressions, he broke into a broad smile, which made them feel at ease and all of them started talking at once.
Erica the youngest in the family, an adorable girl, aged three, was the first to chirp in, stuffing her mouth full of bread, ”Why don’t we go to a big jungle to see lots of lions?” ”No, definitely not. We must not go to the jungle, the lions will eat us up,” put in her brother in an ‘I know better’ tone, rubbing his nose vigorously with his hand. He had just celebrated his fifth birthday. The more adventurous of the children wanted to go mountain climbing, trekking or sky diving. Granddad looked amused at their suggestions and added mischievously whether the youngsters were willing to pull up their Granny, who was eighty years old, when rock climbing or help him along when he started wheezing after trekking only a few steps. Aditi, the wife of the second brother, the most practical one out of them, daintily picked up a glass of water, took a small sip, then elaborated on her idea, “Why don’t we stay in Kolkata and enjoy the festivities, It will be great fun going to the'' Puja Pandals' and seeing the uniqueness of the décor, watching movies and eating the scrumptious food in the different restaurants?’ Immediately there was a volley of objections. Indrani the eldest daughter-in-law, doling out more rice on her daughter’s plate opined, “Holiday means a change from the normal, why not go to Bangkok to visit a foreign country?’’ At that her husband Rohit objected and explained that it would be too expensive. Grandpa then asked for a solution which came promptly from the youngest son Adhir, like a crisp shot from a gun. “Let us go to Digha which will be just what we want, short and sweet, cheap and loads of fun.” All fifteen members cheered in unison, but Grandma’s was the dissenting voice. “No, no, no”, she shuddered “No, we must not go to Digha.”They all looked at her in amazement, and wondered what the reason could be for her vigorous protest. When they reached their destination, they had to be transported to their five star hotel in a so called van, comprising of only a board which was pulled along by a cyclist on which the passengers had to sit, dangling their legs. It was an amusing situation as they had no option but to commute in this manner. After all they had taken due care to book in advance the best accommodation for staying! They hired two such vans, and it was quite an excitement when both the vans started to have a race to out-beat each other. Granny’s forehead then showed very prominently the lines of worry in deeper grooves and furrows, and she shook her head more vehemently in greater disapproval. Then it happened! One of the vans crashed into an oncoming van, and with a deafening scream, the holiday makers shot out like arrows and lay strewn on the road, nursing their wounds. They somehow or the other succeeded in retrieving their lost dignity by dusting themselves and pretending that whatever had happened was inconsequential. Not so, for dear grandmother!
They arrived at a palatial building with the name Raj Hotel written in big bold fancy letters. In front of the mansion was a beautiful garden. But the situation became ludicrous for them. They had booked AC accommodation and had been expecting seven days of undiluted comfort and luxury and had not catered for twenty-two hours of load shedding, a common occurrence in Digha! Besides the Hotel having been just inaugurated, had not been able to install a generator. The ladies became disgruntled and complained continuously, the children became trouble-some, the men refused to come inside and sat all day in the garden, only Granny philosophically remarked, “If only you all had respected the priceless advice of an Octogenarian, you would not have had to face all these problems. There are signs which give us warnings of what lies ahead like clouds in the sky forecasting impending rain.”
After hot cups of tea and light snacks consisting of crunchy onion'' pakoras' and chicken nuggets, they decided to go to the beach for a quick bath in the sea. The sun was already scaling the heights and the ladies did not want to spoil their lovely complexion. Granny was voluble trying to stop the family from taking a bath, warning them that it was not safe, but the children would not hear of it and dragged everyone into the water. The youngsters were uproarious in their excitement as they buffeted the ever on-coming waves, wave after wave. The swells came roaring and thrashing, swallowing voraciously whatever came in their way. The bigger the waves,greater was their fun and the children shouted and screamed to express the thrill of it all. Grandpa, the guardian of the clan, also joined in with them. But all of a sudden, the group saw in amazement Grandpa going down in the water and as he was tugged, pulled and drawn into the gushing swirling mass of water. One could only see his out-stretched hands waving frantically and hear his panic-stricken voice pleading for help. Then there was no trace of him------he had disappeared. The Roy Family ran up and down the beach, asking for help. There was a frantic search by the local fishermen who volunteered to swim back into the water in order to see if they could find grand pa. Gloom descended on the Roy Family- Grandma neither spoke nor moved, she had become a statue. Only once she was heard saying below her breath, “I had a strong premonition that this trip would have a fatal finale, but no one listened,” and started to sob like a baby. They returned to their rooms disheartened. But after an hour or so, lo and behold, there was a loud banging on the door. But after an hour or so, lo and behold, when they opened the door what did they see! Grandfather was sitting on a chair!
The two girls who had rushed to open the door gave a scream and shouted “Hurry everybody, come and see Granddad’s ghost”, and went back a few steps. Aditi shouted from behind, “Why don’t you touch him and see whether he is real or a spirit? “Why don’t you find out yourself?” shouted out the girls. In the meantime the youngest three grandchildren came rushing out and threw themselves on granddad and started covering him with kisses and hugging him. Their guardians now tried frantically to protect their dad from the onslaught of the children. They in their childish way had impetuously showered all their love and affection for their darling grandfather who was there again for them, almost suffocating him. Being small, they did not have any idea of what an ordeal he must have gone through. They whole family crowded round him and each one had something to ask him. The girls put their arms round him and started to stroke him lovingly. It was then that Grandma appeared and came shuffling towards him, but midway, not being able to stand the shock, fainted.
Luckily one of the daughters-in-law was just behind her, so she supported her in her arms and then put her down gently on the sofa. Now the centre of interest had shifted to grandma and one of the girls propped her head up on a soft cushion so that she could breathe better, whereas the sons rushed to get water and brandy.The whole family started running helter skelter, not knowing what to do, perplexed and confused. Slowly she revived on her own, and big tear drops ran down her cheeks in sheer relief. She closed her eyes and thanked the Almighty, then remarked, “God had made Aditi sneeze just to warn us, so that we did not venture out. I knew we should have taken the warning.” At this Grandfather reasoned, “On the other hand, one sneezes when one is coming down with fever and one must be careful; but the sneeze might be caused also if one has inhaled pepper or any other irritant. A sneeze, therefore, might not be inauspicious; in my case it was very auspicious, as despite the hurdles, I have overcome them, and here I am with you. What is important, is to have positive thoughts and a strong determination to succeed.” He then looked round him and beamed at his family and extended his arms in a gesture to embrace them all
When he was asked to unravel the mystery of his reappearance, he gave a detailed account of how the fishermen had hauled him up to the hotel room. The fishermen had told him that they had been very happy at the end of that day’s labour, thinking they had a good catch, as the net seemed to be very heavy and difficult to pull. But their surprise knew no bounds when they discovered an unconscious man in the net, who being inflated with the water that he had swallowed resembled a bloated salmon. The only redeeming fact was that there was life in him still, though his breath was faint and erratic. They took him out and administered First Aid, in which they had become proficient with experience through the years. They managed to revive the old man with a lot of effort, and great difficulty after an hour. And so the venerable Patriarch was given a new lease of life.
He smiled at them weakly and to assuage their feelings, he added guiltily, “I was determined to be back for you, and it is one’s will power which matters and nothing else”. Granddad continued “Just as a strong wind blows the clouds away; it is man’s determination and positive thoughts that paves his destiny.” Then he looked at Grandma with great affection and added, “Do you think a thousand sneezes or one hundred black cats crossing my path could deter me from coming to you!” Then to emphasise his statement, he walked into the hall, holding on to his wife’s hand, and she realised that what he was saying was absolutely true. The holidaymakers crowded round him and they all felt the decision to spend the holidays in Digha was not all that bad, as the episode had united the family even more, and perhaps now they realised Grandpa’s worth. How much they all loved him!