By Savitri Narayanan
“Anuj, don’t get into the sea alone! Only when we come will you l go near the water,” said Seema as she cleared the breakfast table.
“OK, Mummyji,” said Anuj picking up his swimming bag and goggles.
To get a change of scene they had come down to Goa, rented a room in a hotel and were managing their work and Anuj’s online classes. Being Saturday, Anuj had no classes and was raring to go to the beach.
Goa was so much more fun than Delhi. Before the lockdown, when he went to school, life was different. School was fun, especially as, this year, he got subject teachers who made their lessons so interesting and exciting. Lockdown made the days routine and boring.
“This is getting too much, we need a change!”Mummyji often said at the dinner table.
Employed in a bank and a software company, both Seema and Mahesh were working from home and Anuj in Class V had his online schooling. Life was getting rather monotonous with no friends, no outings, and no visitors. But Goa was fun.
“I will come down in an hour or two,” said Mahesh, “Till then you fly your kite or play in the sand. Knowing you, you’ll surely find a friend or two to play with.”
It was amazing to see how quickly children made friends. They came to the beach following their parents, slightly unsure of themselves, often holding on to their hands. Very soon they found their ground, formed friendships and started playing together.
“Or you can sit in that food-shack”, said Mahesh as he turned on his computer, “Get the same corner table but don’t start ordering food!”
“Yes, Papaji,” Anuj picked up his swimming bag and raced to the beach.
Goa had happened out of the blue.
“My boss is shifting to Pondicherry,” Mahesh said at the dinner table one night, “His friend in London has a bungalow there which is locked up. Chowdhury Sir is moving there with family for a few weeks.”
“Great idea, let’s also go somewhere,” said Anuj, “We’ll go to Goa; I would love to swim in the sea again!”
Anuj grew up in Goa as Mahesh was posted there. The family owned land there and his grandparents and uncles still lived there. When Mahesh got transferred to Delhi, they had moved on but deep in his heart Anuj always missed the sea.
“You are alone today? No classes?” asked the café manager ruffling Anuj’s hair, “Papa and mummy working on their computers? And you ran away?”
The staff at the eating joint was busy yet friendly. They always found time to chat and put their customers at ease and, as for Anuj, they had taken a special liking to him.
“You hungry?” called out the chef, “The pancake is excellent!”
“Uncle, here’s my bag and my cap,” ignoring the question, Anuj dumped his things on the corner table and raced to the beach.
“Wait for your parents,” the chef called out, “Don’t get into the water on your own!”
The beach was slowly coming to life. Some were sun-bathing, some were eating while some others were already far into the sea. Some children too ventured into the water. Splashing water on each other, jumping the waves and digging the sand – they found ways to amuse themselves. Anuj soon devised his own game. He ran towards the sea pretending to chase the waves and when the tides turned he too turned and ran back as if he was racing the waves. Some tourists were sprawled in the sand but their children joined Anuj in the make-believe game. Then they played ‘find the treasure’ game, where each one used a stick to dig a hole in the sand to find the treasure – a seashell!
Soon their parents called out to them and Anuj’s new-found friends were gone. He sprawled on his back and gazed at the white clouds floating in the blue sky. After a while he rolled over and gazed at the sea wondering whether at the far away line it actually touched the sky.
It was then that he noticed the little boy running towards the sea all alone. He was too young to swim on his own, his steps were still unsteady but he continued to run. It looked as if he was running after some toy.
“Stop,” Anuj shouted.
The boy continued to chase the large red beach ball and was getting close to the waves.
“Don’t get into the water alone, wait for us to come,” he remembered his mother’s words. Where was the boy’s mother? Why did they leave him alone?
The waves were rising and the little boy was getting closer.
“Stop,” Anuj called out again. Swiftly he got up and followed the boy. It took only a few seconds for the waves to hit the toddler who lost his balance and fell down. Anuj turned his back to the sea, bent down on his knees, blocked the wave and held on to the little boy tightly. When the wave receded Anuj stood up and tried to lift the boy.
“Kevin darling, are you ok?” the boy’s mother burst into tears as she hugged her son, “Thank God, my little Kevin is safe! How can I thank you for saving him?” she sobbed away as she hugged both the boys close.
A small crowd had collected by then. All were full of compliments for Anuj’s presence of mind and timely action.
“Well done!” said Papaji and Mummiji who happened to walk in just in time to see the crowd cheering Anuj. “This asks for a celebration! Let Anuj and Kevin have their favourite ice-cream!” Anuj wondered why Mummiji’s and Papaji’s eyes were wet.