Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ramesh and the night of the storm (Part 3)


Ramesh and his friend are spending their school holiday's at an uncle's house by the sea. The boys overhear two men planning a mysterious night out at sea. They come down to the beach, ignoring the signs of an impending storm, to spy on the men. The uncle discovers the boys missing from his house and catches them in the beach. He is shocked to learn that the boys think they have stumbled upon a gang of smugglers. Worse, they see that the strange boat carrying the mysterious men is about to crash into some rocks!


I watched the distant light breathlessly. Was it responding to uncle’s signal? For a moment, I wasn’t sure. Then, the light seemed to waver uncertainly, and, a little later, it began to grow larger and larger. Yes, the boat seemed to have changed direction, apparantly in response to uncle's flashing torch, and was now heading straight for the beach!

My uncle turned to Ramesh. “Have you got a torch?” he shouted, barely managing to be heard above the din caused by the rain and the storm-tossed waves.

“Yes!” shouted back Ramesh.

“Then do as I’ve been doing! I will run to the village for help.”

The next fifteen minutes or so on that beach were a nightmare. The rain lashed mercilessly down on us, stinging our unprotected faces and hands. One after the other, huge waves threw themselves onto the beach, with such force and fury that Ramesh and I were compelled to step back a few paces. When Ramesh’s arm grew tired from holding up the torch, I took over. As the boat responded to our guiding signal, the light grew larger and larger as it approached the beach, and soon the dim outlines of the vessel could be made out. And all the time, the question kept going round my head: when would Uncle return?

Uncle returned in the nick of time – and with him were four or five other men, fishermen from the village. When the group of men appeared on the beach the boat was about fifty feet away from land. Suddenly a huge wave appeared behind the boat and literally threw it towards us! Before the boat could recover, another giant wave crashed down on it, engulfing it completely!

I heard uncle give a shout and then, in a flurry of arms and legs, all the men rushed into the foaming water. For a few minutes all was confusion. Then a sudden brilliant flash of lightning in the sky illuminated the whole dramatic scene for an instant with a glare as if from a thousand floodlights. In the glare I saw the fishermen carry out of the seething waves and onto the beach, three limp figures. They were carefully laid down on the sand.

One of the three figures tried to sit up. Uncle shone his torch on the face of this man – and then gave a sudden exclamation. Stepping forward, he said: “Your face looks very familiar! Aren’t you Professor Kedar Kumar Sharma, the famous meteorologist?”

The man looked up. “Yes,” he said weakly and I recognized the voice Ramesh and I had heard talking to the fisherman behind the cluster of rocks that evening. The man managed a smile. “And, but for you, I would now have been the late Prof. Kedar Kumar Sharma…”

The confusion was soon cleared. The house on the cliff was really a special weather station whose primary task was the study of cyclones and other storms which frequently plagued the east coast. Attached to this station was a ship which patrolled the Bay of Bengal to study cyclones at their source. An important instrument in the ship had suddenly broken down and the scientists aboard needed a replacement immediately if they were to study the storm which they knew would hit the coast that night. They had informed the weather station of the problem by radio. It was to deliver the replacement that Prof. Sharma and his companions had set out on their night trip in the tiny fishing boat.

A couple of days later, as a mark of gratitude for our part in the rescue, Ramesh and I were given a conducted tour of the weather station. For a scientifically-minded chap like Ramesh, this was more exciting than catching a thousand smugglers. In due course, both of us received a gift from the Government. I would like to tell you about it, but Ramesh has asked me not to. He prefers to regard it as A Secret Of Great Scientific Importance!