It was a bright Sunday morning. The sea was as calm as ever.
"Papa, can I play in the water"
"Not now baby. May be in a couple of years"
She tried hard to hide her disappointment. But her dad knew it.
He pulled her close in his arms and whispered "Believe me my dear. A day will come, when you will go to depths where no one else has reached"
Mona came back to the present when she felt a warm hand touch her shoulders.
"Dreaming about me?"
"Yes and no"
"And what should I take the meaning as?"
"I was dreaming, but not about you"
"Aah, now who is my new competitor?"
Mona smiled at Tilak and turned back to admire the sea.
"Look around you Tilak. It is just water, water and water. Though this is nothing new for me, I still feel like the little girl who used to go with my dad to the beach. Whenever these waves come, I feel like it is my dad swinging me high in the air. You know, it was his idea that I should become a marine archeologist. He was a father, mother, friend, mentor, everything. Whenever I see the sea, she connects me to my dad. She makes me feel so happy, yet sad. I just miss him so much"
Her voice choked a bit. Tilak took her hands in his. It was a reassurance she very much needed. She was moved by his gesture. She closed her eyes and rested her head on his shoulders. Words went meaningless and silence prevailed.
Isn’t it wonderful to love and be loved? Let us not disturb them for some time.
The team was traveling in two boats. One boat was taken by Tilak and Mona. The other boat was taken by Goutham, Jessi and Riyaz. Though one boat had the capacity to carry them all, they insisted for 2 boats, as they had so many equipments to carry with them for the journey. It was a two hour ride from Paradip port in Orissa to Hukitola Island. Again from Hukitola they had a half an hour ride further into the sea.
In the second boat, Riyaz initiated a conversation.
“Hey guys, how much further?”
“We were supposed to travel at a compass bearing of 232 for 30 minutes. We have another 5 minutes left” replied Goutham.
“And what are we supposed to see? How will we know if we have reached the site?”
“A terrace of some building will be visible above water”
“What do we do till then? Just stare at the sky? Or should I watch the love birds?”
“Feeling jealous? Give them some privacy da. BTW, I have a question rattling my head for 2 days”
“Sarala mam gave us a wax tablet right? I studied about them. I found it was used in the Greek and never reached India. How come Ashoka possessed it?”
“Some one is doing homework huh?”
Goutham got annoyed. But still he maintained his cool as he needed some answers.
“Is it true or not?”
“Yes, it is”
“Why didn’t you tell us then?”
“What is the relevance?”
“Relevance? Are you in your senses? If it never reached India, what is a wax tablet doing here”
“When a stone that could rule the World be here, why can’t a wax tablet?”
“Don’t mock me. I need an answer”
“Yeah, this is the only question that we do not have an answer for right?”
“Stop it guys. We are here” shouted Jessi.
A building seemed to rise from the sea, but only up to a small height. Most of it was eroded.
“So what do we do now? Just go down” questioned Riyaz
“Any other better idea you have?” smirked Goutham.
“Fine. Are all five of us going?”
“No. I am staying. The rest of you will go down. I will monitor your movements.”
“Will there be any dangerous marine creatures in this area?” asked a skeptical Jessi.
“No. I have checked with the fishermen. They say this part of the sea is the safest, so no need to worry.” replied Tilak.
Mona seemed surprised.
"You were will me all the time. When did you enquire all that?"
Tilak just gave a blunt smile and avoided to answer her.
They shed their outer clothes revealing the diver’s suit. They wore the diving equipment that includes an air tank, regulator, boots, gloves and mask. Each of them also had a camera mounted on their head to take video while swimming. Each of the video feeds could be viewed by a video receiver which was monitored by Goutham. One by one all entered the sea. Each of them took off in a different direction.
The remains of Ghoripur looked like a real city, except for the fact that it was under water. Tilak focused on the building that was visible above the sea. He followed the building as a trail to check the depth of the remains they had to study. It was around 110 feet deep when he reached the bottom.
“It must have been some temple” thought Tilak.
He called out to Goutham through his mike.
“Goutham, are you watching this?”
“Yeah, I got it”
“It looks like a temple. Do you see anything unusual?”
“Other than the fact that there is a 100 feet tall temple underwater, no”
Suddenly Tilak felt someone move behind him. He turned back, but could not find anyone. He stared for a minute. When he was convinced that there was nothing, he continued to move inside the temple. The walls were filled with sculptures of different deities. It was not clear, so he moved closer to the walls when he second time felt some one move behind him.
Tilak became highly irritated. He shouted at the top of his voice.
“Riyaz, come out. Stop playing now”
There was no response.
“I know it is you. If you don’t come out now, mark my words, once we go up, I will kill you”
Still there was no response. Suddenly he felt someone touch him from behind. He turned back startled, only to find Mona.
“Hey, why are you shouting like this? Don’t you remember Riyaz has problems with depth? He won’t come this deep”
“Oh, so it was you? You went the other way, why did you come here?”
“I came hearing you shout. What is the matter?”
“I…Never mind. Hey Goutham, are you still with us?”
There was no reply.
“Goutham, we can’t hear you. Are you with us?”
There was still no reply.
“Oh God! What am I going to do with these people? None have any seriousness in their job”.
Tilak went up as fast as he could swim. He reached the surface and looked around. But what he saw was only one boat. Goutham and the boat in which he was sitting were both missing.