It was the last day in the lives of Asrar and Hina.

The sea that had its arms around Mumbai was ferocious.

It desired to finally win the centuries-old battle, gulp the island and be victorious. Tall waves rose and fell, rose again and dashed against the shore. It had been raining for the past three days, so much that now the dark alleys, narrow lanes, the wide roads and the crumbling streets of the city were all submerged in knee-deep water. Black clouds veiled the sky. The city no longer remembered how the rays of the sun felt and looked.

The sky was leaking through huge holes in its being, as if it had transformed into a never-ending waterfall. The waters of the sea had found a comfortable entry into the underground drains. The drains were a battleground for the unstoppable rainwater and the roaring sea, in a continuous struggle to make space for themselves.

This war had caused great damage to the embankments or the concrete sides of the newly constructed drains. The streams of water merged and made their way into the deepest layers of the soil. The residential areas around the inundated drains were submerging.

The Mithi River was overflooded and the land around it lay submerged in deep waters. There were power cuts in most places. The condition of low-lying areas of the city reflected the wrath of rain and the destruction it had caused. All linkages between the city administration, government and the public had been snapped.

According to old dwellers of the city, it had never rained so heavily and destructively in the past. In the heart of the city an apocalyptic silence spread over the Mumba Devi’s temple. Mumba Devi’s deity looked sad. It was said that such sadness on her face was last seen by Brahma 6000 years ago when she had to counter “Mumbaraka”, an evil giant who terrorised the local population.

After his defeat, Mumba Devi’s temple was constructed and Brahma himself came to shower his blessings at the inauguration. When the deity was installed, there was an ambiguous and unexplainable silence on her face. Had Brahma already told her about the future Mumbai would soon have to face? Was there any other power in the universe except Brahma who knew the reason behind the transformation of Mumba Devi’s natural smile into the sad ambiguous silence?

Asrar’s father, Malik Deshmukh, along with his childhood friends Sajid Parkar and Abid Parkar, hunted for fish along the shores of the Arabian Sea.

They belonged to Mabadmorpho village and the name of their boat was the Queen of the Sea.

Everyone in Mabadmorpho knew the name of Malik’s boat by heart. After extensive fishing in the turbulent waters, they returned to the shore each time and divided the catch among the three equally. Their wives sold it in the local fish markets.

The sea, the fish and the boat were their lifelines. Their families lived off whatever little they earned from fishing. Happiness and food security were still a far-fetched dream for each of them. They were oblivious of the world and were very busy fishing in the seas. The sole aim for the three of them was to earn money, a lot of money. But fate had something else in store.

An unfortunate fate awaited them. The Queen of the Sea got caught in a severe whirlpool. All three friends were familiar with the movements, characteristics and various moods of the sea. They had spent most of their lives tossing over the waves. It wasn’t the first time that they had seen a whirlpool. They had witnessed many, but the one which their beloved boat faced was so wide in circumference and so powerful in strength that they lacked the words to describe its intensity. Even their elders had never told stories of such a ferocious swirl in the waters. They stole a glance at each other but there was no time to even exchange words; all three jumped into the water to save their lives.

Only one made it to the shore.

Though the shores and the sea were thoroughly searched, Malik Deshmukh and Sajid Parkar were nowhere to be found.

Fifteen to twenty days later, a broken piece of the unfortunate boat found its way to the shores of Mabadmorpho. People were surprised to see that it was the very piece on which the name of the boat, the Queen of the Sea, was engraved. Immediately after this ill-fated incident, Mabadmorpho had to face one more inexplicable occurrence which kept it in a seemingly hypnotic state.

The day the broken piece of the Queen of the Sea was discovered, it was kept on elevated ground near the shore. Surprisingly, this coincided with the sighting of dolphins in the sea alongside.

Many felt that the dolphins were trying to catch a glimpse of the broken piece of the boat. Initially, no one believed the sighting. In fact, those who claimed to have seen the dolphins were rebuked and pulled up for being intoxicated even in broad daylight.

But the dolphins kept returning each day. When this went on for four to five days and the dolphins jumped out of the water, apparently to see the broken piece, people started believing the earlier story. Someone informed Abid, the sole survivor of the accident, about the dolphins. He immediately left his bed and went to the shore.

More than half the population of Mabadmorpho was present there, watching the show of the dolphins. When people saw him coming, the crowd parted. He shook hands with a few and started looking in the direction of the dolphins. He kept staring at them attentively; his expression was ponderous. Then he climbed up to the elevated area and raised his hands in the air and waved at the dolphins.

The onlookers stared at Abid and followed his gaze. They looked in amazement at the dolphins as they rose and fell into the sea. The rhythmic dance continued for nearly half an hour. Soon, they vanished into the deep.

Abid stepped down and the crowd surrounded him. A man named Karim Mujawar asked him in mock seriousness, “Tell me honestly, do dolphins drink beer too?”

The mob chuckled. Some found it so hilarious that they had tears in their eyes. One more reason to laugh even louder was that everyone knew that Karim had just set up a liquor shop recently.

When seriousness returned, an elderly man asked, “Abid, what is this all about?”

The man who had recently returned from the claws of death recalled that when they went fishing and were quite far in the sea, the dolphins would jump and dive around their boat and look at them. So, they also stopped to wave back. Having said that, Abid turned and walked away.

The people who stayed back continued discussing and debating the dolphins. They finally concluded that what Abid had claimed was next to impossible. After all, he just had a close encounter with death and was not yet out of the shock. The silence of the crowd gave legitimacy to the idea that Abid was facing some severe mental issues after the accident. The dolphins were never seen near the shore again. This made people rethink what they had been told earlier.


Excerpted with permission from Rohzin, Rahman Abbas, translated from the Urdu by Sabika Abbas Naqvi.