I was feeling all excited being a part of a team of marine geologists, on board the scientific research ship, ‘HMS Kappal’. We were on our way to carry out some very important oceanic experiments. Our team was going to verify and put an end to the controversy about the depth, of the mid oceanic marine trench.
This debate, which was raging on for quite some time now, was about the depth of the deepest point of the Earth. The American team of scientists claims it to be 10,994 meters, while the Soviet consortium claimed it to be 36,070 feet below sea level.
They finally agreed to measure it again in the presence of some third world scientists as witness. That meant that I was playing a very key factor in the history of scientific research.
We were sailing smoothly towards the rendezvous point, When suddenly, one day we were attacked by the Romalian pirates. One quiet moonless night, they stealthily managed to come overboard and strategically managed to take total control of the ship.
They held the American captain and a mixture of Europeans and Russians for ransom. As for us the Indian team, they informed us that we were not going to be held hostage for ransom. My first reaction was of extreme relief, but within seconds was taken over by the curiosity of a scientific mind. I gathered some courage and begged the leader to tell us the reason. The leader obliged by telling us thus…
“We no negotiate with India, no good no good” he said shaking his head from left to right.
“First time we capture the Indians, we say -let the India speaker speak”.
“One guy call on satellite phone, ‘I am spokesperson of the UPA government,’ he say.”
“No, no we want speak person of India government—‘Yes, yes I speak for India government.’
“But he no speaking.He only barking like a dog – we no understand, he say his nameis I think, doggy VJ sing. We angry. ’let your leader speak we say”,
“The Indian government leader come on phone, but he no speak a word– only silent.We very angry.We shoot the Indians – throw them in sea.”
“Second time we capture the Indians, we say ‘No silent speaker this time. We want good speaker.The guy come on phone and say – “I am Arknow”, I demand to know what your demands are?
“I start to say-Our demands are… He shout at me –‘I want to know, today, all of India want to know.. ‘But he no allow me to speak. We very angry. We shoot the Indians and throw them in sea.”
“Last time we capture Indians we say, ‘This time we want lady speak.’ Ok.. One lady speak very good. We say ‘We want money to release the Indians!’She say,No, no you release Indian I give you my paintings, very good painting, cost one croreeach’. We say no painting only money.”
“She become very angry, she shout and say ‘bamboo, backside,sojish’. We no understand. We very angry. We shoot the Indian throw them in sea.”
“Now we capture Indian we no talk to India, We no shoot Indians, we no waste bullets, we throw Indians in sea!”
That night they put us in their leaking rickety wooden boat, with some meager rations and abandoned us in the middle of the high seas. I had managed to smuggle with me, the most important survival tools which consisted of my compass, my measuring tape and my geological hammer, and a 6 inch utility knife.
For a week we were being buffeted about by the waves in the midst of nowhere, while our food supplies ran out. Death by starvation was looming large. On the seventh night a mild storm broke out, capsizing our boat. I managed to hold on to some wooden planks and drifted about in the wide ocean. Too tired I fell asleep on the wooden planks. When I woke up I found myself stranded on the shore of a small island.
I realized my grave predicament. I immediately set off to check for other survivors. Six hours later I concluded I was the only human on the island. Luckily for me the island had plenty of coconut trees, so food and water should not be a worry. I managed to build a make shift hut near a rock outcrop with the coconut leaves.
I spent the next few days exploring the island, and studying the geological formations and structures. Although I was an atheist, a miracle took place and I had a revelation and now I strongly believe in the existence of god. While walking along the Eastern side of the island, I noticed something that was too wonderful to explain. There sitting on the outcrop was the most glorious and perfect specimen of the missing link between the land and marine creatures.
Yes my guess was right it was indeed the perfect preserved fossil of “Tiktaalik” a genus of extinct Sarcopterygian (lobe-finned fish) from the late Devonian period. So far the paleontologists had only managed to find some incomplete and disjointed fossils of this extinct specimen. I wiped away the tears of joy, and quickly scouted the area, made markings, and went about diligently scrapping off the top soil and set about excavating the fossil.
Days passed by, as I got set into a routine, wake up at sunrise, climb the coconut trees pluck out some coconuts drink the water eat the soft fleshy part.and save some food for the rest of the day. Then I setoff to the fossil site. It was a harsh and slow work but it kept me well occupied till sunset.
One lazy afternoon, while I was busy trying to clear out the dorsal fin of the fossil fish, I heard a mellifluous voice singing out to me. It took a while to realize there was someone else beside me on the island.
I turned back and saw this most beautiful creature. The girl was so young and her skin was glowing like gold. The seawater was dripping down her curvaceous waist like lazy concentrated mineral rich water drops rolling off a stalagmite.
As my eyes moved further away from the waist. “Oh wait” I said to myself and let my eyes linger on the waist a little longer, hmmm… What a perfect geometry it looked as if her upper part of the body and lower part of her body belonged to two different species. What the heck! They were off-course, two different creatures joined at the waist.
The lower part of the body, from below the waist, belonged to a fish. Starting from that well-rounded shapely waist, was the lazy never-ending lower part of her body. This slim silver scaled part of her body meandered off, like a shimmering lazy slow-moving river in the delta region. The numerous curves on the way and finally ended in the fan-shaped alluvial delta just before meeting the sea. The webbed fins were translucent, and dotted with multi-hued marine patterns that changed shape and color as she moved.
The way the lower part of her body moved was like a poem in motion. It was so mesmerizing that I had to pull up all my will power to shift my gaze to see what’s the top of her waist was like.
As my gaze slowly moved up wards, I noticed the enormous round hips sharply narrowed upwards again to a stomach flat as the table-top mountains of Roraima. At the centre of this flat mountain, I spied upon the most glorious navel, as beautiful as the sink holes of Missouri. As my gaze traveled further upwards I noticed the twin peaks, well-rounded and beautiful as the twin peaks of St.lucia rising out of the calm Caribbean Sea.
Further up northwards, I saw the most beautiful swan like neck that reminded me of the columnar basalts of Gilbert hills of Andheri. Further up I saw the moon like beautiful face. Her mouth was as round and circular as the caldera of Mount Kilimanjaro, The sharp pointy set of pearl white teeth within the caldera. Her pink lips, were like the polished corals from the coasts of Tunisia. Her Eyes, were shining with an inner light that shone like green cat’s-eye stones. Her long golden yellow silky hair cascaded down like the tumultuous mountain streams, that swirling into eddies along the way. Her long slender arms were like the frozen lava tubes of a volcano. In short she was a stunning conglomeration of geological features.
It gradually dawned on me that I was actually looking at the Mythical creature from the deep-sea,“a mermaid”. It was almost as exciting as discovering the “Tiktaalik” fossil.
I am a very shy person by nature. Under normal circumstances I would have waited for someone to introduce me to her. I guess the situation was not normal, so I took it on myself and ventured a shy hello and Introduced myself as Dr. Pattharwalla a marine geologist from Mumbai.
She introduced herself as…..Ahaa, got you there, I was just joking she can’t speak English though. Sigh… for that matter she could not speak in the sense as like a land dweller. All she communicated was in that peculiar low whistles and guttural sounds akin to the whales and dolphins. I swear at that moment I really regretted not joining the “how to speak fluently like the dolphins in two weeks course in Mumbai “
Any way now that the ice was broken, we started having a long conversation. Every 15 minutes she would dive off into the water to breathe and waddle back on to the boulder. I was so happy that I could talk to someone and show off my knowledge about the fossils.
We managed to keep a conversation going. She would look into my eyes and go on in her soft sing-song whistling, and I would talk to her with my eyes fixed on the twin peaks of St.Lucia. Women or mermaids the female instinct remains intact I guess. I could feel her discomfort at my obvious staring. Next day she turned up as usual, to sit on the boulder. This time she had her bosom completely covered in a thick green garment made of the softest and pliable sea weed called “kelp”.
One fine day I managed to completely pry out the well-preserved fossil of the “Tiktaalik” and cleaned it of all debris, and placed it delicately on a mat woven from the coconut leaves and showed it to the lady. She looked at it with concentration and she suddenly startled me with a whistle that conveyed only one thing, “yes excitement”!. She suddenly became animated and started waving her arms and pointing at the Northern direction of the island, and again at the fossil alternatively. I got the message. She wanted to show me something at the Northern part of the island.
packing my life saving equipment, the coconut water and the coconut lunch I trudged off along the coast, while the fishy lady swam along the coast, towards the North of the island. At a certain place she came ashore and waddled on to a boulder. Sitting there she excitedly showed me the small Patch of land that looked like some crude cemetery.
I was perplexed to see this patch of land that was obviously worked over by external activity. Out of curiosity I started digging out a mound that seemed to be the burial-place of someone or something. All the while wondering if this island at some point of time was inhabited by humans.
A couple of hour’s latter I exhumed out a complete skeleton of a human. There was something strange here, the lower part of the skeleton seemed to be fused up to the knees and then separated out as two distinct feet from thereon. Probably the person was suffering from some defective fused lower limbs I guessed.
It was getting dark and the fishy lady slipped quietly into the sea and swam off. I trudged back to my makeshift hut.
Next day I decided to dig out a few more burial mounds, and I came across more such skeletons and some had the lower limbs fused almost to the ankles. The last skeleton I exhumed completed the picture, here the fusion was almost complete with the feet disappeared and ended in a web like structure.
Then it struck me like a lightening. There I was standing at the doorstep of the biggest discovery of the millennium. I gradually pieced together the whole sequence of events. I was actually seeing the reverse evolution of a biped human gradually turning into a merman. This was where the ritual burial was taking place over a long period of the reverse evolution.
At the end of one of the ice-age melting the land was getting flooded by the rising sea water. This particular human race adapted itself the environmental changes by converting their physiology by acquiring the Piscean anatomy turning into a fish like creature. They developed gills, while still retaining their lungs to occasionally breathe on the land surface.
I could imagine myself being honored by the scientific community. The Press conferences, the book release, the fame, I was getting tizzy with all those wonderful thoughts. Oh my god I need to get some tailor-made suits. I need to upgrade my cell phone buy a new car. I was all excited and puffed up.
It was now almost a month since the discovery of the skeletons, I was getting restless. The presence of the mermaid was troubling me. One day while we were in conversation me in my human language and she, in her whistle and click and clucks. A very wicked thought came to my mind. I knew it was wrong, I was going to betray the trust that was built over several weeks, but then,desperate situations called for desperate measures.
I put my nefarious plan into action and started moving closer to her each day, till she was comfortable within an arms distance from me. Now it was time to move on to my second part of the plan. I brought out my compass and placed it in her hands. She was intrigued with the shining glass and the needles turning inside.
As soon I noticed her attention was drawn to the compass, I took position, hardened my heart, and before my inner conscious weakened me I did what I had planned to do.
In one swift move I took a firm grip on her kelp garment and yanked it off clean from her bosom at the same time I snatched off my compass from her hands with the other hand. The next moment I ran back a hundred yards from her, although I knew that she could not run after me.
I turned back and looked at her, she was too stunned to react to what just happened. Her perfect oval mouth was open making no sound. She slowly in a slow motion closed her mouth and her eyes welled up with tears. Probably what her people told her about the land dwellers was true after all. They could not be trusted.
For a few moments longer she was quiet then her face went red with anger, she became animated and started wailing in a series of high-pitched whistles. I did not pay attention to her distress. Now I had the right material to wrap my precious “Tiktaalik” fossil in.
She suddenly calmed down and picked up a seashell from the ground grunted something into the shell and threw the water in my direction. With a sad defeated face, the mermaid splashed back into the sea and vanished. She never again reappeared after that.
Now I was spending my time digging here and there for more fossils and eagerly waiting to be rescued. Finally a month later I noticed a tiny speck of a ship passing by. I quickly burnt some dry coconut leaves and sent out smoke signals. As my luck would hold out the signals were seen by the watch-out on the ship. A small boat was sent out to check out the smoke signal.
The few sailors who came ashore were surprised to see me. It was obvious that I was a shipwreck survivor, who was almost out of his senses. They quickly bundled me out on to the boat all the while ignoring completely what I was blubbering. Back on the ship I rambled on to the captain about the fossils and the retro evolution.
The captain looked at me with sympathy and gave me a fresh change of clothes and food to eat. I once more started off pointing to the island and tried to tell him about the treasure there. The ships medic quietly injected me with sedatives and kept me in a stupor till we reached a port a few days later.
I was soon on a plane to Mumbai, where I was admitted into the psychiatry ward of Leelavati hospital. From that day I have been trying to tell to whoever would listen about the fossils and the Mermen skeletons and the retro evolution.
Every one ignores my description as the ranting of a madman who has turned insane. Now it has finally dawned on me. The sing-song incantations and sprinkling of the water by the Mermaid. It was a curse she placed on me for the ultimate betrayal. A strong curse that no one would ever believe a word of what I say. I am writing this story hoping that someone sometime will have the patience to read and understand my pain. Who knows I could still be famous.