Monday, May 9, 2011

Konkans day of Apocalypse [science fiction short]

[Translated by the author, Dr. Nandakumar Kamat, from the Marathi original
Konkanpralaya?, first published on 30 May 2004 in the Daily Gomantak,
Panjim, Goa, Sunday supplement 'Shabdasohala']

Initially the seismologists thought that the epicenter of that earthquake could be the area around the Koyna dam. But considering the experience of Latur, they began immediate and detail investigation. On Richter scale
the tremors measured only six and the quake had lasted hardly for twenty seconds. Tremors of lesser intensity were still getting recorded. Napoleon Lobo and Janardan Sawant had gone for a fishing trip in the Bay of Marmagoa. Near Sunchi reef they had spotted an unusual piece of rock projecting from the surface from the surrounding water. Perhaps a new island might be emerging -- they thought. Four houses on the slopes of Altinho, Panjim had collapsed. This mishap had caused panic among the Panjimites. Landslides close to many roads in Goa had caused motor vehicle accidents. Residents of Salvador da Mundo, Betul, Balli, Poladpur, Harnem, Mangaon, Kudal, Konkan and Goa were stunned to find their regular
village wells unexpectedly overflowing. They couldn't explain the
phenomenon. The Galjibaga coastline had been hit by unprecedented dance of
turbulent sea. Most of the beach was eroded. Giant waves had also eroded
the Anjuna coastline. Advocate Gomes had a palatial bungalow on the banks
of Mandovi estuary at Ribandar. He noticed that the walls were slowly
sinking. People had thronged to Surla village on Goa?s border with
Karnataka to witness the newly formed hot water spring. It strongly
smelled of sulphur. A few geologists had also rushed there. But the smart
local people had not permitted them to carry out any research. The Deccan
trap found on the north east of Goa had been formed 65 million years ago.
The western ghats known as Sahyadris were born 45 million years ago, but
the geologists were convinced that this orogenic process had halted or
slowed down. The west coast fault located in the Arabian sea runs parallel
to the coastline of Goa and Konkan. The rivers in Goa show a zig zag
course on account of ancient tectonic activities. There was an atmosphere
of gloom in the Indian geophysical institute. The seismographs were
clearly indicating the possibility of a major earthquake. Commands had
been issued to measure the declination or the microscopic movement of the
Konkan coastline using laser altimetry. The famous seismologist Dr. Harsh
Gupta had issued a warning to remain vigilant for 24 hours. It was June,
2007. The monsoon had begun on time. The Konkan belt was having a party.
It was bumper crop of Alphonso mangoes. The Ratnagiri-Kolhapur railway
link had become operational. Work on the new multilane west coast highway
had finally begun. New technology had reduced landslides on the Konkan
railway route. But on June 14 th, the Padi tunnel in Canacona developed a
huge linear fissure. Mud and water began leaking through it endangering
railway travel. The fissure looked like a clean knife cut. On war
footing the repair works were in full swing. So far all these events
scattered in space and time were not co-related and none had suspected
any link to the anticipated earthquake. After anchoring his trawler to the
Vasco fishing jetty, Napoleon Lobo spoke to Janardhan Sawant- ? the sea
appears mischievous. I can see a strange colour in the water. It it as if
something is churning at the bottom the sea.? Accepting Lobo?s
observations, Janardhan Sawant remarked-? I remember the strange rock
which we had encountered. What do you think about it?. Don?t you think
that it came out of the sea like a whale jaw?.? Lobo noticed the overcast
southwestern horizon. A huge bank of oddly shaped clouds was forming. ?I
fear that a storm or may be a cyclone is coming this way?. Sawant did not
agree with him. He said-? Napolean, if that was the case then they would
have furled a red signal flag at the jetty much in advance. Where is the
While they were speaking, the bottoms of the Indian ocean were in turmoil.
A process which was thought to have slowed down million of years ago, had
become active again. A chain of dormant volcano was close to the Reunion
islands. These were ovens of the earth, now almost extinguished by time.
But Earth is a peculiar, unpredictable planet. Although detail maps of the
ocean floors were available, there was insufficient information from ocean
core drilling project. In absence of any reliable global data about the
composition of the ocean floor sub-surface, the scientist believed that,
it could be considered stable.
17 June 2007. The government wheels started moving.
Precautionary orders were issued in anticipation of the
earthquake. Panjim saw a huge rally which educated the citizens
on disaster preparedness. Margao, Marmagoa, Ponda, Usgao,
Karapur, Kalapur, Gimonem, Amonem -- the meetings at all these
places warned the people about the impending earthquake. But
nobody knew the magnitude of the coming disaster or its? timing
or what was expected of them to deal with such a situation. The
television channels were constantly churning features, which
made contradictory claims and created confusion. Some said that
a mega earthquake was going to hit the west coast. Some others
claimed that a supercyclone was brewing somewhere.
21 June 2007. Kolaba, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Panjim observatories
recorded tremors of six magnitude. The seismologists were more or less
successful now to identify the unstable region. The trouble spot was
towards the north of Reunion islands. Suddenly that region had become
seismically reactivated. Immediately messages flew. Supercomputers began
crunching numbers and data. Probability maps were ready based on models of
the sinking of the ocean floor and its? impact on the land. The Laccadives
island groups faced the biggest threat followed by the islands of
Seychelles and Reunion. Then was the turn of India?s west coast.
23 June 2007. The President of India issued a declaration proclaiming
civil emergency on the west coast from Vapi to Mangalore. ?Don?t panic?
the appeals told the citizens. Tourists in Goa had retreated. All new
bookings had been cancelled. Goa was under the cloud of invisible anxiety
and tension. Fear of the unknown was in the air.
24 June 2007. The Chief minister Mr. Mansamrat presided over an all party
meeting at Miramar. Politicians otherwise at loggerheads with each other
found themselves brought together by the approaching calamity. They
resolved to face the disaster unitedly.
25 June 2007. A new volcano exploded in the southern Indian ocean near
Reunion and began belching fire and molten lava. There were mild tremors.
But the new Volcano literally shook the global community. When the first
images from the submersible were telecast-people could assess the
seriousness of the event. There was danger ahead.
Napoleon Lobo spoke to Janardhan Sawant: 'My god..I don?t think that the
signs are good for Goa. We need a change Jana... The rain has not yet
picked its rhythm -- so why not go for picnic?.? Janardhan responded
enthusiastically. His friend stayed at Paroda. The Paroda hillock was very
close to his house. ?Lobo, listen.. I would show you the famous
Chandranath hill. You can really enjoy Goa from its? beautiful summit.?.
Lobo had heard about this place but never had any opportunity to visit it.
After they arranged for the safety of their trawlers, Lobo and Sawant
drove towards Paroda.
Morning of 26 th June. There was a light drizzle. Slowly it became a
torrent. Then it started raining cats and dogs. People began running for
shelter everywhere as the rain picked up momentum. Panjim recorded 12
inches rainfall within four hours. At three PM the Observatory issued a
special weather bulletin. It said that very heavy rainfall was possible in
Konkan and Goa for the next 48 hours causing flooding of low lying areas
and flash floods. On their way to Paroda, Lobo and Sawant had no idea of
this bulletin. They reached Paroda. They purchased food at Quepem. Then
they located the house of Janardhan?s friend. They couldn?t find him
there. He had already gone to watch the rain from Paroda hill. So, the duo
decided to visit the Paroda hill. They drove as sheets of rain beat on
their windshield. The rain had erected a thick curtain around the hill.
But Lobo and Sawant?s Toyota jeep was strong enough to take them to the
summit. They reached near the Chandranath temple as the faint Sun began
sinking on the western horizon. Lobo first noticed the fierce waters of
the Arabian sea. It was something different and unfamiliar to him. He
could not help it and said? ?Janardhan, I doubt if this rain would ever
take rest now..?.
Almost at the same time, there was a flood like situation near Panjim?s
Mandovi hotel. People were forced to enter the Hotel. They were treated to
complimentary cakes and biscuits. Nobody noticed the Sunset. The night was
approaching. Suddenly the power went off. It was beginning of a
nightmarish night. The Navy helicopters were flying sorties in the
darkness of the night. The wireless center was deluged by appeals for help
from flooded areas. Vasishthi, Savitri, Kundalika, Gangavali,Kali, Mandovi
all major western flowing rivers were in spate. The water had broken all
the barriers and bundhs. Sal river had flooded Salcete. From Margao to
Assolna the valley was completely flooded. People from Majorda and
Cansaulim climbed the Remedios hill, but they had a mass panic attack after
they looked down towards the Salcete plains. Upto Cavelloshim-Betul, there
was water, water everywhere.
26 June 2007. Several small volcanoes erupted to form a chain in the
Indian ocean. The surface temperature was now rising. The winds started
blowing. It was past 6 PM. One of the newly formed volcanoes exploded with
massive force. All the seismographs in the world recorded the tremors.
Relatively the magnitude was small. But it had catastrophic power. The
real danger was from the giant Tsunami waves created by the volcanic
eruption. With every explosion, a new Tsunami wave front, ending to reach
a crest of 100 metres was forming and then these raced towards the
coastline. These waves had immense destructive power.
Afternoon, June 27 th. Paroda. Sawant exclaimed: ?Lobo, look there!?. Both
of them turned to watch the coastline of Goa with horror. From the
southwest, they saw giant waves towering to a height equalling more than
the combined length of ten coconut trees collapsing on Goa?s coast and
fully eroding it. The Tsunamis did not spare the rest of the Konkan and
the west coast. The ocean had ultimately snatched back the land which was
once called-?Parashuramkshetra?, 'Gomantak? and 'Shurparaka? . It was
Konkan?s day of apocalypse!

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