| Manoj Das, who lost his wife and daughter a year ago, breaks down on the beach on Monday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Malacca (Car Nicobar), Dec. 26: Under a blue sky and with a calm sea spreading out in front, two men haunted the beach at 6.29 this morning.
One was searching for his wife and daughter. The other had been driven here by his family’s memory.
Manoj Das and Srikant Palekar (name changed on request) were neighbours in Malacca before their homes, with some 2,000 others, were swept away by the tsunami at 6.29 am on this day last year.
In a blue T-shirt and shorts, Palekar was capturing in his handycam the sea that looted him.
“My 10-month-old son Angshuman was in my hands, but he slipped. He was a test-tube baby, around whom my wife Sunita had woven a dream, but those are all gone,” the intelligence official said.
“I stay in Mumbai now, but I decided to come back here just once to find some solace,” said Palekar, nervously puffing a cigarette.
Behind him, at a distance, a familiar figure, Das’s, hove into view. After the tsunami, The Telegraph had found this man frenetically looking for wife Lipika and eight-year-old daughter Vineeta.
The director of the Malaria Research Centre, Das is still looking.
“I tried to find them everywhere, even abroad through diplomatic channels. Can you please publish their photographs' Someone may recognise them,” Das said.
He walked up to the place where once his house stood and where now only a part of an uprooted tree lay. “This is my wife’s sari. Lipika had bought it from Rourkela a year back,” Das said, tears rolling down his cheek.
A part of the sari was fluttering in the wind, and Das caught it with both hands. He was not home when the waves came. “Just two days ago, when I left town, Lipika had asked me what she would do if the sea came in, and I had told her jokingly that she should run. Where are you now'” Das asks.
Further down and towards the beach, Palekar walked up to the temple that had miraculously survived the tsunami.
“This was my favourite spot. I used to sit here with my son and play for hours every evening,” recalled Palekar, pointing towards a platform.
The corner of his eye caught Das, anxiously walking around the beach before lowering himself, almost breaking down.
“I know him. I was the one who was holding his wife’s hands on one side and with the other Angshuman,” recalled Palekar. Palekar’s wife was on a platform that had broken but was still withstanding the waves.
“I knew about tsunami, but knew that it was just one wave. I did not know that so many waves would hit us,” recalled Palekar, lighting an incense stick at the place where he used to sit with his son.
“When the super wave, about 12-13 metres in height, hit us, I lost consciousness, and I could see my wife getting washed away. My son slipped from my hand and so did Lipika Das.”
By then, Das had recognised Palekar. “Let us go to the tsunami memorial, your wife’s and son’s names are engraved on it,” said Das, perhaps unaware that Lipika’s and Vineeta’s names were also there.
“I will go if you insist, but for me this is the tsunami memorial,” replied Palekar.