It was dusk by the time we reached Chandipur. A sudden cloud burst had barred our way. On the wayside was stretched out the weekly village market. For a distance, the road heading towards the Missile Testing Centre pulled us magically. No sooner did Pupun free himself from the hypnotic lure than he was stopped by a herd of deer.

     At the shore, it seemed as if the sea had turned its back in a sulking mood. Archana was of course not thrilled. There is opulence in the sea at Puri. Solemnity at Gopalpur and fearful solitude at Konarka’s Chandrabhaga. The sea at Chandipur was different from all these. A rustic beauty in a fashion show, you might say !

*    *    *

     Beneath our feet, there are terrified crabs ! Scurrying for dear lives, frantically they dive into the sand for cover, startling Pupun. Is the crab a vegetarian or meat eater ? Pupun who got 98% marks in the examination of class three and secured third position does not quite know the answer. Do I have the answer ? There are so many mysteries that I do not know : man’s birth and death, the many universes like our own. Clearly there is a lot that I know nothing about !

*    *    *   

     Archana called out : “Pupun, let’s go and touch the waves !”

     “Yes go and hug them !” urged the tourists. Soon the sea was going to recede two or three kilometers. Scared, Pupun said in a desperate act of self-assurance : “There is no crab here !”
“It will do you no harm Pupun !”
“Crab eats meat. It’s a man-eater !” After all, man dies by the sting of a scorpion !”
“Well, crab and scorpion are not one and the same ; you know ! The crab certainly does not eat men.”
“Of course it does !”
“Take my word Pupun ! My experience of forty long years !” I said, “Believe me, the crab does not eat men !”

     Pupun’s eyes showed signs of disbelief. The shore at Chandipur was gradually receding. Archana called out : Come on Pupun, come and touch the waves !

*    *    *

     Why you are so scared, my son ! How can you secure life from fire, water, air, accidents and death ? Listen, life can never be transient ! Fire can not burn it, water can not drown it, air can not blow it ! Only in the hand of assassin, do we finally die !  Offer your salutation to him ! Not to the fire, water or air ! Roll life like a ball !  Let it roll on the hard soil, dry grass, thorn and the rocks ! And then, you will see that you have gone ahead my boy ! Or else, you will see that you have gone ahead my boy ! Or else, you will find yourself forever standing still !

*    *    *

     Pupun did not proceed further. He could not believe that we had taken up fear as the dress of custom. He could not remove the dress. And yet, his whole life would be spent in the stifling heat.

     I screamed : “Go Pupun, go ! Go to the sea !”

     Pupun did not move. He released his defiant hand from my trusting first. I shook in anger. Landing a big blow on his back, I yelled : “Go to the sea, you little coward !”

     Hearing my scream, two tourists turned back. The girl singing Rabindra Sangeet abruptly stopped. The sea got scared and receded a few steps. Archana moved forward and taking Pupun in her lap, remonstrated : “Just, what do you think you are doing ? If you insult the child before all, don’t you think he will develop a complex !”

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