My mother was wearing a beige colour sari. She usually wore bright colours. She looked sad in her face, frail, thin and dark, pretty unusual. An English officer, a tall person who climbed from a navy ship, was standing in the lawn covered of white soil now in faint light. He wore a pair of khaki pants and shirt that made him look a missionary, not navy. It was a balmy afternoon with a hazy layer of cloud cover. No sunlight. And there came a boy demanding that I buy a ticket from him. I don’t even know him. My mother wasn’t happy to find me getting involved with these guys. She said nothing. I was there at the gatehouse. My house, a single-storey limestone structure, stood by the corner and the narrow lanes filled of white sand and puddles of water scattered. Opposite mine, there stood a strong six-storey building, a concrete structure, with beaming columns, grey walls and pillars decorated of pink and pine marbles. Only a rich person could have a house like that, in the seventies, and not too many houses were that tall. If I climbed my rooftop I could see a good view of the sea around this one square mile island. The boy left us there. I didn’t buy a ticket from him. And in the eerie silence I thought I heard a crack followed by a faintly felt tremor. For the most part nobody could feel a thing without having ears like mine. It was a muted sound like breaking a tiny, rotten stick. I rushed to the gate and observed significant cracks branched on the concrete pillars so decorated in pink and pine. There could be thousands of minute cracks invisible to the naked eye. Nobody was up the lane. I turned to look at my house that stood intact. I stepped inside to find my brother, an architect. He was wearing a grey tie, in white shirt, long sleeves, just home from work. I asked, “Did you hear that?”
He replied, “Someone just blasted the bedrock.”
The bedrock! I didn’t want to argue with him, an educated guy, but that was the most absurd thing I heard. He meant it was an implosion someone deliberately did, ruling out any natural phenomenon that I could have thought of like an earthquake that rarely happens. That sudden jerk and thud of a crack we heard too close in our ears in one single shot only explained an implosion. It caused so much of damage to the concrete structures of the entire island. Who’d think of to blast the bedrock and for what purpose?
I rushed to the backyard, a couple of indigent families dwell here in thatched huts. I came across the schoolgirl, in her home clothes, standing by the door. She was utterly ashamed but at least, she didn’t hide. She ought to be because I know of her secret, everyone knows but nobody talks to cause her any embarrassment. How can I describe these girls? Her mother pulled her out of the room stark naked few days ago. She was having a moment with her boyfriend. Not that she did anything wrong…she confessed. I wasn’t there. I just heard that. “Did you hear anything?” I inquired and she shook her head still holding that shy smile at me. Of course, we weren’t that acquainted.
Her mother seated outside the kitchen hut paused to listen. Everything was quiet here. Those tiny huts made of cadjan remained peaceful and undisturbed, nothing moved, nothing swayed, not even a leaf. Some flies buzzed over a piece of cake a little kid pooped on the ground, usual habit. I returned to the gate.
As I stepped on the lane, I noticed a guy on a bicycle pedalling up and he whizzed pass me. We know each other but he didn’t stop. How can I describe him? He was kind of a crack. A neighbour, one day he rushed to the two-lane junction with a machete to kill someone. A week ago on a very rainy night I stopped at his teashop, pulled out a brand new hundred rufiyaa bank note and asked for change, I buy two cigarettes. He picked a stick, tapped on the counter, threw it into his mouth and lit it up just like a flash and passed to me. I took it without a grumble because I was going to smoke one right away. He fumbled into a bag to get my change while I helped to some nuts. He picked the other stick and just like that lit up and shoved it to me. I was very unhappy. “I didn’t ask to light it up!” He smiled and eventually gave me the bag with my change. In it I found bundles of thick notes, US dollars, Indian rupees, pesos, bahts, you name it. “What the hell is this? I don’t want this. Give me my buck!”
“Take it!” he said, “You asked for it. I have to get rid of them.” I took it home, in thousands, in foreign currency, hard currency.
Just then, three guys turned round the corner and hurriedly paced way towards their homes. I saw their faces, I know them. They were neighbours too. They probably had seen me or they didn’t want me to notice them. They wore hooded jackets like burglars I see in the movies. They carried spades and tools in heavy sacks on their shoulders. One of them even worked with the national guards placing TNT explosives on the reefs to blow up passages for boats. The one in the middle was kind of an undertaker. And I know these three guys got a connection to the biker who passed this lane few minutes ago. And I know these guys got radically different mind-sets that they would never walk together or sit together in a pub for tea. It was odd to see them together and dressed like that. One thing I know they all agree was politics. They didn’t like the despotic rule.
They were neighbours, they were friends and at that point I came to realize I was witnessing those perpetrators who plotted an implosion to blast the bedrock to cause such damage for whatever purpose. I didn’t care to know the magnitude or the amount of destruction; technically it was too complex in nature. If it wasn’t for me, if anyone else had seen them together, they couldn’t have possibly come to this conclusion. I know they argue and fight on every issue, eat and bite, sometimes call it brotherly love, they grew up together but politics they won’t talk. Hush!
I rushed to the navy officer and expressed my thoughts. Actually I said I think I know who used the TNT. He told me if they could get hold of a suspect they could find out who used TNT from forensics, from their clothes, from their bodies, tools and it could be traced for several weeks. They got that kind of equipment on the navy ship. All that were beyond my knowledge and not even the national security guards or the police were that advanced. So why should I bother? Thinking back I was sure nobody had seen me out on the lane while they passed by so nobody would know I suspected something. I better keep my mouth shut but again, in second thoughts, my conscience didn’t agree even friends to escape after causing that kind of damage and destruction to thousands of people in the name of political hate.
Later I learnt little about the effectiveness and the damage it caused. I’m pretty sure the perpetrators wouldn’t know of it or planned an outcome that nasty other than an intention of causing fear or shock. The soft soil on top of the bedrock stopped causing damage to the smaller houses and trees. Meanwhile huge concrete structures physically mounted on top of the bedrock shook to cause multiple cracks, some close to the epicentre shattered completely. A number of TNT bags stolen from a warehouse were dropped into a bottomless well in a mosque almost a mile from here. It got bedded underneath the bedrock. When that was detonated it caused massive cracks in the bedrock and the reef, spilling every drop of water out of the well. It took millions of years to naturally form the bedrock, so they say. These cracks would never heal.
I was disturbed, thinking, I could tell the police and my friends won’t know. They did not see me. They did not…I was wakening on it to hear the police whistles blowing loud and noisy. In a moment my world turned upside down. The national guards were out picking pedestrians from the roads. They beat them and threw them into Bedford trucks, men, women and children, anyone on the street. It was curfew, in our style. I rushed to the main road not too far from my house. I observed the trucks moving up, pulling up, and guards in brown shirts trailing beside them carrying heavy clubs. Nobody was allowed to get out of the house.
Even so public rushed to the gathering ring in front of the police depot during revolts. Armed police were shooting at them, so I heard. It was mayhem. It was bloodshed. At sundown, some light shone on the horizon, we entered into one of the most famous historical events of the decade known as the Big Thursday, an uprising. It was a bigger plot, I knew it. And I made up my mind. Hush!