By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar
Little Rusty was anxious. She had not seen Tommy since yesterday evening. Initially they thought Tommy must have gone swimming across the ridge which he loved to do often but it had been too long he should have returned.
Rusty and Silu were just wandering along the ridge. This huge water body was their home but the elders had told them not to go past the ridge. But as is usual they never mentioned the quintessential ‘why’.
The ridge was a wonderful place – there was a thicket of vegetation where the little ones could play hide and seek or just laze around, sometimes feel a stream of water current rushing through as they held on to a branch and just let their body wobble in it.
Suddenly Silu lost her grip and a strong current took her beyond the ridge – Rusty followed. The stream’s force took Silu a long way, Rusty was finding it difficult to keep up but finally she grabbed Silu by her small tail and pulled her out of the flow. They quickly started swimming back towards the safety of their home on the other side of the ridge but before they could get a breather they found themselves in mid air high above the water caught in a net.
They tried to get free but it was nigh impossible. The next thing they found themselves was in a place with high walls and hardly any space to swim. Days went by – Rusty and Silu were transferred from box to box – tumbler to tumbler – until one day when they were put in a relatively big tank and there they met Tommy!
“What is all this Tommy? Why are we here?” Rusty asked. Tommy said, “I have been here for a couple of days now. Those big giant tentacles come and pick up one or two of us – sometimes they return sometimes they don’t.”
It was almost food time – food came from the giant pinkish coloured tentacles from above the surface of the water – it was mostly green pellets, sometimes yellow. Instead Silu and Rusty were picked up and kept on a soft pinkish floor with thick tentacles extending from it.
Soon they were placed in water but in a much smaller place through which they could see what is outside. A couple of tentacles held the mouth of the container they were in and started moving then put the container slowly on a flat surface. The tentacles went away and a large green body was placed beside the container. Then there was lot of shaking and tumbling for a while. Finally the tentacles picked the container again and started moving.
Rusty and Silu were placed in a tank similar to the one where they had found Tommy but it had lot of plants and sand and gravel and stones – a bit of home – it was big enough to get a good swim. There was a water jet too where they would try to swim against the flow, and mostly tumble off balance – it was fun!
Months went by – food kept coming from the tentacles from above – Rusty and Silu ate up all the plants and tore up everything in their reach. One fine morning two tiny fishes came to the tank. Rusty and Silu chased them around but could not catch them – it was good play though.
Rusty and Silu kept growing bigger – the tank was no longer enough for a good swim. The tentacles would bring them out of it and place them on hard floor – where they could walk on four – there was a lot of floor space to walk around – they would sometimes get tired of exploring and fall asleep. The tentacles would put them back after some time. It was a good life Rusty and Silu discussed – not the best – with a restricted area to swim – but good enough.
One day the water jet and bubbles that were omnipresent stopped. It was dark and normally the tentacles would not arrive until it was bright. Rusty and Silu chased the fish and this time after some effort Rusty caught one and gobbled it up. The tentacles came in time to pick up the other one. However, it never came back to the tank.
Many months later, one day Rusty and Silu were picked up and placed in a not-so-high walled but circular water body. It was not very big but fun to go round and round in. There was an island in the middle too. After a few days they were put into another tank – this was bigger than the previous one.
Some plants were put which Rusty and Silu devoured in a day. Now the tank had only a few stones, a water jet – which could no longer throw them off balance, bubbles, and a platform above the water where Rusty and Silu would bask occasionally under the bright warm light.
Days turned into months and months turned into years – Now Rusty and Silu were 3 years old – on the verge of becoming mature. Suddenly one day Rusty started feeling sick. She could not swim as much and sat basking for a long time. The tentacles put her out of the tank and placed her on the floor. Silu started her expedition, there was so much space that she would get tired every now and then and nap for a while before going further, but she loved these explorations.
Rusty could not move. She lay across the floor – hardly able to move her limbs. The tentacles picked her up and nudged at the neck and limbs then put her back on the platform.
It was late into the darkness when Rusty called Silu and said, “Hey sis I think it is time for me to cross the rainbow bridge. Remember how grandpa Crany did?” “But he was very old,” Silu said puzzled. “Well looks like they call the lucky ones early! I’ll be swimming across vast waters – even bigger than our home – it will be fun am sure. See you there when it is your time then” Rusty slowly closed her eyes. The tentacles picked her lifeless body up and caressed her as they used to from time to time, but this time Rusty didn’t feel anything. Rusty had crossed the rainbow bridge and gone swimming in the vast expanse of water – leaving all of the tank for Silu to swim.
PS: We lost both our turtles within a span of 7 months – Kheti on 3rd Sep 2022 and Bheti on 4th Apr 2023 – the short story in Bheti’s memory goes – ‘Nobs finds Hops‘