By Ajay Chacko Mar. 20, 2021
This is a story of climate change told through the eyes of undersea creatures, who have witnessed havoc to their ecosystems, thanks to mankind. Those who have lived long enough to let us know about the fleetingness of our lives. It is a story of forgiveness and hope.
I am Ji, a jellyfish. Biologists call me Turritopsis Dohrnii. I have seen millenia, mostly because I don’t die. I just go back to polyp stage and start all over again. Imagine the pain of seeing a millenia, or was it two? But thankfully, unlike most of you, I have neither brain, nor heart, so I really don’t know what that kind of pain is. Just kidding! Your biologists don’t know the kind of brain and heart required to survive forever. You’ll know, eventually. Not now.
There, I see Kre coming to me with his ever so large head. You may think that the large head would mean a large brain, but no, I think Kre is a simpleton. Kre doesn’t really think much. Confusing, since I am the one with no brain and Kre is a bowhead whale, all of 70-feet-long, with a head that’s almost a third of his body?
Today Kre and I are going to discuss family. He has been asking me about why I worry so much about him having no family. I believe, to survive for as long as I have, and even for Kre who’s almost a 150-year-old, there has to be someone to belong to or the emptiness of the Atlantic comes to take hold of you. It is quite maddening. It puts ideas into our heads. The emptiness, not the ocean.
But who am I to advise Kre? I don’t have any family either. Is that why we’re getting these visions about an apocalypse? Is the ocean turning warm or is it our head that’s turning mushy? Is it getting difficult to breathe or is there a vacuum in my heart? Heart? Eh forget it.
‘Kre, brother, how are you?’
‘Ji master, I must tell you that there is no ice going to be left on the Atlantic-Arctic against which I can hit my heavy head. What would I hit against when I feel the way I do? I would break through a foot of ice to come out and breathe over the ocean’s roof and now it’s all a quick zip up and down. We must do something sooner. There is an apocalypse waiting to happen.’
‘Kre, did you find Shé? Did you speak to her? Are you going to keep talking to a jellyfish forever?’
He doesn’t respond. Instead, we hear a big screeching thud, almost like an explosion with a continued reverb.
The roof of the ocean distracts us with an unusually large ruffle and a strange, new sound.
‘I haven’t heard this in a while Kre. What could it be? Could that be another ice sheet collapsing? But why that strange continuing sound? Or is it again in my head?’
‘No Kre, it’s new. Let’s check it out.’
It doesn’t look like anything we have seen before. The ocean roof has turned a shade of violet, a color I haven’t seen the time the Posiedon broke down, right here. It hit an ice sheet which its breakers couldn’t deal with. I look out for a sinking ship. But there’s none. Is it going to be another one of those chemical disasters? Aaargh, it’s getting nauseous here.
‘Kre, let’s get out of here. Kre?’
I don’t see Kre. He’s gone through the roof again, I guess.
An hour passes by, or is it a day? I don’t see Kre. Let’s now expand search. God I am slow! There I find some flotsam which I can hold on to and travel a little faster.
‘Kre, brother, where are you?’
In the days that go by when I search for Kre, there’s little joy in seeing the ocean like this. Back in the day I had that thrill of travel, especially on flotsam or a keel of a large ship or the cargo docks, over the years. Everytime I reset, go back to polyp stage, I lose that thrill just a wee bit, but not today. Today I am particularly upset. There’s been a nagging thought creeping up my head, no not the kind that Kre the Bowhead has, but in that recess of timeless memory that stacks up in some place I don’t know, but it exists. I have been thinking. And no, it’s not just the passage of an inordinate length of time. It’s more than that.
There’s a marked difference in the rate at which the ocean is changing. And I wonder what it would be on land. It would be much faster. Why am I worried about that? What’s the rate of change on land and in the ocean got to do with me? More on that later. Let me find Kre for now.
‘Kre brother, where are you?’
I travel what feels like a 100 miles but still there’s no sign of Kre. There’s this eerie violet hue on the roof of the ocean and I am being hurled almost at the speed of sound by some unknown force, something I have never experienced in recent times. Something like this happened around 50 years back, a tsunami or some such making things difficult to stay in one place for a while.
The above excerpt is taken from A Bend in the Ocean, written by Ajay Chacko, and is available for purchase on the Juggernaut Books app. Proceeds from the sales go to The Probably Paradise Shelter, Karjat, Maharashtra.