Midnight Miracle: Waiting for Mother Turtles by the Beach

Samrat and his mother, a sea turtle researcher, are headed to Tarmugli Island to spot nesting turtles. Will the turtles come? Read an excerpt from the book 'Waiting for Turtles’
Text by: Pankaj Sekhsaria
Illustrations by: Vipin Sketchplore

Samrat sat up to see if he should place another log on the tarpaulin. The sight before him, however, made him bounce up like a spring. Right on the sheet of plastic, at arm’s length from where he was sleeping, was a massive black lump – a huge, dark creature almost as big as he was! This was the green sea turtle they’d been awaiting so eagerly. The mother turtle was stuck on the smooth surface of the tarpaulin. The movement of her two front flippers as she tried to cross over the plastic sheet were the tugs that had woken him up!

Samrat shook his mother awake.

“Mama,” he said softly, “the mother turtle.”

“No, beta,” Seema responded drowsily, “no turtles nesting tonight. We’ll come again next weekend.”

“But Mama,” Samrat insisted. “She’s here. Look.”

His mother opened her eyes and gasped.

She quickly crawled over and woke up Ramchandran. Together, they gently pulled the tarpaulin from under the mother turtle.

“Keep your distance,” Seema told Samrat. “If she’s disturbed, she’ll go straight back into the sea without laying her eggs.”

The mother turtle was panting heavily, her throat puffing up like a little balloon every time she inhaled. She exhaled and then inhaled again. With one final push, she dragged herself to the edge of the beach and stopped. After resting a few moments, she put her back flippers to use, digging a neat bucket-like hole in the soft sand.

“Is she crying?” Samrat asked his mother, pointing to the tears that were running down her eyes. “Is she tired? Maybe she’s sad! What is she sad about?”

“No, no,” Seema whispered. “The tears are removing extra salt from her body. It’s just like when we sweat! But, yes, she must be very tired. Being on land is tough work for this creature of the sea.”

The mother turtle positioned herself on top of the hole and Seema shone her torch into the pit.

Samrat took the torch from her, “Mama, let me have a closer look at her face. I can’t see much in the dark.”

“No!” Seema snatched the torch back. “You shouldn’t do that. You’ll spook her. Now watch,” she said, as she pulled him next to her and once again pointed the beam of light into the hole.

“Wow, she’s laying eggs!” Samrat exclaimed softly as he watched two round, white eggs covered in a sticky fluid drop from the turtle’s body. “But they look so different!”

“Yes, they’re round and soft – you thought they’ll be like the eggs we eat at home?”

“Yes, but they look exactly like the table-tennis ball I have at home, only a little bigger,” said Samrat.

“That’s right. Now sit patiently and count them. Let’s see how many she will lay.”

Samrat crouched beside his mother and cupped his chin in his palms.

“Three… four… five… six…”

There was a small pause.

“…seven… eight… nine… ten… eleven…”

The white balls continued to drop gently in ones and twos.

“Sixty-five, sixty-six, sixty-seven, sixty-eight… You think there will be a hundred, Mama?”

“Well, let’s see…”

Half an hour after the mother turtle had started laying her eggs, Samrat yelped excitedly, “Hundred!” with a small punch in the air. “Well done, mama turtle,” he said.

The turtle dropped two more eggs into the pit and was still for a while.

She then started to cover up the pit using her flippers. She filled the nest with sand, disturbed the area nearby to ensure that the nest could not be found, and started her tiring crawl back to the ocean.

Excerpted with permission from Waiting for Turtles by Pankaj Sekhsaria, published by Karadi Tales. Price: Rs 250. You can buy the book here.


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