Want to know how it feels to see the world as a bird does? Akila Kannadasan suggests you go up the recently reopened lighthouse on the Marina
The wind slaps me with the force of the sea waves; it howls menacingly as it threatens to lift me off my feet. The view — of the waves lapping against the shore, of the hazy horizon, of men, women, and children who resemble ants on a mission, of vehicles that look like toys, of moored boats that look like slices of apple on the shore — overwhelms. People elbow each other for a better view from the narrow grilled gallery. It’s amusing to observe the expressions on their faces as they enter. An elderly man’s eyes almost pop out, a little girl shouts out ‘ayyo, sema kaathu!’, a woman grins to reveal all of her teeth, another covers her mouth in awe with her sari’s pallu…the lighthouse has truly won hearts of people young and old.
Some have been waiting outside to buy tickets much before it was opened for the afternoon — the queue almost reaches Gandhi statue! Hawkers selling groundnuts, tender coconuts and ice creams throng the queue. “Don’t give anything for less than Rs. 10,” a groundnut seller instructs another; thanks to the lighthouse, they are having a thriving business today.
James, a security guard at the gallery, is busy herding visitors. “The kalangarai vilakkam (lighthouse) has got moksham after 19 years,” he calls out over the sound of the wind. “The first time I came here, my feet and hands started shaking,” he grins. “I got used to it now.” He talks of how adults turn children when they see the view from up above. “Even elderly men and women are keen to see the lighthouse,” he says. Everyone wants to experience the feeling of being on top of the world.
The best thing about being on the lighthouse? The sight of the blue-grey sky kissing the sea that in turn teases the cream-coloured beach. And the feeling that you are about to sprout wings and take off into the sky any moment…
On the beach a little beyond the lighthouse, Karnan is cleaning a fishing net with his fellow fishermen. It’s the lighthouse that guides him to the shore every day. To such fishermen who do not own a GPS, the lighthouse is crucial. “From the sea, the light looks a like dull bulb that flickers. It comes and goes,” he says. Karnan has seen the tower being built from scratch — his father (late) Sundarrajan was a night watchman there when it was being constructed. (It was inaugurated in 1977). “Father sold prawns by the beach for a living. He became friends with an engineer, who was his customer,” recalls Karnan. When there was a job-opening for night watchman, Sundarrajan was selected, thanks to his engineer-friend’s recommendation. As a little boy, Karnan spent long hours observing its construction. “The lighthouse resembled a samosa when it was being built,” he remembers. As witness to it from close quarters, his father regaled him and his brothers with its developments every day. And when it rained, the brothers spent the night at the lighthouse with their father. “I once slept there for 10 nights at a stretch,” he smiles.
The lighthouse on the Marina beach will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. every day, except Mondays.
Entry tickets are priced at Rs. 10 for adults and Rs. 5 for children aged three to 12. Entry is free for children aged below three. School students over 12 years who are on field trips can get a concession of 50 per cent.
Visitors can take a lift to the ninth floor and walk up the gallery on the floor above for a view of the world below.