The profile of Elliots beach has changed over the years. Vipasha Sinha talks to those who have lived through the transformation
When I was in school, an evening at Besant Nagar beach was a big deal and required a fair bit of planning. I remember dressing up and hanging out with friends at Planet Yumm. There were a few coffee shops around but we couldn’t afford them.
Over the years, there has been a huge transformation. The beach now draws crowds from all sections; for some, it is a question of livelihood. For others, it is the sheer enjoyment and popularity of the place that brings them here. Be it top food chains, pet stores, apparel stores, tattoo studios or easy-on-pocket food outlets and street food, the place has it all.
K. Kamaraj, a masala kadlai stall owner, has lived through the changes undergone by the Elliot’s beach. After seeing the popularity of the spicy boiled peanuts in Tirupathi, he decided to sell it in here 20 years ago. “I started selling at the Besant Nagar beach and it instantly became popular. In no time, I employed more people and owned around 20 carts,” says Kamaraj, whose business faced the brunt of the change.
“So many things started working against us. Many businesses came up and our income began to split. My employees started demanding more money. They complained that would have earned more had they worked at a construction site. Adding to the trouble was the ever-rising prices of food products. I can’t serve masala sundal without onion, at the same time, I cannot increase the prices for the fear of losing customers,” he says.
Under financial strain, he had to sell 15 carts over the years. “Now, I only have five and my family manages them. We are here from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Though the income during the weekdays is unpredictable, during the weekends we earn Rs. 2,500 to 3,000,” Kamaraj adds.
There are many hawkers at the beach who are fisherfolk by profession, but they rely on the beach in the evening for extra income. One of them is Kalaivanan A, who set up a balloon shooting stall on the beach. What started as a side-business 14 years ago, has become a breadwinning occupation today. “The advancement in fishing technology has led to the unavailability of fishes close to the shore. So, for a good catch a fisherman has to go deeper into the sea in diesel motorboats. We have to spend a lot on fuel and we are not able to catch fish worth the money spent,” says Kalaivanan, who has given fishing a break and finds it difficult to make ends meet.
While the bigger establishments around the area might seem to have an upper hand with the young crowd walking in, there have been many restaurants and apparel stores that have come and gone. Only a few managed to hold the ground.
Arunodaya Reddy opened a branch Pets 101, an exclusive store for pets, in October last year. The one-stop destination for pet products and accessories is doing well and he is all set to open a grooming centre for pets next to the shop. Ask him why he chose this place and he says, “While the entire city is struggling for parking space, Besant Nagar has no such problems. Also it’s the best place create a brand. If what you do is good, it gets immediately recognised and people talk about you. It’s more about the branding than the money you make,” he says.