T.S. Atul Swaminathan
More than 500 fisher folks, from Odai Managar and Odai Kuppam in Besant Nagar, paid homage, on Wednesday, to the victims of the 2004 Tsunami that killed nearly 8,000 people.
As a mark of respect for the victims, they stayed away from the sea. The community paid floral tributes and offered prayers by lighting candles. A memorial service was held near a banner erected at the Elliot’s Beach.
The Elliot’s beachside shops remained closed commemorating victims who lost their lives on December 26, 2004. One could see a number of boats and catamarans standing idle on the shore.
People from the fishing hamlets took out a procession in memory of their loved ones. The silent procession started from Besant Nagar Beach, went through Annai Vailankanni Shrine, and ended where it started. After the procession, women poured milk on the waters of Elliot's Beach.
B. Gurunathan of Odai Managar told The Hindu Down Town , “Before the Tsunami, rough weather did not deter the fishermen from traversing through the sea. But today, they are afraid of venturing, if the sea is rough. Even the catch has come down after the 2004-tragedy."
A few fishermen lamented that post-Tsunami, some of the rare fish varieties have become extinct and because of less catch, many fishermen have started opting for regular jobs.
Even before the fisher folk and the walkers on the beach could realise what was happening on that fateful Sunday, the massive waves, caused by an undersea quake in Indonesia, sucked in thousands of human lives.
Tourists offer prayers
Candles were lit at the Marina Beach as a mark of respect for the victims. The survivors of the tragedy, including tourists from Japan, offered prayers at the local graves and thronged the beach on the eighth anniversary of the tragedy. Representatives of Thamizh Nadu Meenavar Peravai took out a procession in memory of the victims from Gandhi Statue to Light House. According to the fisher folk at Dooming Kuppam, women have joined self-help groups, as part of the rehabilitation measures but it is not sufficient to make ends meet. Fishermen have realised the importance of going for alternative jobs. R. Ravi, a fisherman, who had gone for fishing on the day of Tsunami recalled: “We had gone for fishing and we were about five to six km in to the sea. It was peaceful. We returned to the coast before 9 a.m. My colleagues and I tied the catamaran on the shore to a small post. After a while, the sea swelled. My friends and I ran away. When I looked back after crossing the beach, I saw the tsunami hitting the coast. My catamaran was lifted up and thrown more than 200 metres away."
"Every time, my husband goes for fishing, I pray to god for his safe return,” said V. Lakshmi, a fish-vendor. She says the catch has also come down. “Cyclonic conditions in the past few days have kept fishermen away from the sea. Fishermen have urged the government to increase the money given during the 45-day government-imposed trawling ban.”
Service held in memory of tsunami victims at some points along the Marina Beach.