Time and tide wait for no man. On Silver Beach, you realise that it's not just another cliche
It's 5.30 in the morning on Silver Beach. As you watch the scene - bathed in pale moonlight, the sand a blue haze and the water a grey mass with silver ripples - it's easy to guess why the beach gets its name. And then, the scene changes - from being bathed in soft silver light to being covered in sharp golden rays - in a matter of minutes.Situated 22 km south of Pondicherry, near the town of Cuddalore, I first heard of Silver Beach during the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. Devapattinam, one of the coastal villages levelled by the killer waves, is right next to it. While I was staying in Pondicherry, a helpful lodge owner suggested that it would be worth my while to make a trip to Silver Beach. He told me to get there before the sun rose.
Finding the way
Thus began the drive to the beach on the East Coast Road. Halfway there, an attempt to check the route with some sleepy villagers met with puzzled glances. "Silver Beach?!"Undeterred, I decided to get to Cuddalore town and ask there for directions. But on the outskirts of the town a constable on his night beat was able to give me a clear heading. "After a roundabout, you will see a big board for Sil-u-ver Beach, saar. Take a left after the board."Parking the car, I walked down the path to the beach, only to lose my bearings again. To my right was what looked like a calm lake. To the left was a string of lights which illuminated the horizon in the morning haze. I decided to walk towards the lights. I had a weird feeling that I was walking up a hill, and suddenly, I was at the water's edge. The grey waves were lapping quietly at the shore. It was low tide. The string of lights was the fishing fleet returning home and I could hear the drone of their motors in the distance.To my right it was not a lake but an estuary whose calm waters served as the fishing harbour. And then I saw it - the moon hanging low on the horizon and its rays tracing a silver rippled line through the water! A surreal blue haze hung over the scene and I quickly got my camera out to capture the scene. I had seen sunsets and sunrises, but never the moon set at a beach. The fishermen were berthing their boats now. But there were hardly any excited voices coming floating over the water. All I heard was some talk about "diesel" and "price".Wisps of pink and red were beginning to light the eastern horizon by now. The grey waves started breaking with white foam. Squatting in the moist sand, it was hard not to picture the morning when the tsunami struck. Though the tides have swept the sand clean, what came back to mind even on that divine morning was what a reporter had to say about this beach when the tsunami hit: "On Silver Beach, just outside Cuddalore city, we noticed that all the structures that were still standing were leaning conspicuously towards the sea, indicating the powerful force that uprooted them was on its way back towards the ocean... There were also roofs without a house lying on the beach, small pyramid-shaped roofs by themselves. We never did see the houses they were from, though we presumed they must be somewhere further inland, exposed to the sun."I decided not to think any more about it and took a walk on the sand with the waves lapping around my ankles. A few yards on, I saw a trio of fishermen, just back from the sea, sitting and reading the morning's Tamil newspaper. It is at moment like these that you realise that time, indeed, is the best healer.ANAND SANKAR