For a tranquil break by the sea, says SOMA BASUThis time, I chose yet another forgotten place called Uppoor, a quiet little village by the seashore in Ramanathapuram district. The older generation living here for decades has got used to the tranquil life, which is occasionally disturbed by the news of a tsunami or an accident, like the recent one in nearby Sanaveli, where a bus was washed away. It is, however, the younger representatives of the predominantly fishing community here who wait in the hope of some intervention that would develop their place and change their lives. Their interest in promoting the area was evident from the moment I entered Uppoor. A teenage brigade followed my vehicle, which just couldn't pick up speed on the long winding, narrow kuchcha-pucca road. I tried to shoo them away but they were determined to woo me with whatever they could offer. I passed by small thatched tenements, where large white and blue fishing nets were being dried. The stench of dry fish pervaded the air. Cows, goats, cats and dogs roamed around freely. The moment I stopped to allow the four-legged creatures to clear the way, the children following my car, started banging the windows or thumping the bonnet. I tried to keep my irritation at bay and followed the muddy road, which after a few curves and bends, hit a patch of tar road, on the left of which emerged the sea. On the right was a row of cemented houses, small kiosks and places of worship.
Boats everywhereThe moment I got off the car with camera in hand, the entire group lunged forward. I was the `fifth stranger' to the place in last 19 months, they told me. They took me to a big white square platform, may be 15 by 15 feet. In front of the platform, the sandy beach was narrow, not more than 10 feet wide and dotted with old and new, broken and freshly painted, tilted and docked fishing boats. Overall, the place didn't look particularly clean but nevertheless, lent a colourful hue to the blue-green Palk Bay in the background. The youngsters told me that they used this platform as a sit out in the evening. "We even bring snacks from home and eat them here. On days like August 15 and January 26, we hoist the National Flag here." In one corner of the platform, I found an eight-year-old boy sitting with some cheap plastic items spread on a torn sheet. He looked at me expectantly. Soon a few boys returned carrying different coloured, sized and shaped sea shells, some packed in polythene covers. I sensed some kind of desperation in these children.To my surprise, I discovered there was not a single girl in this group of 20. When I enquired, I was told there were not many as most had been married young and the remaining few helped their mothers with household chores. Interestingly, a few were away at school. I recalled my drive from Ramanathapuram to Uppoor. On the way, I saw young girls dressed in white shirts and red checked skirts, sitting alone or in groups on small mounds of sand, and studying for their exam. Now, back to what I came for. I came to Uppoor in search of a tranquil spot by the seaside. I wanted to walk along the coast and dip my feet in the water. But my team of guides wouldn't let me. Some of them wanted me to take their pictures and give them money in return! Some others wanted to take me on a boat ride. A slightly older boy even got a plastic chair and asked me to sit for a while on the platform. But nothing worked and I decided to call it quits. On my drive back, I couldn't help wondering whether Uppoor really made an RLT. It is definitely a silent zone where the sea is absolutely calm. You can't even hear the sound of the waves, they just hit the sandy beach in minute ripples. If left alone, you can enjoy Nature and the landscape fringed with palm and coconut trees. You can stare at the glistening water below or watch the seagulls above swooping down occasionally.But, Uppoor can definitely be improved and maintained, at least for the sake of its young residents.
How to get thereUppoor is 45 km from Ramanathapuram. It falls on the way to Thondi. Turn right from the signboard on the main road and keep following the road through Uppoor village till you hit the sea.