Down My Road: Chennai Travel

The Beach Life

I hear the dull roar as the waves beat upon the shore, the water drenching my feet and swirling away. The sea is fierce and yet so calming, telling us that ultimately, only Nature prevails. After all, this is the same ocean that poet Pey Azhwar described in his poems many centuries ago.

I have lived most of my life close to Chennai’s spectacular Marina Beach, framed on one side by the Bay of Bengal and on the other by Kamarajar Salai, popularly known as Beach Road. Here’s where I first began my daily walks, inspired by the many articles listing the 25 benefits of walking… or was it 52? “Just past the next statue!” I would tell myself and walk on a little further each day: past Gandhi, Avvaiyar, Thiruvalluvar and finally Kannagi, a statue that made more news when it vanished than when it was installed! Starting off a new day at the beach gave countless runners, dog-walkers, yoga buffs, laughter club members and me a natural high — of a day well begun. I learned to drive too on this road in the early morning, though it hardly prepared me for the drive to work in peak-hour traffic.

The beach was a regular haunt when the kids in the family were young. I remember standing in the waves, clutching mud-caked little hands, listening to them squeal when a crab ran over their feet, steering them away from the violently pink cotton candy, getting them roasted peanuts and corn, buying them balloons, paper pin-wheels, and garish plastic sunglasses, then tracking loads of sand home to clog our washing machines the next day.

The Beach Life

It was fun to watch young Sachins practising with tennis balls, hoping to play one day at Chepauk Stadium, a stone’s throw away. Or the courting couples, where the girl used her dupatta to cover her face and conceal her identity from prying eyes. I recall the coffee kiosk that disappeared, though there was always Saravana Bhavan on our way back, so that we could get our caffeine kick. There were many takers for the herbal concoctions available in the mornings and the sundal and murukku sold in the evenings.

This was our stomping ground and we were happy when the Government employed machines to turn over the sand, a short-lived experiment. We watched with a proprietorial eye as gazebos and galleries were built or when crowds gathered to celebrate the New Year or Kaanum Pongal. We shook our fists at speeding cars and bikes that flouted the morning vehicle-free zone. And our hearts broke when the tsunami obliterated so many lives one dark day, a harsh reminder of Nature’s might and fury.

Chennai is home, and the beach is integral to my life. In fact, the sands of Marina play a significant role in my first novel, and in my soon-to-be-released romance, both of which are set in this beautiful city.

(Usha Narayanan’s novels include Love, Lies and Layoffs, Pradyumna: Son of Krishna and its sequel The Secret of God’s Son. Her latest books are Doctor Stalker Spy and Prem Purana.)

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 7:11:42 AM |

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