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On the water’s edge

Illustration: Surendra

Illustration: Surendra  

Dwarfed by the visual immensity of the sea, in a cove near the beach next door

It was for all purposes a poignant point in my 22-year-old life, that morning in late January 1986. Two older cousins and I had taken an autorickshaw to a spot on the then-Madras-now-Chennai’s expansive beaches. We were carrying an urn containing the ashes of my father. Even as we were half-walking, half-trudging along the sands towards the waters of the Bay of Bengal to immerse the mortal remains, some folks volunteered to take it further into the sea. With the immersion done, I remember seeing young boys adept at swimming enjoying themselves in the water, maybe also trying to retrieve the coins placed in the earthen pot that was let into the lapping waves.

Fast forward to December 2014. On an early morning visit to the same stretch of the beach, I parked my scooter near the lighthouse alongside other people out for their bit of fresh air and exercise, and set off on a trot, challenging myself to jog as far as I could on the paved promenade. Soon enough, I found myself near the Anna Samadhi. Don’t remember ever having been so up close to witness the resting place of the much-loved C.N. Annadurai until then. A sombre feeling it was, with hardly any other visitors around. Some days later, when I made it a point to pay a visit to the neighbouring MGR Samadhi too, an older man partnering with a young photographer offered me an instant picture of myself at the site, of course for a fee. The visit was well worth it because I somehow felt more of a local.

After 37-odd years of living in my own house in Shenoy Nagar (central-west of the city), about 8 km from the nearest beach, I went to the neighbourhood of Tiruvanmiyur (situated in the south-east) where the beach was just a five-minute walk from the house. I could now lay claim to lot more of familiarity with the sea and the sands than I could earlier.

I recall the summers of my boyhood and the collective sigh of relief when we felt the sea breeze setting in even a good 8 km away.

I now had bragging rights to being a next-door friend of the sea. But when I took a ringside seat at my friendly neighbourhood beach, all I could feel was the visual immensity of the ocean stretched out as far as the eyes could see.

Today, around the beginning of 2016, having moved away from the sea back to Shenoy Nagar, what can I say? Having survived the fury of the monsoon, aggravated by man-made disturbances, one has to pay heed to one’s inner nature, and also to the Nature with a capital N.

srinivaschar@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 3:24:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/on-the-waters-edge/article8210209.ece

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