One dark and exhausted evening in Madras, after hours of racking the HR and business sections — both of which I loathe, don't you know — a colleague offered to take me down to Marina. Despite warnings of it being dark and hazy and my not being able to see too much of the area or even the sea, I was quite happy to take him up on the offer. You see, not only am I seldom at the beach at night, I also didn't want to go back to a (then) alien and cold guest house. The smells and sounds of the ocean would go far calming very frayed nerves I thought.
It's a nice walk down to Marina from the mall, a single road that changes character at least thrice till you get near the beach. You'll pass a large gutter, overhead rail tracks, and small local shops nearly all your way down, when suddenly, wider, posher parts of the beach front arrogantly push their way into predominance. Amongst the lovelier buildings at Marina is the Police Commissioner's office. The graceful columns of that gorgeous building are an exquisite reminder that quite often, being a government employee pays. Marking the middle of the waterfront road is a Sivaji Ganesan statue. Erected by Karunanidhi, very interestingly, the plaque on the side of the statue carries the late, great actor actor's name in a much smaller font than the politician's.
I must admit that I was quite pleasantly surprised at the state of the beach. Quite unlike the filthy madness of Juhu Beach, Marina's fronted by a small promenade full of small carts and followed by a huge sandy expanse. The beach, I'm ashamed to admit, seems much cleaner than most in Bombay. We sat, watched the sea in a rather uncomfortable silence (mostly because of my unwillingness to speak then), and finally went home. I was still blue but certainly a little soothed. That visit, I didn't get another chance to go back for daylight photos, but one evening a few days into my second visit, I spent a few hours at the Besant Nagar beach.
This beach was at least a little more reassuring, with the eats on the beach and the balloon boards (the ones you try and burst with an air gun?), and the beach a little littered. The best part of being there was finding out what coming face-to-face with the Indian Ocean was like, especially after a lifetime of a very intimate acquaintance with the Arabian Sea. The ocean, whether in Madras or along the ECR, seems wilder, the waves crashing with more force than I remember seeing in Bombay. It is also certainly cleaner and with more vividly azure waters. The one thing that stands out most clearly about that night on Marina is how threatening the waters seemed. Two months and more down the line, I am not entirely sure if this is because I am aware of the tsunami.
These pictures below were taken at the main promenade in Pondicherry, on a rather short trip down. A and I'd planned to get some photos of the sunset and then head back to Madras. But that evening in Pondicherry, the wait seemed endless, and finally, the dusk arrived with only herself for company. Only later did it dawn on me that the sunset would never come because in the east, only the sunrise ever does.
And that evening, A and I sat watching the sea forever, taking a certain comfort in seeing the familiar on a completely unknown coast because some things don't change no matter where you are. This is a universally acknowledged fact, not to be disputed. Any urban beach in possession of a rocky outcrop must be in want of its share of the lone watchers and the couples sneaking their kisses. But it is quite rare indeed to find a couple sitting apart doing their own thing, staring out at the sea. I'd like very much to think that they were in perfect accord — not needing to say a word after so many long years, each part of the other's whole. They could, of course, be completely irritated with or indifferent to each other but it makes for a nice ending, what I saw of the way they were sitting there to imagine that they just were... the way I'd like to be.
Just a few of things really. One, the Pondicherry pictures, on some screens, tend to have a most unbecoming yellow tinge. I assure you, that's not what I am seeing on mine or in my camera. Two, the second photo in Pondi is A's. Three, in nearly three years of E Vestigio, this post marks my 101th. :-)