“I think I was five when I first accompanied my father on a sailing boat. I remember being fascinated with the vastness of the ocean. The skies merged with the water, that day. Everyday had something new to offer. I take my kids as much as I can on my fishing trips. Of course, I have to tie them up for I worry they may get excited and jump into the ocean,” said Kumar as he walked alongside the shoreline. Later, he spoke about the settlement near Bay of Bengal where once moored in shelter ships from all over the eastern coast. According to the locals, a major portion of the harbour including a massive bridge was partially destroyed during the cyclone in 1964. Almost three decades later, a scrap company from Madurai got their tender approved by the government to remove the bridge from the port.
“The entire harbour was beautifully designed with aluminium alloy. Those thugs hauled away everything they could get their hands on. They damaged most of the structures and ruins in search of tiny metal rods. By the time we realised what they’d done, it was too late. Blinded by greed and driven by selfish desires, it never crossed their minds that they have perhaps destroyed our only memories of the old town. We didn’t have much and yet they took it all away,” said Kumar as he led us back to his house.
In a shadowy corner, Muthulakshmi sat with her daughter straightening her frock. She drew in a deep breath and twisted her hair into a tight knot. She then squared her shoulders and stood up as her little boy hung from the tyre swing. Kumar gazed at her and said, “She doesn’t have many friends here. I have never seen her indulging in gossip sessions with other ladies. I am her best friend and she is my soul mate. She has always been a docile girl who loves doing household chores. And, no one wanted to marry her because she was dark skinned and heavy.”
One day, as Neechal Kali stood outside his stall bringing the warmth of yesteryear alive while he narrated tales of old Dhanushkodi, a middle-aged man approached him in awe and introduced himself as the chairman of a village committee. He was Lakshmi’s father. He was moved by Kali’s story and since then they would talk to each other every once in a while.
A few weeks later, his father called him aside and informed him that there was a lovely girl he wanted Kumar to meet. He said it would mean the world to him if he accepted her hand in marriage. Kali was deeply saddened by the fact that people were unkind to Lakshmi simply because she didn’t fit their requirements as a bride. “They all wanted a pretty face and none a good heart. Appa kept wondering what he would have done if he had a daughter who suffered a similar fate where human beings judged each other for being different, for not fitting in. He showed great kindness to everyone he ever met. And, he raised his sons well. I told my father it would be my honour to spend the rest of my life with her. We have been married for almost nine years now. She is an incredible human being. I never got her any fancy clothes or jewellery. But not once did she complain. We may not have lived a lavish life but at least we have each other,” he said with a smile.
(to be continued…)
For the first part kindly visit the link: Once Called “Mini Singapore Of India”, This Land Perished In A Single Cyclone, Leaving Just 2 Survivors
For the second part kindly visit the link: My Story: This Is Our Home. This Is Where We Made Our First Memory & Hope That The Last One Would Be Made Here Itself
Submitted By Akshatha Shetty & Photos By Piyush Goswami