As far as I can remember, I have always had trouble waking up early in the morning. I am not one of those morning birds who are chirpy from the moment they wake. And I don’t remember the last time I had seen a sunrise. So it has been my secret wish for about a couple of months now to go to the beach and see the sunrise.
I woke up chance at around 5 AM on January 11, 2015. Instead of going back to bed (as usual) I decided to go and see the sunrise at Elliot’s Beach, Chennai. I carried a point and shoot camera along with me. I reached the beach a little late, however the clouds near the horizon had masked the view of the ‘Golden Disc’ rising out of the sea just like one of the Bond Girls coming out of the water towards the shore.
At first I was disappointed that I was late. But then I thought this was a significant personal milestone for me and there was nothing to feel bad about. As I was taking snaps of the sun, I saw a motorized fishing boat returning to the shore to the nearby fishing hamlet. Eager to take a few snaps of the fresh fishes that the fishermen would be bringing, I headed in that direction.
As I was walking towards the boat, I saw the carcasses of two huge sea turtles on the shore. I took a snap of one of the sea turtles with the rising sun as the backdrop. Suddenly, the saying, ‘a new day, a new beginning’ flashed in my mind’s eye and I felt bad at the irony of the situation. I left the water front and started to walk in the roads near the beach.
At one particular spot, a group of bikes parked together caught my attention. The reason is you come across 15 bikes of the same model all parked beside each other, every day. These bikes were all KTM 200 CC bikes. I checked the registrations on the bikes, they were from different localities within Chennai. One of the bikes had the tagline, ‘Eat, Sleep and Ride’ painted on it. About 20 feet from this pack there was another KTM bike with the message, ‘Riders not Racer’ parked.
I continued my walking session in a reflective mood. I always used to like going to Marina Beach and Elliot’s Beach along with family or friends while I was in school and college. I found the sight of ‘wave after wave crashing on the shore’ particularly therapeutic and comforting during times when I was in a bad mood. There have been countless instances when I was involved in mindless and aimless chatter with family of friends sitting on the beaches of Chennai.
As a kid I always used to jump in joy at the first sight of the beach as we used to walk through Wallajah Road towards thee beach. I can still remember how ecstatic I used to get at the exact moment when I used to complete my stroll through the beachfront and venture into the water. The sight of other kids laughing and playing in water, the moist air, the salty smell and the happy and playful times spent at the beachfront used to make me yearn for more time at the beach and would make me plead with my parents to take me to the beach more frequently.
However the association of beaches in Chennai with a ‘place for fun and happiness’ suddenly changed on that fateful 26th December morning ten years ago, when a bunch of giant murderous waves gatecrashed on the grand party called ‘everyday life’ that people in India, South Asia and South East Asia were enjoying. I remember seeing in horror and disbelief (about 10 days after the Tsunami day) a motorized fishing boat crashed into the first floor balcony of a sea-facing house on Thiruvanmiyur beach. Somehow after that day I don’t think of the sea/ beach as a place where we humans go for relaxation and re-creation. The sea is an enormous sleeping giant and the lives of people in sea-facing cities are at the mercy of this giant dormant volcano filled with water.