We were woken up by temple bells tolling in a distance. A whirlwind of rhythms and chants echoed in the air. Like a stormy tempest, the sounds swept through the streets; surging and dying at every corner. Clad in saffron, sadhus slept on pavements. Their matted dreadlocks lay limp in the scorching heat while the fragrance of incense sticks and camphor lingered in the air.
With vermillion pasted on their foreheads, families, strangers and companions walked bare-feet around the streets. To them, this wasn’t yet another town. It was where the Gods once set foot on the soils. Perhaps, they hoped that their creator would absolve them of their sins. Perhaps, they hoped they’d attain salvation. Who knows? For those who sought refuge in the arms of divinity, this journey was yet another fragment that ascended the purpose of their existence. Everyone was a devotee here and none a wandering traveller.
After a heavy breakfast, we walked around town for a while. The myriad labyrinthine lanes and alleyways all converged to the temple in the middle of Rameswaram. We were quite surprised to come across a large number of North Indian eateries here. The massive influx of tourists flocking the temple town led to people migrating from the North to set up businesses in and around the area. Everything was priced slightly higher than usual which struck us as odd. A visit to the place that held such religious significance came at a price, after all.
We stocked up on supplies and drove towards Dhanushkodi. The origin of its name which translates to ‘end of the bow’ can be traced back to Hindu scriptures. When Lord Rama won the war and crowned Vibheeshana as a successor to the throne in Sri Lanka, the king requested him to destroy the bridge which was built to march towards the country with his army. Honouring his wish, the lord then shattered the bridge with one end of his bow.
However, according to its estranged inhabitants, the place held memories of a civilisation that once thrived on the eastern shores where humankind dwelled in solidarity with land and water.
Amidst white sand beaches and turquoise waters, we crossed a mystical forest adorning the shores of Indian ocean. Structures and shelters soon vanished. And, awakening from their slumber, trees swayed to gentle winds and roaring waves.
We soon reached a parking lot packed with local tourist taxis and jeeps equipped with four wheel drive. We asked some cops for assistance and requested them to direct us towards the main town. After registering Fayez’s vehicle with the policemen stationed at the entrance, we took a detour towards land’s end where Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean merged with harmony.
Driving through enormous lumps of sand, the jeep skidded and twirled off the edge on numerous occasions. On our way to the southern most tip of the island, we came across a group of fishermen walking to their settlements. We struck a conversation with them and asked if we required permission to stay with the community. “There are about 200 families residing in two settlements. We have been living here for decades. You need to visit the local police station in Rameswaram and get clearance from the department to live with us,” said one of the fishermen as he left towards the ruins.
The sun shone dimly through a cloak of clouds. White sands glimmered as the shores lay barren and deserted with not a soul in sight. Tiny whirlpools emerged and dissipated underneath the surface. And unlike its true character, the aquamarine waters of Bay of Bengal maintained a calm demeanour.
We continued driving to land’s end and reached a spot where there was nothing left but water; where a journey ended and another began. Mapped with memories, the coastland reverberated in a soothing lull as gentle waves broke the silence of the shores.
We took a dip in the water with roughshod Indian ocean on one side and the serene Bay on another. While the vociferous ocean continued to rumble, the bay wove a mellow tune that struck a chord with the character of the coast. Soon, the currents led us to a point where one merged with the other. No longer were they two water bodies floating aside separated by the earth. They were one in spirit and soul.
We swam for a while till we realised we weren’t alone. Beside us an army of baby jellyfish floated astray from the ocean towards the shore. Before we knew it, we were surrounded by hundreds of them. Dotted with carmine tentacles, their translucent heads heaved a sigh as they drifted through the waves.
We spent hours walking on the beach gathering shells, conches and corals. Their souls might have perished but the sounds and colours of the ocean reflected in their form. We wondered what it felt like to lay beneath furled sails under flickering stars and gleaming tides; to spend moments of tranquility in perfect stillness; to live those moments when the sky, earth and ocean sang in unison…
(to be continued…)
Project ‘Rest of My family‘ is an attempt to connect back, re-discover our relationship with and understand our responsibility towards the larger family that we are a part of — the rest of our human family. Hence, it is titled Rest Of My Family.
Through #RestofMyFamily, we will focus on highlighting social issues and human interest stories, documenting the triumphs of the ordinary man despite all the hardships they face constantly, and help these stories reach a larger audience and wherever necessary extend support to the individuals and communities that we write about. We hope to make a direct impact to the lives of those people we meet and find suffering due to various social issues; to connect the ones who need help to the ones who can help….
Find more about the campaign here: http://igg.me/at/restofmyfamily/x/539502