As we traipsed through the sandy coastland, we could hear them again; the surge and fall of eternal rhythms echoing from a distance. The incantations grew louder and within moments we chanced upon women gliding on the shores with pots of beans on their heads. They were then split into two queues while the caretakers walked between them guiding the group to the ocean.
They tumbled across endless miles of barren seascape shredding every element of their mortal being to embrace oneness and divinity. Surrendering to the pulse of their cosmic existence, the entire community encircled the parade and swayed to the wail of hypnotic chants. Not once did they stray off their path; not once did they feel caged by earthbound constraints. Here, every movement was cohesive and every sound had a purpose.
“There’s something about these rituals that brings us together. It is akin to the symphony of our life. Walking from one stretch to another, the shores unite us all in body and spirit. There lies the beauty of such ceremonies where we are not confined by our differences; where we remind one another that we are all a part of the larger family,” said Kumar as we followed the procession.
Amidst wisps of fluffy white clouds, gilding streams of amber and rose swam into sight as the skies shone in dusk. We walked around in a daze towards the roaring coastline. The JCB lay dead and lifeless on the dunes. We crossed paths with a boisterous group of tourists who struck a conversation with Kumar. “You should be thankful to the government for building these roads. You can now enjoy the benefits of connectivity in Dhanushkodi. This will change your lives,” said one of them in an animated tone.
Kumar pondered over what he said for a while. Little did they know that these fishermen would bear the brunt of progress and reckless urbanisation in a few years. “Every decision has a positive and negative outcome. The road will also bring in a tide of indifference towards local communities who have spent an entire lifetime setting up stalls and earning a livelihood alongside the coast. This may also encourage people from neighbouring towns to set up small businesses in the area thereby creating an excessively competitive environment. It may not necessarily transform our lives. We never asked for change and I fear we may not survive it. It seems as if these initiatives are being enforced upon us without taking into consideration the detrimental effect it may have on our ethos,” he said in an almost stern demeanour.
The men shuffled their feet and looked away. They glanced at Kumar occasionally and couldn’t fathom why the community would be perturbed by development. Gradually, they moved forth without uttering a word as Kumar turned to us and said in whispers, “How can someone else decide what’s best for us? We have every right to accede or disapprove of schemes initiated by the government. But will they listen to us? Sometimes, I wonder if our opinions truly matter. All we can do is hope for a better future.”
As the sun went down, we decided to head to Kumar’s house. After dinner, he helped us install our tent and suggested that we take a stroll down the beach. The night shimmered in a starry haze. The winds howled into a raging tempest and dissolved coyly into the waves crashing ashore. In no time, we saw Kumar smirk and point in our direction. We looked for silhouettes in the dark and spotted none. He burst into a fit of giggles upon discovering that we were absolutely clueless of the situation we were in.
He then lowered his hand and lit his torch. Thousands of white ghost crabs ran hither and thither fearing for their lives. “They emerge from the ocean at night. Some look for food and others an adventure. They spend all their time digging tunnels underneath the sandy bed. The eager lot emerge from the holes onto the ground to catch a glimpse of the world above them. While most of these creatures are clueless about the possibilities of a different existence; there too have a few explorers who are driven purely by curiosity. We are not so different after all,” said Kumar as we stood up to leave.
In a distance, perhaps 50 metres away from us, he came upon a freshly dug hole. He ran excitedly towards it and made deeper indentations in the ground to trace the tunnel. In a span of minutes, he caught a huge crab with his bare hands. “This will be our supper tomorrow,” declared Kumar triumphantly.
We soon retreated into our tent. Gazing at the midnight sky, we floated and drifted off into a deep slumber as we longed to sail boundless seas while a sepulchral breeze shuddered through the darkness…
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