The next day we woke up early to continue our journey towards the eastern coast. We took a detour through the hills of Kodaikanal instead of the charted route. On our way, we asked some policemen patrolling the area for directions to Madurai. “Up ahead, you will see a yellow house with a red roof. Take a right there and drive straight. The road will take you through the forests,” said the burly cop.
Rocky and deserted, the path meandered gently through the lowlands as hidden tea estates and forgotten structures peeked through wild thickets. Brazen winds scoured the isolated woodlands creating a medley of sounds that ricocheted throughout the valley. Punctuated by silver oak trees, the forests gleamed in dusk as pillars of ashen grey dotted the landscape. And, amidst fading blue skies, we watched in solemn awe at the gnarled and furrowed clusters while a veil of mist loomed above us.
We drove for a few hours nonstop since we wanted to catch the sunrise in Rameswaram. At around 2 am, Fayez realised that the temperature of the engine had soared to 110 degrees. We spotted a petrol bunk to rest for the night. As he lifted the hood, water came gushing out of the radiator — now riddled with a few cracks. There was no way we could drive any further. We were about 15 km from Rameswaram and had no choice but to wait till morning to fix the vehicle.
In the morning, we drove to a garage to get the radiator repaired. Since the welding workshop was 5 km away, the mechanic suggested that we take an autorickshaw. He then decided to arrange for one. Although Fayez managed to negotiate a deal with the guy at the workshop, the autodriver sought his chance to dupe him by charging an obscene amount. Meanwhile, the owner of the garage happened to be in the vicinity and offered Fayez a lift. Something about their hostility towards outsiders and those who couldn’t speak their language appalled us.
We finally made our way to Rameswaram. On crossing the bridge, we spotted several fishing boats anchored in the emerald waters. Offering a link to mainland India, this was the first ever sea-bridge constructed in 1914. Since the town attracts hordes of religious pilgrims throughout the year, it was buzzing with activity. We had some lassi outside a Marwadi Bhojanalay and gorged on South Indian meals a while later. Unfortunately, we had booked our rooms in a dodgy lodge with poorly maintained chambers. The owner happened to be a reporter who worked with a local daily. However, he spent most of his time running the guesthouse. “Why are you here? Are you journalists?”, he inquired in a cold tone. We told him who we were and what we do. He shrugged nonchalantly and continued his conversation with some of his employees.
In the evening, we unpacked and cleaned up before heading out for dinner. As we strolled through the market striking conversations with shopkeepers, we inquired about fishermen communities residing in Dhanushkodi. Stories of desolation and divinity floated in the air as the town struggled to grasp the paling remnants of its memories today. And, thus in search of unspoken tales, began our journey towards a ghost town where once thrived the pride of the coast…
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