Kumar walked briskly towards a fallen brick structure that was once the hospital. Beside it, underneath the sand, lay the nursing quarters. No one remembers them for what they used to be. Like the civilisation that once walked the shores of the coastal town, they too have lost their identity and gradually succumbed to a timeless state of eternal damnation; hoping to be forgotten and yet struggling to survive.
Faraway, a wrecked boat hung in dismay longing to be caressed by the ocean. Upon the drifted sand, fragments of walls stood dim against the shore while echoes of devastation loomed in the still silence of the scattered edifices. There’s life in their lifeless form. Some stood in pairs; some as lone projections. Some we surmise endured the wrath of nature to narrate tales of buried legacies.
As we wandered through the ruins, we glanced upon a cluster of houses built with crisscrossed leaflets and woody spathes of palms while the roofs were thatched with coconut fronds. Little toddlers sat outside their houses. Some played with sand and others stared into the horizon. And, at that moment, we felt it all at once — the throbbing pulse of the present, fading remnants of the past both co-existing simultaneously within the heart of Dhanushkodi.
Within their tangible human forms, that day, died their dreams, promises and aspirations. Like souls entrapped in chains of unfulfilled desires, we could sense their presence everywhere — in sights and sounds, in faint strains of hushed lullabies and in the swarming seas of helpless wails. There’s a memory in every brick and a fallen hope in every mortar. And, that’s all there’s left of them…
“The government was immensely keen on building us permanent houses in order to commemorate my father. However, he refused to accept their offer. And, so did we. Despite being declared unfit to live in Dhanushkodi, they made an exception for our family wherein we would be provided with free housing here. We told them only if the entire community gets permanent structures and other perks they were willing to offer us we’d consider their proposition,” said Kumar as he dragged his feet on piles of sand.
Noticing the amount of plastic piling up on the coast, we expressed our concern over poor waste management within the settlements. Kumar nodded in agreement and informed us that he usually pays a few people every month to collect trash from the shores in order to preserve local marine ecology apart from preventing extinction and rapid depletion of aquatic life.
“More than often tourists behave inconsiderately towards the beach. Children and parents litter the shores and are least bit concerned with the consequences. Moreover, ships travelling to Sri Lanka throw bottles and other bits of trash into the ocean that ends up being washed ashore,” said Kumar as he furrowed his brows.
Discarded packets of incense sticks and flower petals are a common sight on the beach. Stepping cautiously towards the shoreline, devotees from far and wide offer their prayers to the ocean. Worshipping nature in its true form and acknowledging the fragile nature of humanity, shlokas are recited invoking divine spirits to bless their souls with purity and compassion. However, most of these acts are entangled in a web of symbolism. “People need to genuinely and fundamentally understand the importance of preserving our environment.It is wrong to justify such actions in the name of religion. It will always have a cyclical effect on our existence,” explained Kumar. While the act in itself nurtures the ideology of conserving our ecosystem, our mindless actions leading to disruption in nature’s balance say otherwise.
It was late when we decided to leave towards Rameswaram. As Kumar led us through narrow sandy pathways, he mentioned about the annual temple festival celebrated in the honour of Goddess Kuni Mariamma which would be held over the next two days. “Everyone in the community looks forward to Muleypara. If we do not perform the requisite ceremonies, it is believed that there could be a possible epidemic, children may fall ill or there won’t be enough fish in the ocean to sustain our families. So, we gather every year to appease the Goddess. You must come. There will be dances, processions and even rituals where young men pierce their cheeks with rods as an ultimate act of devotion. We pray for peace and stability for ourselves, our families and our community…”
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