“Freedom is my biggest income. As long as ‘the humanity’ within my heart never subsides, I will continue to remain happy. This is our home. We will try and make our life better here. We all have dreams but not all of us know how to turn them into reality,” said Kumar as we drove through the wide sandy beach that led to the ruins.
They were everywhere; distorted impressions of structures collapsing into one another. Shadows enclosed the barren paths as dancing silhouettes fled across our sight. With every passing moment, as murmurs of the ocean surfaced, scattered amidst memories of a countless visages we stumbled upon those who firmly held onto the reins of the community lest they plunge into an abyss of despair.
“We try to look out for each other. Over the years, we have learnt to build and nurture a strong sense of community spirit within the settlements. Ultimately, we are all one. We eat the same food and worship the same Gods. I may not be educated like you but I can understand and relate to your problems. As long as we can do that without worrying about hierarchies bestowed upon us by the society, then we will always find joy in our hearts,” he said.
As we parked the jeep beside his stall, we received a text message from the Sub Inspector of Ramanathapuram. Our request was approved by the department and we could now stay with the fishing community without any objection from the higher authorities. Kumar was thrilled at the prospect of us spending the night at the shores. “You can pitch your tent near my house,” he said in an excited tone.
Later, at night, we shared stories of our past with each other. While most of our childhood was spent toiling away in classes, Kumar sailed the mighty seas accompanying his father dreaming of a life beyond the shores. Fastening the ropes attached to the tent pegs, Kumar said, “Back in the day, we never had any schools. The ocean was and still continues to be my classroom. I cannot read or write very well but I understand the coast. It teaches you to be patient and helps you overcome your fears no matter who you are. And, that perhaps is one of the biggest lessons I have learnt so far.”
Under the moonlit night, as the winds howled a formless wail, we sat next to each other kneading sand into freshly dug holes when Kumar looked away and muttered in whispers…
All it takes is a heart to build an everlasting relationship with someone. Sometimes, you don’t need to speak the same language. Sometimes, all you have to do is listen. Years ago, as I swam alongside a secluded shoreline, one day, I came across a white man sitting aloof by the waters near Land’s End. A few hours later, I found him seated in the same position; motionless and perturbed.
I asked him who he was and what he was doing here. He remained silent for a while and then decided to tell me his story. His name was Tony and he was an artist. He lost his wife and child to a horrible accident in France a while ago. He had come to Dhanushkodi to attain closure. It was his way of dealing with grief and coming to terms with his loss. He had been travelling for long. And now that he had reached his destination, he was yet to embrace the reality of his situation.
I felt the angst in his soul and I couldn’t leave him there. So, I took Tony home and introduced him to my father. He stayed with us for three months. Everyone in the village knew him. By the time he left he could even speak broken Tamil. Not once did he leave my side. I took him everywhere I went. We would go fishing together and walked endless stretches of the beach discussing everything we could possibly think of. When I had met with an accident, he was one of the few people who sensed something amiss and came looking for me. He was a true friend and a good human being.
He returned with his father, a year later. And, then he never came back. Every time someone with white skin passes by my stall, I hope it is Tony. I wonder where he is and if he misses us; his friends in Dhanushkodi. If you manage to find him, please give him my message:
‘My Dear Tony,
I cannot stop worrying about you. Where are you? When do you plan to visit Dhanushkodi? It has been far too long, my friend. Appa passed away five years ago. I am married now and I have three beautiful children. I wish you’d come see us. I hope you have finally found joy and peace in your life.
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