It was a warm Sunday morning and I was in Madurai for another field work. I landed at 5 am in the morning and by 6.30 am, I got ready with my backpack. The plan was to roam around somewhere as usual as my work was to start the next day only. I asked my hotel manager if there would be any train to Rameswaram. He told the train to Rameswaram starts at 7 am and I rushed to the station. The departure time was in fact at 6.50 am and in less than a minute of boarding, the train left. It was crowded, yet I luckily got a seat. Because of the bus trip to Madurai last night, I was very tired and sleepy for the first two hours. But I suddenly woke up as the thought of finally being on top of the Pamban bridge somewhere flashed in my fuzzy dreams. Each moment after the train left Ramanathapuram station was so exciting, I wanted to click a picture of the train on the Pamban bridge. While moving closer to the train door, the person standing nearby advised me, ‘Go to the right side, you will get a better view of the bridge for the next one kilometer’. I thanked him and he was right, the view was incredible.
The Pamban bridge is the first cantilever bridge in India and was the longest sea bridge in the country for many years. It was a long cherished ‘dream come true’ moment for me and I was quite ecstatic for a while. In another ten minutes, I reached Rameswaram railway station. While walking outside I could see a bus with ‘Kovil’ board. Though there was huge rush, I somehow managed to get inside. The temple was 2 kilometers away. Finishing my ‘darshan’ quickly in the special queue, I decided to take a walk inside the temple complex. The thousand pillar mandapa was a spectacular scene; the image in my mind was of stone pillars, but it looked as if it was painted recently. Many bamboo pillars and building materials were scattered around in the temple complex indicating some construction work going on.
Realizing that I had to rush to catch the bus to Dhanushkodi, I walked out of the temple. From the restaurant outside, I had a quick brunch – a crispy dosa and filter coffee. I enquired about the bus. Someone told me that bus number 3 would go to Dhanushkodi. I waited at the bus stop for about ten minutes. Another bus came with number 7 on it, but was going to Dhanushkodi. This time, there was no rush and I got a side seat easily. The ticket fare was Rs.12 for a distance of approximately 18 kilometres. The journey was for about half an hour and we dropped down at the final stop, the Dhanushkodi village.
All I could see was blue waters. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the place and I walked along the shore for more than five minutes. In fact I was searching for the Dhanushkodi I have seen in the pictures of the place, the broken remains of the ghost town. I knew it that the place was little far away, but not sure for what reason, I just walked through the road which was lying ahead. I could see deep blue sea on my right side and shallow blue sea on my left side where some tempo vans were running. But neither did I think of where they are going, nor there was a person to ask.
I think I walked for about 10 minutes. Few two wheelers passed by and I felt like people giving me weird looks. As staring is not something uncommon in India, I ignored it thinking the reason might be that a woman was walking alone in the middle of the road. Suddenly a scooter and a bike came and stopped by my side. ‘You won’t reach anywhere if you walk like this’ one person told. I didn’t understand anything. I just gave them a puzzled look. They told me that to reach my destination which was quite far, the only option available was the tempo vans. The starting point of the vans was the point from which I started walking, which then was a kilometer or more behind!
I was perplexed, but those people were so generous. Even before me thinking what to do, one told me, ‘If you can ride, take the scooter and drive back, we will come in the bike’. I hesitated for a moment, then realized that it was the best option available given the heat and the distance. I hadn’t driven a scooter for last 2-3 years. I was little unsure if it would be manageable, but still accepted their offer. Driving back to the starting point, all I could see was the road and the blue sea again. For a moment, I wished I had a scooter and could drive the long road ahead. In few minutes, I was back at the bus point and one bus was about to leave. I thanked the people who helped me and rushed to try my luck, but couldn’t get a seat inside as it was already full.
The people at the ticket counter told that the next bus would go once 16 people are there for a fare of Rs. 160 per person. I waited and waited and waited. Three more people came after 15 minutes, we waited together and in another five minutes a family from UP came. It was a big group; finally we got all our 16 people. I being the single person got the front seat, the one next to the driver. It was like a roller coaster ride, the bus jumping up and down. We drove for about five minutes, the road disappeared and we were driving through the shallow waters.
It was a very interesting experience, almost like rowing through the sea! We might have traveled for about two kilometers. The van stopped near a beach, I walked towards the water. It was like a canvas painted with shades of blue.
I walked across the shore. Some of my co-passengers were checking out the local shops- shells and handcrafted items, few others were getting cut mangoes and pineapples from the vendors. Suddenly, a kid caught my attention. He was trying to capture something from the waves. Initially I thought he was trying to pick seashells. Then I saw something moving. My curiosity increased. I walked towards him. ‘It’s jelly fish! Don’t touch them’, screamed our driver. I was seeing them for the first time. Many of them were deposited on the shore by the waves and many more were floating in the water. The driver picked one from the shore and showed us, but warned not to catch them saying it might sting which would result in itching or skin issues. I touched the jellyfish in his hand. It really felt like jelly, pliable and squishy. Someone said they came to the shore due to strong tides and would die in some time if they don’t go back to water.
In some time, the driver asked us to get back to the vehicle. He said we would be visiting the old town of Dhanushkodi then. It was the most awaited part of the trip for me. Yes! the journey to the ruins began..