The ambience inside the van was that of excitement. Someone said, ‘finally we are reaching the original Dhanushkodi’, and the overjoyed bunch expressed their thrill with whistles. We might have travelled for another ten minutes. ’Here we are!’ the driver announced.
I looked at my watch. It was 3.20 p.m. Outside the window, I saw some thatched huts, looked like petty shops. Walking ahead, my mind was full of stories – mythology and history – all I heard and read about this place since childhood.
An interesting story regarding the formation of Adam’s bridge aka Ram sethu (a chain of shoals believed to be a former land connection between India and Srilanka) goes like this:
According to the Ramayana- the Hindu epic, the bridge was created by Lord Sri Ram with the assistance of an army of Vanaras (monkeys) to reach Sri Lanka to find Ram’s wife Sita who had been kidnapped by Ravana. As Sri Ram marked the spot for the bridge with the end of his bow, the place got its name ‘Dhanushkodi’ meaning ‘end of the bow’. When they started making the bridge, the vanaras found it difficult as the rocks were sinking into the sea. The chief of the army Nala then wrote ‘Sriram’ on the stones and apparently the rocks floated over water because of the power of Lord’s name on it!
Believe it or not, one still can see a stone which is known to be the part of the erstwhile bridge in the temple here. As the origin of the bridge and the question whether it is natural or manmade remain unanswered, the engineer brain of mine would like to think of it as an architectural wonder by some former intelligent civil engineer 😉
If the mythology is about the mysterious power of lord, the history is about the mysterious power of nature.
Back in 1960s, Dhanushkodi was a small town with several houses, temples, churches, schools, government offices and a railway station. There was a metre gauge railway line connected the town to the mainland India. People used to take the train till here and then the ferry service to go to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka those days. Everything was perfect till a night of December 1964, when a high intensity cyclonic storm hit Dhanushkodi, taking away most of its inhabitants. I have read that around 1800 people lost their lives in that incident including the ones who were travelling on the train. As the place was completely devastated, the government declared Dhanushkodi as ‘Ghost town’, meaning unfit to live. Yet, very few people who survived the storm are still living in the same land, which now has bare minimum services available.
I walked ahead passing the old church and the petty shops. It was ruins all around – broken buildings, remains of boats and then, there is sand, blue sky and the blue sea. The place had such a compelling charm, maybe the charm of death! Sometime in my childhood, I have heard this story about places believed to have ghosts – that their aura or energy will remain in the place even after death and they will try to pull you towards them! That might be just a scary fantasy, but this place actually had such a magical spell, which made me walk ahead and away from the crowd.
It was sweltering in the afternoon sun. As the trip was unplanned, my footwear was not comfortable to walk in the sand. But nothing stopped me from walking ahead. I saw a small thatched hut. Having this irresistible interest for talking to the native people wherever I go, I walked towards it with a hope that someone must be staying there. But contrary to my thoughts, the place was empty and I had to step ahead.
I would have walked for about 20 minutes. There was no living being around, not even a bird or a crab. I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I even forgot to capture a picture of that place. All I could hear was the music of the waves. I felt it one of those precious moments of tranquility where you hear the voice of Mother Nature talking to you. The same sea which has taken away the lives of many was right in front of me, so peaceful, so serene. It reminded me of the place where I did my internship – Nagapattinam, another coastal town of Tamil Nadu which was worst hit in the Tsunami of 2004, the incident which has taken away more than 6000 souls in India alone. During the evening walks in that beautiful beach as well, I had this thought. ‘There would have been many people who dreamt of their lives sitting on this shore. And then, without even being able to resist, they were swiped off by the waves. Days passed, everything appeared normal again and me who belong to some other part of the country is walking on the same shore, over the remains of their shattered dreams. There is no surety of tomorrow for myself or any of these what surrounds me. Then what is it that I am really seeking for?’
Diving in the sea of my thoughts, I forgot to see the watch. In a while, I saw someone waving and coming towards me. Walking closer, I realized that it was our driver asking me to go back to the van reminding that it was already late. I apologized with an idiotic smile and rushed to the van. I was wandering in the world of thoughts till the van has reached back. There was a bus which was ready to go. In less than thirty minutes, I was at Rameswaram again.
The day was not yet over for me. There was one more place I wanted to see- the place where the man who inspired millions of young Indians to dream hailed from; the house of Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam, the former president of India. From a boy who sold newspapers to become the ‘Missile man of India’ and then to the first citizen, it was sheer hardwork and determination what made him rose to the great heights of life. His house is partly a museum now and it carries the charisma of the legend which will ignite the mind of anyone who visits the place. Spending some more time there, I walked back to the railway station.
Walking towards the train, I almost found the answer to my question. If I get swiped off by another wave, what is the footprint that I am leaving behind? That is what I am seeking for.. Let it be of Inspiration.. Happiness.. Peace..