The residents of little villages of Neimelikuppam, Pudu Neimelikuppam and others on the stretch of the coast some 40 km south of Chennai now live in tents. Blue and yellow tents. We stop to meet them and hear their stories. But of that, another time.
We heard from some of these people that they live on this land courtesy a benefactor from a century ago, such a large-hearted and generous man that people still talk of him today. Nity Jayaraman explains this to us over breakfast at the Mamallapuram Motel.
What was this man’s name? Alavandan.
It must be the accumulated strain of days roaming these areas, may be our way to cope with some of what we’ve seen. Because the name has us all suddenly laughing. Because if you know Tamil, that name can be seen as peculiarly relevant for this time, this place.
For you could say it as aal vandan – not grammatically precise, but enough so that someone would understand that you’re saying “the man came.” You could also say it as alai vandan – not grammatically precise again, but enough so that someone would understand that you’re saying “The wave came.”
Maybe you had to be there.