As I type this in a cramped and dingy and damned hot little booth in Vedaraniyam -- oddly, where I have memories of my second honeymoon and lurid postcards -- I think of a field. Cultivated with jute and gingelly oil and pulses, plants growing well, except for the middle of the field, which is bare. Why? Well...
This particular field is in Pushpavanam, a village some 8 km north of here. It's on the coast, but it was left comparatively undamaged by the tsunami last December.
The problem in Pushpavanam is that the wave vomited huge quantities of sea-floor muck -- fish, shells, mud, oil -- onto the fields and surroundings. In one place, a man we were with demonstrated -- he walked into a little depression in a field that's filled with this black stuff, and he instantly sank to his knees. Came out with some difficulty, odd black socks covering his calves.
Anyway, there's this stuff on all the fields, and it made the fields uncultivable, so what do you do? You have to clear it off the top of the soil, that's what. Not an easy task, because in some cases there's some 500-600 tons of it per acre, and there are about 15000 such affected acres in this area.
On this Pushpavanam field, some organization came some months ago and cleared the muck. Unfortunately, they stopped there. Well, not quite. They didn't cart it off, they piled it up in the middle of the field. Then they left. Came the rains, unseasonable showers in April I believe, and some of the muck got washed back into the soil.
Luckily, an emerging effort spearheaded by the alumni of my alma mater, called BITSunami, decided to take an interest in Pushpavanam. (Of that effort, another time from a less hot booth). They came and actually cleared up all the fields here, and did the morre important thing: carted the muck out to the seashore and dumped it there. In particular, they cleared the pile from this field.
Then the villagers planted things in the field. It grew well.
Except for a large square in the middle.
I walk in there, and the soil looks different, feels stranger and more clayey than elsewhere. The fruit of one misguided attempt to help: a large bald square in the middle of a field.