September 14, 2005

Used to be

Small toothpaste carton, CloseUp ("Rs 25 off!"). A broken rubber ball. Plastic packet of oil labelled "Sweekar". The sound of breaking waves. Discarded saris and assorted other bits of cloth. Cover of a cassette. In one spot, inexplicably, a small flock of dragonflies that buzzes about my head as I walk through. Concrete-lined pits for storing water, now empty except for mud and some trash. Fresh breeze. Rubble. Tangled piles of nets. Palm trees, in two clumps, one about three times larger than the other.

In between the two clumps, the remains of the temple I remember from the last time here. Also inexplicably, the idol remains, but is decapitated. More breaking waves. Fallen electric poles and some other stone pillars, slowly getting more and more covered by the drifting sand. More rubble, piles of bricks. A discarded winter (?) jacket, lined with what looks like fleece. On a rare standing electric pole, a pristine electric meter ("High Quality Meter", it says), reading 494 kwh. A few shattered boats on the shore.

Crows. Dragonflies. The waves. And us, picking our way through a once-village. Slammed by a wave, all residents now in temporary housing in Killai on the mainland.

Chinnavaikal, after the tsunami.

"Yes," said Samanthan, one of those residents who has moved, before we took the boat over, "yes, you can go there if you want. There's nothing to see, though. But you can go there and you can tell yourself, there used to be a village here called Chinnavaikal."

No comments: