In Chennai, on a visit to a relative’s home, I walked to the nearby beach. The street leading to beach was empty. The street adjoining, and running parallel to, the beach was empty. The beach itself seemed all but empty. It was a sunny day with moderate wind, the temperature around 25 degrees Celcius. A perfect day for the beach – where were all the people?
Next to a wall separating the road from vacant plots, there was an empty chat stand (INDIAN CHAT ITEMS AND SOUPS), probably left behind when the business stopped. That couldn’t have been long ago: although the iron frame that supported the boards was heavily rusted, the painted letters advertising the wares were clearly visible:
Pani Poori 10.00
Bhel Poori 15.00
Dahi Poori 15.00
Cutlet Chana 15.00
Bread Sandwich 10.00
Plantain Pith Soup
Further ahead, hung on the wall was a sign displaying details of the EAST COAST BEACH WALKERS ASSOCIATION. The large space in the middle – probably meant to advertise events or news – was empty.
The beach, full of fresh footprints, seemed like a pockmarked face. A group of young men and women were sitting at the edge of the sea, waiting for the waves. For the entire length of the beach until the horizon, they were the only people in the water. I smiled at the thought of the number of Europeans who’d give anything at this moment (of a particularly severe winter in Europe) to be here.
Back on the road, I looked around for signs left behind by the Tsunami, but couldn’t find any.