India Uncut

This blog has moved to its own domain. Please visit for the all-new India Uncut and bookmark it. The new site has much more content and some new sections, and you can read about them here and here. You can subscribe to full RSS feeds of all the sections from here. This blogspot site will no longer be updated, except in case of emergencies, if the main site suffers a prolonged outage. Thanks - Amit.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Despatches 43: Love story by the river

On the road to Semmamguppam, in Cuddalore district, we stop at one place and walk towards the river Uppanar. There is no village here, but we can see two thatched huts besides the river a couple of hundred metres away.

“These are fisherfolk who are not with any village,” says Arul, a social worker accompanying me, “but they have lost their nets and catamarans. The government is not recognising their loss, or putting them on any of the compensation lists. So we are doing all that we can.”

We carry with us a couple of stoves and relief kits with us. The inhabitants of those huts rush out when we reach there, and seem overjoyed to see us. But that is not because we have brought them things. It is because someone actually cares to see them, and acknowledges that they exist. They don’t get that often.

It is a beautiful place, and the stretch 50 metres from the shore is idyllic, the kind of grassy plain, lined with coconut trees, with a beautiful river alongside, that you’d want to go to for a romantic walk on your honeymoon. And indeed, this is a romantic place in more ways than one.

Palanivel, who stays in one of those two huts, used to live in a village named Pettanagar. One day, he fell in love. The girl, a short, dark, chirpy woman called Selvie, wasn’t from his village, and his community did not approve of his choice. So he left, and brought her here. They made this small hut by the river, and started building a new life for themselves.

Unlike the Irulas, these folks aren’t riverine or estuarine fishermen. They tie together logs of wood and make catamarans with which they go out to the sea to fish. But the tsunami took away their catamaran and all their nets with it.

Palanivel takes the stove we offer him, and the bag of relief supplies, but he does it with a certain reluctance. It is plain to see that there is an internal struggle within him: he needs these supplies to get by for a while, but he is a proud man, and at any other time we would have been his guests, and Selvie would have offered us some tea, or maybe some fish.

Palanivel and Selvie wave goodbye as we walk away, their back to the water. When they came here, leaving their villages and communities behind, all they had was each other and the sea. They're not so sure of the sea now.
amit varma, 11:42 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage

I recommend: