Thursday, 12 May 2011
When we first moved into this part of Chennai we lived in a newly built house right on the seashore, as caretakers for the owners who were living abroad. We had one elderly lady living next door, and a locked up empty house on the other side as our immediate neighbors. There was also a fishing village nearby and much of their daily activity took place on the beach right in front of our home.
The access roads to this area of the city were not well developed, and the entire area used to be desolate at night. Many of my friends and relatives thought that we were mad to leave "civilization" so far behind, but my wife and I loved living here.
Originally the house owners were supposed to come back to India only several years later, but suddenly their plans changed and we had to vacate the house for them. It was then that we decided to build our own home in the same area. We were sort of pushed into taking the plunge a little earlier than we otherwise might have, but in the end it proved to be a good thing for us. Land prices and construction costs suddenly soared, but only after we had bought our land and built our house.
Today, over thirty years later, this part of the city is very much sought after as one of the nicer communities to live in. The high cost of land has resulted in most of the housing being in the form of apartment buildings. As a result, although the beach is relatively unspoiled, it is very crowded in the evenings.
Another big change that I notice is in the type of fishing vessels. In the 1970s the local fishermen went out to sea in catamarans. The word catamaran comes from the Tamil "kattu maram" which means tied wood. The fishermen used to go out to sea on raft-like boats made by tying a bunch of logs together. You can see what these catamarans used to look like in my sketch painting. But now, most fishermen use fiberglass boats, and quite a few of them even use mechanized boats.
The fishing village has grown and therefore there are more boats beached up on the sand these days. And Chennai being a very hot and humid place the beach is an extremely popular open space for the entire community.
Unfortunately this beach is now threatened by an unwanted development. There is a proposal to run an elevated roadway for many kilometers over this beach. The objective is to cut the driving time for people going from the city to the southern suburbs of the city and to a tourist destination to the south of Chennai. The fishing communities, the residents of many of the affected neighborhoods, and environmentalists have all protested but is so far unclear whether these protests will even be heard.