Madras evokes a range of emotions and images in me. The majestic façade of Chennai Central, the bustling Koyembedu market, the meandering Cooum… the list goes on. However, to me, the most iconic symbol of Madras happens to be my favourite place in the city – the Marina beach.
I have always been enthralled by beaches. Peering down into the blue waters of the Atlantic from the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, walking on pebbly beaches in Wales, freezing in the cold shores of Atlantic City, celebrity spotting in the warm beaches of LA, squinting out at the shimmering waters of the Persian Gulf in Dubai, I’ve always had a recurring thought – “Not as good as our Marina”.
The Marina beach is the world’s second longest sandy beach and is special to me. I have fond childhood memories of building elaborate sand castles and running to and fro with the waves as they beckoned to me. I could spend hours simply sitting on the cool sands of the Marina, gazing out into the endless sea and watching the world go by, with the salty breeze caressing me, bringing with it the tang of the sea.
Every morning, the Marina welcomes a host of joggers huffing and puffing along as the golden globe of the sun emerges over the horizon. As the sun climbs the sky, one sees lovers immersed in their own little world oblivious to the scorching heat. Evening comes around and the Marina is abuzz with activity.
I doubt if any other beach offers such sustainable livelihoods to scores of people as the Madras Marina does. Ten minutes is enough to attract the attention of a myriad group of intrepid businessmen and women. First comes the sundal seller with his shouts of “thaenga, maanga, pataani sundal!”, enticing you with the chickpea snack, peppered generously with grains of sand. He is followed by the soothsayer, who bestows her blessings for a 100 children on you! Next comes the flower seller, accompanied by the intoxicating scent of jasmine, insisting you buy a closely woven strand. The bajji seller tantalizes you with his piping hot bajjis – onion, potato, chilli – ah! The sheer variety! Meanwhile the fiery sparks that burst out of the corn seller’s cart as he roasts ears of corn grabs your attention and you watch, fascinated, as he slathers a potent mixture of chilly powder and lemon juice on the corn.
Pacify your sweet tooth with some fluffy, bright pink cotton candy or pay heed to the tinkling of the ice cream pushcart. The balloon seller, the gypsy selling attractive trinkets, the musical jingles of the merry-go-round, the men urging you to go on a horse ride… there is no end to the enterprise and commerce that abounds at the Marina.
As night approaches, the Marina quiets down, until only the crash of the waves remain. And as the broad beam of light from the lighthouse sweeps past, a sense of peace descends on you. The eternity of nature embraces you and you are one with the universe again.
Post by: Anne John, Runner Up Winner
The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.