Walking with the dead - Dhanushkodi - 1

It was the night of December 22, 1964. The passenger from Pamban was nearing the destination, Danushkodi. For some of the 200 people in readying to get out at Danushkodi, it was their stopping point for travelling further to Talaimannar and catch the mail there to reach Colombo. For some, their family was waiting at home in that rainy, stormy night and they just wanted to reach and feel the safety of their home.
 At the end of the lonely road from Rameshwaram, towards the sea, lies a desolate land. Covered in sand and sea water, the only sign of life beyond this point is the tracks of jeeps and vans you can see from here on these seemingly lonely but mystical land. The road from Rameshwaram goes through an area of narrowing land wherein you can see the Sea on both sides and there is no buildings of any sort for the 12-14KM stretch.
  The only person available during this ride is the Kothanda Ramar who sits watch over the sea somewhere in between. If you pass Him, the next stop is the Danushkodi check point, where the well laid stretch ends. There is a Navy observation post that lingers over the sea at this point.   

The train was chugging along the coast in the course of the night and was only a few meters away from the destination. It was pitch black outside with rain falling down ferociously. The train driver could not see the signal. He decided to move forward after giving a long whistle. Like everyone else, he was ready to get to the destination and was tired of having to drive the train through such weather. 

The first thing that strikes once the Danushkodi checkpoint is out of sight, is the absolutely desolate landscape.  There were a few birds flying around, sea water has entered the land and the land was a little like a swamp. The beautiful white sand beach can be seen the edges of the island. At some point, it feels like a very lonely ride through a very punishing landscape.

There was a lady who boarded the van at the checkpoint wanting to go to Danushkodi. So we started asking whether she is a resident there. She mentioned that today about 200 families live in Danushkodi. No power, no water or no trace of any government assistance exists. They are fisher-folk and from basic needs like food to medical assistance, they have to come to Rameswaram. That includes 2-3 KMs of ride through that swampy land. If it is night, the only option is to walk. She got down at some point in the swamp and started walking towards the huts on one side of the shore.
 The cyclone that was formed on the Andaman coast on December 19, 1964 was a super-cyclonic system which rarely forms so near to the Equator. It gained strength and moved in a straight line towards the northern tip of Sri Lanka. It touched ground on Dec 21-22 on the Srilankan coast triggering heavy rainfall with strong winds in Pamban and Danushkodi. It crossed the northern part of Srilanka and headed right in the direction of Danushkodi on the 22nd night, when the train driver decided to move along towards Danushkodi, irrespective of the signal. 

 The van did not stop after that till it reached a point where the two seas can be seen close to each other. It was only about 100 meters between the two seas but what a difference. The one on the north was just like a large pond, hardly any waves, very calm, not much of a depth and was inviting us to get into.

The other side (தென் கடல்) was ferocious with tall waves breaking on the shore and looking deep and menacing. It was a study in contrast and very unbelievable to see the two faces of the sea at the same point.

Sea has a life of its own. It is very easy to get distracted by the seeming calmness or the ferocity of the waves. It keeps its secrets to itself and all we can do is to admire the enchanting beauty of the place. The sand color even differs between the two shores. It was absolutely fascinating to imagine the beauty of the place on a full moon day or the new moon day. It is very easy to see the power nature has over us and how fickle life can be.

It is a place that makes one think about the insignificance of 'us' in front of Mother Nature and to simply admire the beauty of the place. Another kilometer of walk will take one to the point of 'sangamam', the meeting place of the two seas and truly the land's end.

Onward, we moved on to see the ruins of the town that was.    

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