The straight line across the sea

The dull day with an overcast sky coupled with a sprinkle of rain didn’t deter this railway man from walking across the sea. The camera lens stayed trained on him, he walked. And walked. On the original Pamban bridge.

Oblivious to the camera’s zoom lens and and curious tourists who stood on the new road bridge that has come about in much recent times.

In the modern day world where ‘middle class’ apartments zoom into the clouds and stretch home loans all the way to the moon, architectural wizardy is commoner than common cold and everything appears ‘doable’ !

Well, take a look at this bridge.

In the light of all the fancy publicity that modern day bridges and buildings attract with fancier opening ceremonies that court controversy in some form or the other, this would look to have been built by folks that specialised in giving functional elements the ‘stodgy humdrum’ treatment ! Much Like the index pages of a history book. Rarely read. But greatly valued by those that read.

Here are some facts that are worth considering !

This bridge will complete a 100 years of holding up trains that whizz by ! A 100 years ! If only the bridge had a voice, oh what stories would it tell! Being privy to the many facets of British rule. Of the freedom struggle. Of simple life back then and the present day’s pervasive opulence ! That in itself is a striking thought pregnant with several reams of imagination !

Imagine the number of prayer laden people who have gone across the sea on this bridge !! Give a thought to the scores grief stricken relatives as they sat holding the urns containing the remains of a loved one ferried to be immersed in the sea !

Or perhaps think of the droves of the love struck honeymooners and seemingly listless tourists ambling along. From black & white to technicolour. From the horse carriage to heavy duty horse power inside hoods that sport Japanese, German, American, Korean..names ….

A 100 + years ago, folks from Gujarat were employed by the British to build this rail line across the sea ! It must have been a jaw dropping thought. To build a bridge across the sea, when the only transport was a boat ride that bobbed and weaved to the seas whim and fancy.

As though that wasn’t good enough, the bridge was supposed to open up to let those big ships pass through. Well not a big deal in modern times. But in the 1890s when work began, must it have not caused a sea of eyebrows to arch ?

Heres one more, like a maths professor who derives great satisfaction in complicating a simple problem : The place is supposed to be the worlds second most corrosive place after Miami !

Ladies and gentlemen, to rub it in, the bridge works! Till date !

The modern day world doesn’t speak much of those that built this (and such) bridge(s). No celebration is made of the the chutzpah they possessed to stand on this side of land and think it possible to draw a straight line across the sea to the that side of land, and leave it standing for more than a 100 years ! Much less is heard of their character which wove this all together without the tremor of a taint.

Perhaps it was a different time back then. Where it was fashionable to just stand up and let the work do all the talking. Exacting in expectations from oneself and superlatively uncompromising in its execution. Perhaps !

Of all the blessings and wishes that the tolerant old man up there keeps showering on us, perhaps of this quality, he can be more liberal, more can be asked !

The straight line across the sea that’s still standing, needs a cogent explanation you see !

Rameshwaram diaries

The sleepy town of Rameshwaram has many facets to it. That the old man Ram was there with his army and the supposed bridge that they built to Sri Lanka is perhaps its chief claim to fame. It being considered one of the holiest of cities quite obviously translates to hordes of pilgrims.

With the proximity to Sri Lanka and it attendant consequences, the arc lights never go off here. There is always a refugee boat that lands. Or an LTTE man that rose from the sea. Or the Sri Lankan navy shooting down a hapless fisherman ! Something or the other.

The splendour and architecture of the Ramanatha swamy temple is best masked by the simplicity of its gopuram. All in plain white. Standing straight and simple. Amongst the many facets that it conceals is the 1000 pillar corridor which screams a silent yet eloquent beauty with all interplay between light and darkness that blossoms into a collage of a splendid magnitude can arrest you. Forever.

The communist party showing the way to Lord Ram’s feet was an ultimate picture !

Some distance away is Ramar Patham. (Ram’s Feet). A smaller temple that plays host to an imprint of a feet. Purported to be those of lord Ram and rightly so. The story spices up the belief very well that there is a mile between you and the d in doubt. A pot bellied priest chants the virtues of worshipping those feet and also slips in a message to ‘help’ the priests themselves. Its but natural, you see ! Especially, when said in the same breath !

The other reason that Rameshwaram is frequented is to perform rituals for the dead. An assortment of rituals, which by itself can be an intricate lesson in permutation and combination and math of such order. The net result could be a huge subtraction in what was there in the wallet !

This is one money spinner that’s not going to fade away in a jiffy. For death is but natural and such beliefs stay on. The paraphernalia of all those articles that are supposedly required to please the dead person’s spirits, can well resemble an annual shopping list of a whole neighbourhood ! From the barber to the beguiled tourist : all contribute to the bee like buzz in the air !

Mention must be made of the Pamban bridge, now named after one of the Gandhis. This times it is Indira. (I think). Built on the sea, much before the Bandra-Worli sea link. Well used now, every single lamp post is still there. Of the lights that were supposed to be atop the lamp posts, well it’s a different story !

It’s a sleepy town. Down in the down south. But then, it keeps many awake. All through. Think about it. History. Mythology. Architecture. Strategic defense. Death. Life. Living. Gods. Tourism. The sea and the ocean. All in one place.

Very few places that can boast of that assortment !