Hunger led us to the nearest potti kadai, of the kind, I’d seen only in my childhood – of almost endless depth but extremely limited width. Butter biscuits, stale murukku, and camarkat toyed with our imagination before we saw it swing gaily in front of us. `Gud Look Superstar’ captured our attention, as Rajnikanth’s face grinned alarmingly out at us. Rice puffs for Rs. 1. With `Superstar’ branding. Welcome to Kovalam.
A small little fishing village about thirty kms from Chennai just off the East Coast Road, Kovalam mostly means a work destination for me, but on that particular Sunday, we were enjoying some employee perks with The Banyan’s (where I work) community workers showing us around.
As little kids waved, we navigated the car through the dense lanes, past the Dargah till we glimpsed children swinging against the sky and endless blue framed by boats conjured by the Tsunami.
More children (they were everywhere) gathered round the car, peering curiously as we waited for our guides and grinning as we distributed candy (dangerous habit of theirs to accept actually)…
Moorthy and Chitrasenan, our guides had it all planned out. Life jackets were distributed, people were penguined, and a boat rustled up for a miniature sailing expedition. A relief, truly, given the profusion of crap speckling the shore.
“Does anyone want to jump in?” Now there’s a thought. A and V had had their minds set on this and soon clutching a rope, they took the leap. Or rather toss. A lost her watch, thought the boat was dunking her and then realized the virtues of simply floating. Meanwhile, the others looked out at the grey creamy layers fold into the others and melt and quiver and spill and fold. By the time we returned, silhouettes were the guides away, the sky a shot of orange before sighing into a tranquilising purple-blue.
Stumbling back the car, we found the children still waiting, mother in tow. “Do you want some prawns?” she beams as the kids get underfoot. Guilty nods result in a steaming dish of shrimp swirling in a tame red. Eyes water and noses run, as fingers claim the treat greedily. Moorthy and Chitrasenan, wait patiently till we’re done and then gently prod us towards the final treat of the day – their Rajini imitations over special fried fish observed by a formidable little boy near the shy temple guarding the shore.
More eye-watering and nose-running later, fingers soaked red from digging into hot, delicate fish that resonates on taste buds well into the city, MGR songs fill the air and it is time to go home.
The car winds through the village and soon the salt leaves your hair. Quiet follows the way till bright buildings and red lights enfold you on return. A day well spent. Work at Kovalam is never the same after.