34. Coastal Exploration

@Uvari, Tamil Nadu, India.

I have never been such a big fan of beaches except for the very few number of sunrises and sunsets which I did capture for the sake of doing so. I haven’t been much interested in the water bodies except for staring at Bassenthwaite Lake, Thames or our own Periyar at some point. The New World was already discovered and being Marco Polo, Colombus, Vasco Da Gama or Amerigo Vespucci was a tough job with the world map so clearly defined. I would consider a visit to Bermuda Triangle after a few decades, but for now I am not that powerful an embodiment of unmatched intellectual curiousity rooted on a desire to dig out the unsolved mysteries, which would surpass my own plans for a trip which was inspired by a flawless understanding of every possible location of coastal Tamil Nadu from google maps, and even as interpreting the results of my online observation to the locals in an attempt to find the right location would be the most difficult task of the trip. But as the targets for photography were much less and there was not much else out there which people would visit, the journey went on well without much complications, if there was any, would have left me stranded in the middle of nowhere talking in a language incomprehensible to the locals and not even able to drink tea to bring my spirit back to life.

This was not a much expected coastal exploration of Kerala mainly based on Ernakulam and Alappuzha, but something which went far beyond the borders of the state in an attempt to expand a journey which was too restricted to the common tourist places. For all the computer gamers out there, you can call this an add-on or a stand-alone expansion, but written not in C++, C#, COBOL or JAVA, but something which was written in letters of perpetual goodness and piety; it was my ‘Age of Empires II’, or it’s expansion which they named ‘The Conquerers’, the same game demo which glued millions to a computer screen with amazing hypnotic powers, that thing which started with the same lines, “I hear the growl of a jaguar; is this a bad omen?”. I had no Transport Ships to take me away from the place, but it was where I had to go; I had no horse as in the game, but as the four wheeled machine how could I complain? This was Age of Empires I, II or III for which I was not that sure about; but this was not an ambiguity as all three of them were related and combined to form such a force which was a force beyond explanation. What other game would inspire someone for more exploration? What else could make you love history as this masterpiece from Ensemble Studios and Microsoft? There is always this game, even without a computer.

History and Literature follows you everywhere; philosophy walks by your side trying to gain your attention. They were near invisible at Uvari, but not that perfectly hidden to go unnoticed by the senses. Uvari was a small fishing village about fifty kilometres from Kanyakumari and further away from Tirunelveli. The way to this coastal village was indeed a great factor in increasing the interest for visiting the place. There were wind mills everywhere; or should I call them wind turbines as I did know the mills from the United Kingdom and these were surely not them. These should be producing commercial electric power and also powering the photographic skills of thousands of people who travel on those roads surrounded by these turbines. They were of different shape and size, some of them not at all working, and some of them having a different company name inscribed on the back compared to the others. There were so many of them, facing towards or away from those mountains which seemed to look at them as if these turbines were strangers who took away the beauty of the village area. But the true fact is that the aesthetic sense was just given a free gift with the installation of these machines, intentionally or unintentionally. They blended with the nature in such a way as if they existed there for centuries even before the great Chera, Chola, Pandya and Pallava kingdoms blessed these lands with their existence.

I would desire to think that they reply to the mountains; to what those mountains send to the machines with the wind, both good and bad, there would be messages sent to both sides. It’s relation to nature is still debatable, but this type of consideration would do good for that moment of seeing the combination. As Cleanth Brooks would say as a part of his contributions to New Criticism with his weapon concerning paradox, this mechanical device is also a part of nature. Considering the many things that a poet would consider when he or she takes a look at nature, the point against the wind turbine getting a seat in the nature’s lap at least for the sake of considering so, would be that the man-made thing might lack a soul, but it is that much a part of this universe as the sky or the clouds. It proved the point with that view it provided for photography, the same it could provide for a poet for his work if needed. The roads were getting smaller as it was getting closer to the wind turbines, but they were still near-flawless paths which rarely had any problems. The only question which could bother me was if I was moving further away from any opportunity of drinking fine tea.

Into that small coastal village, there were four churches; St. Antony’s church, Kappal Matha church, St. Andrew’s chruch and Annai Velankannimatha church. As St. Andrew’s church stood on the sand with all the beauty of an old church, the other two looked kind of new, with the exception of Kappal Matha church which was something different, something which I had not seen anywhere else. It looked like many things, but not like a church. It had the shape of an airplane mounted on a ship and the area around the ship was open allowing the powerful winds of the sea which was so near, to creep into it giving it a wonderful effect. Even the sea looked so different in colour around that area and the winds which whispered around got only stronger as the day passed. They might be carrying all the prayers to the Almighty and his answers right back to the nature from where the mortals could collect it; just the ones who has enough sensibility to feel the same. When an airplane is mounted on a ship, both almost of the same, what would be the significance? May be it denotes more than one way of the prayers moving towards it’s destination; may be it’s just about the help the ships and boats recieve as they travel through the sea; it is still not my point to make.

According to the stories, the crew of a random Portuguese ship sailing near Uvari about 450 years ago was affected by a severe case of cholera. Hoping to escape the inevitable death, they carved an image of Saint Antony of Padua from a small block of wood. Soon, the entire crew regained health and later when the ship docked at Uvari, the sailors set up the statue inside a small hut in the coastal village. Years later, the villagers built a church with the original statue of St. Antony holding the Infant Jesus in his hand on the altar of the building. St Antony is said to perform so many miracles daily and thus it became a church visited by pilgrims of different religions from all over South India. It is still not that popular as many of the other pilgrim centres as it is less known and also due to it’s somewhat remote location unlike the San Thome Basilica and Saint Thomas Mount. This influence of the story concerning the ship can be seen as we look at the Kappal Matha Church too. It is almost like a ship sailing in the ocean when seen from a distance due to it’s proximity to the sea; from some angles, it lies in the middle of the sea of sand. The modest coastal town is a joy to visit due to these churches and the stories behind them.

Diving out —>