Life is a myriad of uncertainty. The best moments in life usually come when we are least expecting them to. As I stood gazing out across the deserted Pulicat beach, little did I know that this chance encounter was going to leave a beautiful imprint on my life.Excitement was buzzing amongst the four of us from the day we had decided that we would be taking a trip to Pulicat Lake for our adventure story. Gokul, Gayle, Ibrar and I had already chartered a self driven rental car. We set out for our escapade early at 7 in the morning on Tuesday.
Among the group, only Gokul and I knew how to drive, and although Ibrar did possess a Driving License, we were reluctant to let him sit at the steering wheel, because the last time he had driven, he had slammed the car into a lamp-post!
Pulicat was a 60 kilometers drive from Chennai city, and since I was at the steering wheel, it was my task to drive through the city before the morning traffic set in. It was an astounding first time experience for me to drive along the Marina Beach. We soon hit the highway and were cruising along at a good pace.
Having covered almost half the length of our journey, we stopped at a local restaurant midway for our breakfast. Having a cup of simmering coffee and Idli’s rejuvenated us. Gokul then asked me for the keys of the car, and I sat on the back seat with Gayle while Ibrar sat beside Gokul giving him the directions for the remaining part of the journey.
We must have driven around 10 kilometers when I suddenly asked Gokul to stop the car, as I was feeling uneasy. Travelling has always been tough for me, as I suffer from motion sickness, and I felt that I would puke anytime. The idli’s that I had for breakfast didn’t help either. Gayle handed me her bottle of water, and after having some sips, I felt much better. We resumed our journey after a five minute break, and were soon tootling towards our destination.
We reached Pulicat by 11, and directly hit the beach. The Bay of Bengal stood in its prime, with pristine blue water, and the never ending waves. Upon seeing this, Gokul quipped by saying that the, “panoramic view of the beach was a sight to behold.”
The beach although very deserted, had dirt thrown all along the coast. From alcohol bottles, to plastic wrappers, the place was filth. Ibrar clicked photographs of the filth in order to show it to his Environmental Elective teacher and renowned environmentalist, Nityanand Jayaraman.
There was a beguiling lighthouse just outside the Pulicat town built by the Dutch and we soon drove there. Upon reaching the location, Gokul, who was the only one in the group who knew how to converse in Tamil, spoke to the locals who were playing cards outside the lighthouse and enquired about the price of the tickets which was a mere Rs. 3. We climbed the lighthouse, and were welcome to a breathtaking sight. Vast and an enormous sea of water, stretching from one end to the other, and till the eye could see was alluring to look at. The sun’s reflection on the sea looked picturesque to our eyes.
Our next stop was the Pulicat Lake, which is the second largest salt water lagoon in India. The lake is a storehouse of ecological richness and supports invertebrate faunas including many coelenterates, mollusks and crustaceans. It was midday when we reached the lake, and even though the weather is usually sultry at that time, plenty of clouds covered the sun that day making our trip even more adventurous.
We caught hold of a fisherman who referred to himself as Ramaswamy. He took the four of us out on his catamaran to the Pulicat Lake to catch fishes, and after wandering in the lake for some time, he felt a nudge on his fishing net, and very quickly started re-coiling the string. A silver finned fish was caught by him, and he threw it into his basket. We started playing on the catamaran and Gokul drenched Gayle t-shirt by throwing water on her.
Ramaswamy then told us about the hardships he has to go through every morning. He collects the fishes from the lake, and travels 15 kilometers to sell it at the local wholesale market where he earns a meagre amount just enough to feed his family. We paid Ramaswamy 400 bucks and promised to come to Pulicat again and go on a proper boat ride with him.
Upon reaching the Pulicat town after the fishing experience and seeing fried fishes at a local shop made us all very hungry. Gayle who hails from Goa, said that, “fried fishes in coastal towns are a delicacy.” We enjoyed the lip smacking Pomfret fishes with three kinds of dips, and a huge glass of coconut water.
Our next destination was a church, and after getting directions from the locals, we reached the Our Lady of Glory Church which was beside a very old Dutch Cemetery. The church which was built in the 19th century had very recently got a makeover and a fresh coat of paint, looked stupendous with sunlight falling on the white walls. We opened our shoes, and walked in to see young school students kneeling in front of Jesus and mumbling some prayers. Gayle clicked photographs of the murals on the walls, and Ibrar observed the carvings on the wooden furniture’s in the church.
It was four in the evening when we came out of our last destination in Pulicat which was a Portuguese Fort, in a dilapidated condition. The cements on the wall had peeled off and huge spider webs adorned the high ceilings of the fort. It was scary when Ibrar started making weird noises in the fort, and those voices echoed. I, being the most timid member ran out of the Fort in a hush.
We left Pulicat for our journey back as the sun started to set. We had just reached the city limits with me on the steering wheel waiting at a traffic signal, when we noticed something for the very first time, an old Tamil women seated in an auto rickshaw in front of us, being mugged by a complete stranger who had a sharp knife in his hand. The entire incident happened so quickly that we could just stare at the crying woman. The signal soon turned green and we had to move on. We discussed the incident on the entire journey back to our hostel, and had arguments with Ibrar and Gokul whether we should have saved the old woman or not. Gayle being the most sensible of us said that, “we couldn’t have done anything because the man had a knife and could have hurt us.”
Ibrar said that, “the trip to Pulicat Lake was the best road experience he ever had,” as we returned the car to the rental service with a content heart and an adventurous day behind us, and with hopes of more such experiences in the near future.