A trip to Rameshwaram may complete the pilgrimage of the devout but is incomplete without a trip to Dhanushkodi for the ones who are in search of Ramayana (the mythological epic that most Indian children grow up reading). True to its name, it is the bow shaped Land’s end, a small town at the tip of the Rameshwaram Island, off the eastern coast of India. Once a vibrant town and port, it was silenced by the devastating cyclone of 1964. After quick breakfast in Rameshwaram, I travelled in a fishing vehicle to Dhanushkodi stopping for a brief while at the Naval Post for some mandatory checks. I could feel the excitement well up within, since I was visiting yet another Ramayana spot. This is the place where Lord Rama began construction of the bridge aided by his trusted monkey army to cross over to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita who was held captive. The driver fitted a chain on the tyres of the vehicle in the Naval Post for the next leg of the journey with near invisible roads. A few metres ahead, all that could be seen was undulating stretches of sand often drowned by the huge ocean waves from either side. Commonly referred to as the female sea and the male sea, it was a delight to hear the roaring Bay of Bengal on one side and the calm Indian Ocean on the other. I leave it to your interpretation of which is what !! The vehicle moved slowly sometimes on wet sand and often through water. There was a strange kind of silence and all I could hear was the sound of my breath, occasional cries of birds and the murmur of fellow passengers. Soon we were in the middle of the once bustling town which is now reduced to ruins. The driver informed us that the sea is close by and we could walk around in town or take a dip within the next one hour. I decided to get off and wander around before heading towards the sea. The ruined buildings of the church, temple, school and homes around were silent testimony to the great cyclone. Lost in the surrounding, I almost tripped over only to find a glimpse of what appeared to be the lost train track concealed under sand leading to a ruined structure which has seen busy days as the local station. I walked in and out of the buildings and amid all the silence I could hear the church bells ring, the soulful choir, teen chatter, whistling sound of the Boatmail Express and local street corner camaraderie of neighbours turned family. I picked up a small piece of stone wondering whether to just leave it there or bring it home as a memoir and inadvertently held it close to my nose. A deep breath later, I realized that in the ruins and rubble lie the dream of a young adult, the love of caring parents and siblings and the guidance of the friendly idealistic teacher. I was out of my stupor at the sound of a shrill cry and hurried footsteps. A few children belonging to the fishermen families occupying the makeshift thatched huts near by were running in excitement with the peacocks. The birds made a royal entry adding colour to a near black and white surrounding.
A little ahead on the sea shore, I noticed some people drawing a bow on the sand and then scooping it to make an offering to the divine in the confluence of Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. Some others were seated, chanting and offering prayers to the departed ancestors to seek blessings and send them to light. I headed straight into the sea to take a dip only to realize that I do not have a change of clothes with me. I was soon assisted by the divine, the strong winds turned out to be the best natural blow dryer available. I looked in the direction of Sri Lanka wondering how Lord Rama would have crossed over with his monkey army to rescue his beloved held captive.Very soon, the horn blared, piercing the sound of silence and all of us scrambled towards the vehicle to head back to Rameshwaram.
Rameshwaram is an overnight journey by train from Chennai or a 12 hr drive by road. A fishing vehicle charges anywhere between Rs 70-Rs 100 per head for a round trip to Dhanushkodi from Rameshwaram from else hire a jeep for Rs 1000 odd for a round trip to Dhanushkodi. Legends apart, this is the home town of one of India’s most celebrated scientists and one time head of state APJ Abdul Kalam who is my inspiration in more than one way. If interested, ask the driver to show the house where he spent his early years.