July 17, 2009

God's spy

Look at a map of Point Calimere and it's clear: the Tamil Nadu coast makes a right angle turn here, going from heading due east to north. From where I stood, in a watchtower on the beach there, I could actually see that right angle, not 200 metres away: the land swings broadly around and runs north. And I felt much like that inimitable comic Steven Wright, among whose cornucopia of one-liners is this gem: "I have a map of the United States at home. The scale is 1 to 1."

Indeed: 1 to 1, laid out in front of me, the land might be my map.

And I'm standing there in the tower, using my trusty Swiss Army knife to peel a mosambi which is my late breakfast, and I look all around and I can see for miles and I am the only human being for all those miles. Me and my hired cycle that has brought me here, nobody else. And as that sinks in, that the idea also sinks in. And as it does, I find myself peeling faster and faster, then wolfing down the fruit.

Then I strip, and tumble down the stairs, and race across the sand, and dive into the waves. Skinny-dipping. The feeling is nearly overwhelming, almost indescribable: the water, the breeze, the freedom, the utter loneliness (when was I last so completely alone?), the exhilaration of having this splendid spot all to myself. Without my clothes. Only me to notice my expanding waistline and for once I don't even give a damn.

I roam the beach, pick up shells for my son, find a flopping gasping silvery muscular fish at the waterline and throw him back into the waves (not so much of a thank you), walk down to that gigantic corner, go back up the tower and have another mosambi. I'm here for nearly two hours and there's still nobody in sight.

But others have been here. Graffiti all over the tower, from "S Senthil" and "Main Mani Pondy" and "K Siva (or) Paramasivam" and a heart with an arrow through it that says "Leena and Asha" and "God's Spy Jeevan."

Yeah, in this right-angle of India you can feel like God's spy, though all you'll have to spy on are the electric blue and green parrots and the flocks of blackbuck and the wild ponies. The denizens of the Pt Calimere Sanctuary, none of whom pay you much attention if you go skinny-dipping in the Palk Strait.

So for once, I added to the graffiti too. You know me, you'll recognize it somewhere in that watchtower. Don't forget your clothes.

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