We reached Kanyakumari from Tutikorin yesterday. I read the board: Kanyakumari 25 kms. My fever was gone immediately.
Kanyakumari is a small sleepy town stretched along the beach. People are laid back, helpful. They are never in a hurry, always talking and always smiling. You can see men and women from all over the world here though February-March is not the tourist season.
We visited Vivekananda rock yesterday. Vivekananda had swum from the shore to this rock to meditate. It takes courage to swim in this sea even though the distance is only about 150 meters. The ocean is choppy.
I have seen sadhus venturing out into places normal people will never dare to. No one in his/her proper senses will ever think of climbing a dense jungle-clad hill like Tirumalla to build a temple. Will anyone plan to stay forever at Tapovan above Gomukh? Well, three sadhus including one Bengali woman are staying there in such harsh climate for years. These people are either too disturbed in their minds or are too happy for whatever reasons.
Standing at the very edge of the country, which is so vast, starts from the Himalayas far away from here and melts into the unending sea at Kanyakumari, gives me a queer feeling. Human existence ends at this point. From here the sea stretches to the South Pole. On our way we have seen dots of human habitation. Yes. After travelling this distance, these habitations seem like mere dots on the map. Some are big dots and some are small. Lives, passions and pains begin and end in these dots. Dreams and aspirations rise and fall. Immense human endeavor has no meaning after this point. Even history ends here.
We had contacted a fisherman, who had agreed to take us inside the sea today to some place from where the shore would not be visible. He could not do it. The sea is very rough today. Huge waves are splashing against the black boulders, sprinkling white foam far above the head. The sea is always angry against obstacles. It lashes at the shore. But when allowed to flow freely, the waves rise and fall smoothly. No noise, no conflict. Isn’t this true in our lives as well? (I learnt this first when I started practicing Kung Fu. Always flow with the force of nature and never go against it. In Kung Fu, unlike in Japanese Karate, there are no blocks).
On our way to Kanyakumari we saw a group of 15 amazing women yesterday. They came from all over the country, met in Kolkata and started for Kanyakumari on January 26 on cycles. They reached here on February 28. They belong to the Women Adventure Network of India (WANI). Ms Bagwati Ojha is 76 yrs old. Twenty one year old Krushnaa Patil climbed Everest last year. Kavita Burathoki and Aswini Pawar of the 16-member group also reached Everest summit. Krushna has climbed six highest peaks in six continents and is the first Indian woman to have climbed the highest peaks in Antartica and in Europe! The little girl said she wanted to do an all India motor cycle trip like us. I was flattered.
We also met a Sardarji – his beard has turned completely white but he is as agile as a sportsman. He came all the way and alone from Ludhiana on his Bollero. “I am a little crazy, you know,” he told me. Can't we create a small of nation of only such crazy people? It will be a much better place to live in, I wanted to tell him.
After taking photographs of the sun set, we returned to our bike and found it encircled by four middle-aged men. They came from Barasat, West Bengal, packing their two bikes on train and using them when they travelled on road. Not a bad idea! One of them said he had gone to Leh six times on his bike. He showed us some amazing photographs.
We are staying in a lodge here. Rs 300 per day. The two managers – they call themselves managers – double up as gate keepers and sit in front of the gate the entire day. They often doze off. What a job! We are the only ones staying in this lodge at present.
We will take the West coast from tomorrow. Our next stop is at Allepey. We will start for Allepey tomorrow. We have travelled 4160 kms so far.
Tuticorin (Thootukuti) to Palayamkottai 47kms to KanyaKumari ( 87 kms).
“Streta, streta. No lefta,” Nimbu Bharat was yelling. But by then the damage was done. I had become unmindful for a second and my bike landed in blackish sandy smelly soil.
The front wheel was already half submerged in the mud and it was going down fast. Full throttle and the situation only worsened. When Nimbu jumped from the bike and how he managed to pull the front wheel out of the mud and back on track, I don’t remember. My left leg was knee deep in water already and the weight of the machine was too much for me. My first thought was that it was quicksand of sorts and my Bullet would be gone soon. But it was not gone. The wheel was already on dry sand and a push from behind and a full throttle later it was under control again.
It took me an hour to cover a distance of 7 kms to reach Dhanushkudi - the tip of Rameswaram. This is the end of the Indian land mass. On my left, the Bay of Bengal lay calm. It looked like an endless pond. There was hardly any wave. On my right was the Indian Ocean in its full fury. Where the two oceans meets is a pathway, distinctly visible from about 3kms from the shore. It is the famous Adam’s bridge – popularly known as the Ram Setu, which Lord Rama is said to have built to invade Sri Lanka and rescue his wife Sita from Ravana. Sri Lanka is only 50 kms from the shore of Rameswaram.
I stood there, wondering. Whether some character called Rama actually lived once can never be proved. Whether he indeed built a bridge over the ocean to reach Sri Lanka is also uncertain. But it is clear that in these shallow, very shallow waters of the Bay of Bengal, a pathway of rocks and boulders can be constructed. Anyone who visits this place will be convinced that it is possible. The water is so shallow here that it is difficult to conceive of this as an ocean!
Dhanushkuti (Rama is said to have buried his dhanush-bow- after his victory over Ravana) was a flourishing town and even had a railway station till a massive cyclone destroyed it completely in 1964. India’s former president APJ Abdul Kalam is from Dhanushkuti. The remains of the town are still visible. Only a few fishermen live there now. It is very difficult to reach the spot from Rameswaram. The beach is always slushy and only expert drivers of four-wheel-drive vehicles can take one there.
“Don’t come here on a motor cycle again,” Nimbu warned me. He is a local lad and knows everybody in Dhanushkuti personally. “The Bay of Bengal is a female ocean and the Indian Ocean is a male. See, how one is calm and the other is aggressive,” he explained. Even the colours of the two oceans are different. Bay of Bengal is muddy and Indian Ocean is blue.
The Ramanatha temple in Rameswaram is a brilliant piece of architecture. The police did not let me take photographs. But the constant playing of devotional songs over loudspeakers from morning to midnight was irritating. Aren’t religious places meant to be silent and calm? Also, the display of devotion by the bare-bodied pot-bellied hairy devotees was ugly.
Pat did not see any of these. He was too tired and chose not to wake up at five in the morning to see the confluence of two oceans. He slept. When I returned from Dhanushkuti, I was completely exhausted. I still thought that I would be able to reach Knyakumari by evening. I couldn’t. If I had to save ourselves from any nasty accident, I had to take rest. I have a little fever as well. We decided to stay back at Thootukodi (Tuticorin), about 140 kms from Kanyakumari.
Rameswaram to Ramanathapuram (58 kms) to Thootukodi (126 kms). The road is excellent. But is difficult to find any restaurant on this route.