The thoughts of Dhanushkodi filled my mind as I woke up before the break of dawn. While the surfeit of water was responsible for the destruction of the once thriving port township, the absence of it almost destroyed my morning routine. After the essentials early in the morning, I worked some time to upload pictures on Flickr. To facilitate a 7 am start I had to complete the rest of my morning essentials such as a ‘brush with’ Close Up and a wash. For this water is a must, you know. Well, as I was busy navigating the Flickr pages the taps decided to dry up. The Caretaker of the Rest House informed that the possibility of taps yielding any further was ruled out till noon. Panic gave room to reason when he volunteered to buy me drinking water to have as clean a wash as that would permit! The start was delayed till enough water could be bought to wash up the corpulence.
The return drive over the Mandapam Bridge was more leisurely that the onward one – more pictures of the fascinating rail and road bridges. Unfortunately, I could not locate any plaque or inscription that described the making of the two bridges. The road to Velankanni was excellent – the ECR road from Tuticorin to Ramanathapuram and onward to Velankanni is flawless; I did not encounter a single pot hole on the way – contrast this with NH 47 in Kerala and you know why Tamil Nadu is flourishing. The excellent road connectivity and its proper maintenance ensure that the farmers are better linked to their markets. Add to this the improved irrigation canals and the distribution networks and we can appreciate the prosperity that we see in smaller towns and villages. Gandhiji had famously mentioned that India lives in her villages. The successive governments in Tamil Nadu have done appreciable work to make the villages and their inhabitants move up rungs in the economic ladder. Yet the simplicity, native intelligence and innocence of the villagers have remained intact. Besides, there are no party or union flags casting a shadow on their lives and threaten their daily livelihood.
Another interesting feature – which is a recent development - is the mushrooming of Educational institutions, both professional and general. This provides Tamil Nadu with the pool of trained labor required to man the industries that are visible all across the State’s landscape. The promotion of alternate energy - the wind farms, the nuclear energy plant at Koodankulam and generous use of solar panels - show us what it is to have good governance. Who serves the citizens better – those that shout slogans and indulge in crass hooliganism in the name of getting a better deal for the citizen or the ones who actually build infrastructure and an environment for its citizens to develop an economically and socially sustainable society? In Tamil Nadu they enable people to fish rather than ‘throw’ them the fish. In Kerala, where we do the latter, we have to ask if this is the correct thing to do for the future and answer it honestly.
At Velankanni I got accommodation in one of the Church complexes – it was interesting to note that Church accommodation is invariably never given to pilgrims who come alone; the reason being a large number of suicides among people who arrive alone! While the accommodation is basic, the cleanliness of the premises leave a lot to be desired. As was mentioned by a worthy Indian politician a few days back, we certainly have different standards when it comes to hygiene and many other ‘civilized’ needs! The priest in charge of the Shrine was kind enough to authenticate my visit to Velankanni.