It is said that you won’t get tired of watching an elephant or the sea. We used to spend quite a few hours on the beach in our town. In those days the signal station on our beach looked almost like the bridge of a ship with a huge mast behind. The building housed an observation room. A little canopy in the front contained the bust of erstwhile king of Travancore and there were two big cannons in front of the building pointed to the sea. Today much of the glamour of the entire structure has eroded with age and neglect. The huge lighthouse near the signal station nevertheless is intact with its powerful beams of light flashing in all directions. I remember being astonished seeing the powerful flash passing through the distant horizon while looking westward from the tomb of Peer Mohammed in Peerumedu, some 100 kms away from our town.
A pier projecting into the sea about 500 metres is now dilapidated and protrudes into the sea like the huge skeleton of a dinosaur. The pier was used for transportation of cargo through small rolling vehicles sliding through a track to the waiting barges on either sides of the pier. The barges would then be pulled by tugs to ships anchored deep in the sea. The pier once looked majestic with its grand cranes and machine rooms at the end and two or three wide platform areas to store the merchandise before being taken to the ships.
As adolescents, we used to sit coolly on such platforms at the peak of monsoon. The port would be almost defunct and devoid of any cargo movement. The big waves would appear like the rising hood of a gigantic reptile passing just beneath the pier, almost touching its underbelly. Standing on the pier we could see the hind side of the wave as it passed us. It would curl and hit the sand with terrific force producing a deafening splashing sound. Mixed with the sand the water would turn blackish and froth while retreating back into the sea.
At times it felt like the sea was almost like an elephant. During a chakara or a big haul of fish, an occasional natural phenomenon, the mud at the bank gets stirred by undercurrents and the big waves almost disappear and the sea looks calm. It is like a calm elephant standing amidst the jamboree of a festival.
During monsoon, however, the scene is different as the sea looks like a pachyderm in rut and turbulent with a galaxy of colossal waves. The gleaming white froth looks like the teeth of a demon. The sight of the fury of the sea itself is blood-curdling as the black, huge water columns transform into knolls and spontaneously collapse and repeats the process occurring vortexes and maelstroms.
The monsoon also presents certain repulsive and disgusting sights in the sea. Besides uprooted large trees and coconut palms the sea brings back everything within three days. Once one also got to see a corpse brought by the waves oscillating through the numerous pillars, cross-girders and beams of the pier. It reminded me of the sight of a mad elephant killing its mahout.
We witness the parting Sun in the late evenings as a blood-coloured huge full circle and we return home confident that he would re-emerge in the morning with all his pomp and glory.