Monday, September 8, 2008

Dancing With Shiva, Part 8

(Krishnan, center, with his cousins)

The boats for fishing just off the shore at Mahabalipuram are really no more than dugouts or logs lashed together with rope made from coconut fiber. Except for the addition of outboard motors to some of these rafts, fishing has been done here, perhaps for millennia, in these crude crafts.

We were examining some of these boats pulled up onto the sand when we met Kimathivanansio Krishnan. "This is my cousin's boat," the boy said. All of my family are fishermen. We all live in this village."

Dark-skinned, slight and strong, Krishnan, 18, wore a faded, long-sleeved shirt and a lungi pulled up to his knees and tucked in at his waist. His hair, thick and wavy, was coal black, as were his eyes. His smile revealed a perfect set of white teeth.
"Please come to my house," and we followed him into a maze of tiny concrete buildings covered with corrugated steel or thatched roofs. Kolam designs that had been painstakingly made early that morning with brightly colored powders were still visible in the dusty paths outside the front doors of the houses. We entered Krishnan's home, a few small rooms lit by bare lightbulbs hanging from the roof, and a fourth room with an earthen floor and blackened ceiling surrounding an opening to the sky.
"This is where we do our cooking when the rains come," Krishnan explained. Outside in the back, one of the boy's younger sisters was washing stainless steel pots, her long skirt and red silk blouse soaked in the effort. "She does the housework while our mother is away," Krishnan explained.

Krishnan ignored our questions about the whereabouts of his mother, but we guessed it had something to do with a superstition some Tamil people have about October being a terrible month in which to be born. To be born in October is an invitation to evil, some believe, and to prevent such births, many women move out of their homes and in with relatives in January, to be away from their husbands and to avoid temptation.

The main rooms in Krishnan's house were vacant of any furnishings, save for a cardboard box filled with books. "These are my school texts," said Krishnan. He said that he hoped to go to university the following year and to someday become and engineer.

We promised to keep in touch with Krishnan, maybe even to help him in some way to pay for his education, but after those few days, we never heard from him. I do not know what happened to him, or to his sister or his mother or to the fishermen who were his cousins, or to his village. It's not something I like to think about, because 10 years after our visit there, on Dec. 26, 2004, an earthquake beneath the Bay of Bengal a few hundred miles away caused a tsunami that became the deadliest natural disaster in human history; a tsunami that struck that very beach with all its force.

1 comment:

Ellipses said...

I enjoy your stories and all... but I kinda wish you had more to complain about... That part of your blog is so much fun!