Sea change
THE WEEK|March 07, 2021
The Puducherry beach I grew up by is just a wall of granite rocks today
ARPIT KOTHARI

Mobile phone fully charged. Water filled in the overhead tank. Ripe coconuts plucked to avoid them crashing onto the terracotta Mangalore tiles on the roof. Candles and matchsticks on standby. Cyclone Management 101 had been meticulously rolled out at our home by the beach in Puducherry.

It was November 25, 2020, and the very severe cyclonic storm Nivar was to make landfall late at night, just 30km north of us, with windspeeds reaching up to 145 kmph. In a year that caught the whole world unaware, this sort of preparedness against the natural world lent an immense sense of achievement. Wait up, Covid-19; bring it on, Nivar!

I have lived and grown up by the beach—or more precisely what was once a beach, but is now a seawall of granite rocks—in this sleepy, former French colony where life only gets as busy as it can between the morning filter kaapi, the afternoon siesta and the lazy, evening game of boule.

Not so long ago, Puducherry had a fabulous sand beach all along Goubert Avenue. However, an ill-planned fishing harbour just south of the city blocked the natural movement of sand that nourished the beach, leading to its erosion and eventual disappearance in just a couple of decades.

And it is on cyclonic nights like these, when one can clearly hear the ominous, rhythmic crashing of waves despite all the doors and windows of the house being shut, that I miss the beach even more.

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