Saturday, January 29, 2005

The sea of stories

I'll keep this simple.

I'm back! :) Brown, battered and banging away at my computer.

I've got some great pictures this time (at least I think so) and more experiences to talk about. But not yet. I'm pooped, thanks to lack of adequate sleep and food and lots of exercise. All of which I'm unused to. Meanwhile, though, here is something I wrote for the paper, but was not carried. Which explains why it sounds so newspaperish!
Go ahead, read it and let me know...

At the very edge of Parangipettai, in Cuddalore district, just ahead of where the land meets the sea, there is a shed from which strange mechanical sounds emenate.
Strange because they come from a shed that is not used to having such sounds shake its insides. It stands on the land belonging to Annamalai Universtity’s Centre of Advanced Studies in Marine Biology, and has heard other animal sounds. As the door of the shed opens, you can see eight men poring over three greasy red engines stacked on a couple of wooden tables. One of the men, in blue overalls, attaches a small length of rope to the motor and whips the other end. After a few false attempts, the engine coughs back to life, spewing black diesel smoke. The men are delighted.
Six of them are naval engineers with INS Adyar (Flotila Technical Support Unit) and two others are from the transport deparment. All of them are on special duty, repairing the boats that were damaged in Cuddalore by the tsunami. “We are here on request from the State Government. The revenue department staff bring the engines here and we do the repair work,” says officer in charge of the operation, Anoop Kumar. The naval team landed in the district a couple of days ago and have since been busy at the shed, tending to engines and more importantly, to their owners.
He points to one of the engines and says, “This one here is ready for use. But its owner is unhappy. Though it is quite unnecessary, he wants us to take the engine apart and fit new spares.” Revenue officials bring the engines to the shed in Parangipettai, pay for the spares, bring the boat owners to see if they are satisfied with the repairs and prepare an inventory of all the engines that need repairs.
Joint Commanding Officer S.Vinayan says the engines can take from half a day to a full day to repair, depending upon the nature of damage. “If sea water has entered the engines, it would have corroded the parts inside. Another thing we have to consider is that the engines have been literally put together, using various odds and ends welded together. These will have to be replaced with proper spares.”
As was the six-year old boat engine belonging to K.Selvakumar, son of Kasinathan that took a beating during the tsunami. After half a day’s work, it sputters to a start after a few attempts. And then, shrugging its tsunami induced- stupor, it roars once again, preparing to shake the boat it will power on the high seas.



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