I hop a truck with some pilgrims and we drive about 4 km to what feels like the end of the world. The place was devastated by a tsunami in 1964 and no one bothered to rebuild. It’s just a burning hot spit of land, sea on both sides. You get to the end and it’s just beautiful blue sea, minimal waves. I can see the next link in Adam’s Bridge on the horizon. I think I could swim there if I had floaties. Even with a rowboat, I think I could get home. Instead I hop the train 600 km to the north. We ride the bridge out at sunset.
I think I’ve been too hard on Rameshwaram. The town is a bit of a town, but Dhanukodi beach and the land itself are remarkable. Not for swimming or doing anything per se. The rips are supposed to be strong and it is hot as the driven sun. I somehow end up in this wasteland around noon and there is no shade. I can cool my feet but that’s about it. It’s not possible to walk all the way to the end. I’m having hallucinations about Limca.
I ditch the annoying trishaw driver and hop a fisherman’s truck with some pilgrims. A businessman from Hyderabad and his family. An informative Tamil women who also seems to be frequently wrong. They ask me if I’m going back to Sri Lanka. I try to explain that the ferry doesn’t run anymore. There’s nothing out there but two stands, one selling drinks and the other selling shells. The place is deserted, but for the sun and surf.
It is strange standing there, on the very edge of India, and knowing that you have to go back. The place even looks like Jaffna (Mannar, more accurately), the light feels the same, pictures somehow turn out better. I’ve taken horrid photos throughout India but it’s like some of the Sri Lankan serendipity is transmitted here. I realize I’m not actually that good, Sri Lanka is just that beautiful. I can literally see the next hop in Adam’s Bridge from here. I’m really want to just get in and swim. But then what.
Instead I and the pilgrims splash sea water over our heads. Take some pictures. I put the camera down, wade out into the water and just look for a while. The sky is blue, the water is blue. It feels like the edge of the world. I can imagine what Lanka must have been in the Ramayana imagination. Over there. That magical other. If the ferry service ran it’d be about an hour across. Instead I’ve got to about a day’s transit to Chennai. So we get back in the truck.
I’m happy to be going home, even the long way around. As I walk into the Chennai Express it’s like last train to the sun. The thing is right overhead, blinding, like that’s the final destination. I’m happy to get inside the carriage. There’s a moment on any train, at the start of the line. There’s no one there, it’s just peaceful and serene. No chattering, chewing, snorting, radio playing. It’s just a giant hunk of metal rattling through space. I feel very happy to be in there, to have this picture window, this ghost train. I’m in the AC 3-Tier, so there’s a plug point, I’m sitting there typing away when I notice an unearthly glow from the dirty windows. I hadn’t noticed, but it’s sunset and we’re surrounded on all sides by water. We’re on the bridge out of Rameshwaran, back to mother India. Me, I’m going home.