Battling A Rough Sea And A Downpour Of Woes
Houses that fringe the perilous coastline faced the brunt of the storm that lashed the city on Monday and caused widespread damage.
As some fisher folk continued espousing their fatalistic “what must be, must be” philosophy, many grumble about the lack of compensation, and the risks they have to face, during the three-month season when business takes a plunge.
Perched precariously in different spots of the Valiathura pier hoping to make some catch, many of these fishermen, including Wilson, could tell from the grey-green clouds approaching the shore that the storm about to hit was not part of the tame monsoon that the city had been witness to so far.
“All of you had better leave,” warned Wilson, gesturing to the many tourists on the pier and tugging the fishing-line with his other hand.
He and others with him continued fishing, unperturbed by the heavy downpour and lashing winds all around them.
When questioned about the proximity of their homes to the sea, most of them merely shrugged and said there is no point living in fear. “In that case, why do you take your cars out?” asked Wilson. “You could die in a car-crash any day. Same thing,” he said.
A day after the storm hit, the mood was more subdued around Valiathura. A sea wall made of piles of granite rock is all that stands between many of these homes and the water.
It was evident that most houses had roof damages with make-shift sheets and covers temporarily draped over some, while a couple opened up to the sky as the asbestos sheets sheltering them had blown off completely.
“We’re very lucky that none of us got hurt when the sheets blew off,” said Sophia, who lived with her husband, George, and their three daughters in a house badly hit. Others are better off, though not by far. Bits of asbestos sheets lay strewn along the path and heaped in corners. Many manage by tying rented waterproof sheets taut over the broken patches of roof.
“My ailing mother and I had just left the room when the roof collapsed. The children were still at school thankfully,” said Shaly.
Appreciating the Minister for Health, V. S. Sivakumar’s visit, Shaly added she would be a lot more grateful when some financial aid is granted soon.
Hopeful, albeit cynical, Gerald, who lives in the area, hopes for swift compensation as their hardship is pronounced during this season when they return from their fishing trips mostly empty-handed.
During these three months, the fishermen are unable to launch their fibreglass boats from this beach and have to head further south toward Vizhinjam or Kovalam to venture out. Jose had just returned from such a trip and his expression mirrored the catch his team of three ended up making, dismal.
“During this season, you can get barely enough to make a fish curry for your small family,” he said.