Chennai abounds in beaches-Marina,Santhome, Elliot's, Kovalam....it is a big list. Numerous resorts and theme parks dot the shoreline. Marina is perhaps the most famous and biggest of them all. The Marina is reputed to be the second longest beach in the world.
The very mention of Marina triggers happy childhood memories. Those days Marina was cleaner and less crowded. There were no garbage dumps on the beach sands. Not many hawkers also.
The beach was a stretch of beautiful white sand with the blue sea at the end of it. The blue sky merged with the blue sea and made an enchanting spectacle. It was a delight to stand in the sea with the waves coming and touching your feet and then retreating. Standing in the waves was an art. We had to embed our feet firmly in the sand and stand straight so that we don't tumble under the impact of the forceful waves. The retreating waves would sometimes leave a shell or two for us to pick up. I was usually content with standing in the water,barely enough for the waves to touch my feet. The daredevils ventured a bit more deeper into the waves,the sea waters coming up to their hips.
Standing in the waves,you can catch a glimpse of the lighthouse beams,dancing in the evening sky. Ships sailing at a distance,with their lights glimmering like stars were a common sight. Not to mention the moon and the stars,shining their light in the sky above the sea. It was a perfect romantic setting.
No doubt,the Marina was a favorite haunt for love birds. Of course,the family crowd was not lacking. You could see children making mud castles with enthusiasm. There were balloon sellers and toy vendors,targeting their wares at the children.
What stands out when I think of the Marina,is the Maami who used to sell tasty,hot Bajjis. This lady was a favorite with my parents with whom I used to go to beach as a child. She was a widow dressed traditionally in the South Indian Brahmin style. Now when I think about it,I wonder what kind of tragic life she must have had. Such thoughts did not occur in childhood. What mattered was the yummy bajjis and nothing else. I was totally oblivious to the plight of the poor bajji seller.
And of course,the Bajjis were really yummy. Banana Bajji,Potato Bajji,Onion Bajji and Chilli Bajji...she had variety. The Bajji flour was mixed and kept ready. Vegetables were cut and kept ready. Oil was boiling in a pan already. You just had to place your order,and lo..within minutes hot bajjis were ready. Usually there was coconut chutney to go with the hot bajjis.
The other popular snack used to be 'thenga maanga pattani sundal'- a sweet,sour mixture of grated raw mango,grated coconut,peas and chickpeas. The mixture used to taste yummy when eaten in the humid weather of the Chennai beach.
Cut to the present.When I took my son to the Marina Beach,he compiled a list of ten to-do-things on the Beach.
Here is the list:
1.Stand in the sea with the waves touching your feet
3.Take a ride on the Merry-go-round
4.Eat Hot Potato Bajji
5.Eat Raw Mango and/or Kulfi Ice Cream
6.Make Mud Castles
7.Buy Balloons and/or Light Emitting Toys and play with them on the beach
8.Take photos on the beach
9.Collect different shells from the sand on the beach
10.Play balloon shooting game
As for the 9th point,I was disappointed that the number and variety of shells available in the beach had drastically come down since my childhood days.
Some to-do activities in my son's list were not available in those days. Seems like more crowds,more attractions and vice versa.
Marina has other attractions also in addition to the fun activities. The Marina is dotted with many statues,symbolizing culture and ethics. Kannagi statue,Bharatiyar statue,Gandhi statue,Labour statue ...are all landmarks on the Marina. The other landmarks are the memorials of some of Chennai's famous leaders. The crowds in the Marina have increased owing to these landmarks also.
The Marina is located in Triplicane,one of the oldest parts of Chennai.The area is dotted with many heritage structures like the Ice House and Madras University. For cricket lovers,the famous Chepauk stadium is also close by.
For me, a trip to Marina was incomplete without a trip to the Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane. The temple,one of the oldest in Tamilnadu,is known for the legends and festivals associated with it. The Parthasarathy temple is hardly two kilometers from the Marina.
The latest attraction is the MRTS rail line,connecting Marina with different parts of Chennai City. Commuting to and from the Marina has become easier after the introduction of the MRTS.
'Time and tide wait for no man' goes the saying.Marina has seen many a tide,including the tsunami of 2004,and still beckons visitors owing to its pristine beauty. A trip to Chennai cannot be complete without a visit to the Marina beach.