Saturday, 19 May 2018

Marina of Madras - Sunrise over an urban Beach

Marina of Madras - Sunrise over an urban Beach
February mornings take their sweet time to light up. Although winter had fled from the coastal Tamil Nadu sunrise timing was still very late. Chennai being one of the four metros of Golden Quadrilateral circuit deserved an overnight halt. Like most other prominent cities of India Chennai too has her fair share of tourist delights, ranging from mainstream sandy beaches to chaotic old-world market place. For me, Madras strikes a chord way better with its historical aura than Chennai. When you refer to this megalopolis by its present name Chennai, your imaginations can't fly beyond a busy commercial hub with good health infrastructures. The moment you call her Madras, you can literally smell a bustling, old port city with so much more to explore! If you hail from the northern half of India, Madras can rekindle your time-travel fantasy with sirens of passenger ships leaving the dock, or week-long train journey on metre gauge rails from your faraway hometown. From Eluru I had driven to Chennai on the third day of my Golden Quadrilateral motorcycle trip. Being least ambitious, Chennai plans could fit into a simple algorithm- to experience the city traffic, locate my hotel, avoid further temptation of venturing out, feast like a greedy king, jump onto the bed right after, and wake up before the crack of dawn to catch a vibrant sunrise over the wide canvas of Marina.

Marina of Madras - Sunrise over an urban Beach
I had been to Chennai twice before, but never got a chance to visit its seashore. You'll be excused if you skip temples, churches, museums, parks, shopping zones, eateries, breweries and everything else good in a coastal city. But once you miss the beach, it amounts to an unforgivable felony. This time I was determined to beat the phone alarm and ride to Marina Beach under the unlit sky of Chennai. Various Internet sources (including Wiki) claim Marina to be the longest urban beach in India and second longest in the world. Although my short research was inconclusive, I'm quite certain it'll be too overambitious to think Marina as the second longest in any category among beaches located worldwide. Nevertheless, with an uninterrupted length of thirteen kilometres Marina Beach stands out from the rest, and encourages Tamil Nadu Tourism Department to develop more tourist-friendly infrastructures. The beautiful paved road exclusively maintained for pedestrians runs parallel to the beach for a good length and separates it from the broad traffic rich Kamarajar Promenade, the marine drive of Madras.

Marina of Madras - Sunrise over an urban Beach
In less than ten minutes G-Maps guided me to my destination through fine city roads of Chennai. Due to the spookiness of the hour city streets barely had any traffic and few geared bicyclists were out on their practice run. The marine drive was very wide and welcoming. I was there at the Marina Beach Road by sharp 5:30 AM. Vehicles are restricted from accessing this road. Benu had to be parked outside. Presence of multiple police vehicles at regular intervals and active barricading ensure safety of beach enthusiasts even at night hours. Apparently I was not the only one who had taken the pain of parting with his bed to oblige the insomniac Marina. There were no dearth of health conscious Chennai folks to keep the beach road alive. I could see the colourless sand in dark but the Bay of Bengal was completely untraceable from the beach road. There were few small groups mostly comprising youngsters idling over the sand, probably hopeful for a golden daybreak, just like me. The sky was still pitch-black, and seemed reluctant to take over the responsibility from exhausted street lights anytime soon. 

Marina of Madras - Sunrise over an urban Beach
It was clear that sea won't be visible unless I walked down the sand. Leaving my only helmet in a free parking space could be a gamble. So, I entered the warm courtyard of Marina with my helmet on. I would have loved to share few photos of Marina Beach before the dawn. But, I was solely depending on my cellphone camera throughout the GQ trip. Trust me on this, despite all marketing gimmicks even the costliest phone cameras suck when photographed handheld in low light conditions. I had to walk few hundred metres to get the first glimpse of sea. A complete dark sea with its usual roars looks immensely scary because you fail to isolate it from the equally mysterious starless sky above you. Thankfully, by then the murkiness of night sky had started to dissolve. The dim light of an imminent daybreak was tenderly stroking the shore with a silvery hue. Distant waves were soaking in some greenish tone while departing ones left their goodbye froth on the teary sand. Best part was I could see the horizon. Sea was no less poetic but not intimidating anymore! 

Marina of Madras - Sunrise over an urban Beach
Being an east-facing beach Marina provides the ideal backdrop to watch sunrise. But remember, no location, no season and no amount of money can guarantee you a mesmerising picture-perfect sunrise. Even a friendly weather and clear sky might not be able to provide you with a promising crimson sun rising from the brine. There are so many other geographical factors ever ready to fiddle with your much anticipated magical beach sunrise. My Madras luck didn't run out of juice this time and helped me to document the nature's glorious ritual of starting another day. As the sun ascended further, the bright light acquainted me with a 360 degree panorama of the Marina Beach. I had spent so much time in sketching an illusive triangle connecting the sun, horizon, and sea that I got oblivious of the princess Marina as well as her guardian angel Madras standing behind me. Thin population of coffee sellers, casual visitors, conventional tourists, motivated devotees, famished dogs and lots of crows had already registered their presence. I could feel few drops of sweat condensing over my eyebrows, probably signalling me to leave.

Marina of Madras - Sunrise over an urban Beach
It was disheartening to find a lot of plastic items littering the Marina Beach. I believe Chennai people are quite environment conscious and periodic programs are undertaken to clean this beautiful beach. But, as long as strict regulations are not imposed with a proactive surveillance system it is near impossible to keep Marina plastic free. As the day advances, Marina Beach gets quite crowded. If you are intending to enjoy a blissful sunset, Marina Beach might disappoint you with its helpless dissonance. No sane traveller would dare to challenge the Chennai heat and visit Marina Beach during midday. So, if you happen to drop in on Marina when she is too populated or too roasted to match your delicate taste, ditch the sand and explore a number of prominent historical architectures standing on other side of Kamarajar Promenade. I had a long ride itinerary to cling to. Returning back to hotel to get ready for Bengaluru was the right choice that day. Hopefully I'll narrate about my short and satisfying Bombay visit in the coming post. Buddy, see you soon.

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I really appreciate your efforts in exploring my poetry of roads. Thank You!