By Rohit Inani:
This collection of pictures depict the life on the shore of the Golden Beach in Puri, Odisha, a couple of months before cyclone Phailin struck the coast. The community of Telugu speaking fishermen, who migrated to the coast some six decades back in search of a life and livelihood, settled on the beach and made it their home. Generations of fishermen have fished on the shore, their women catering to the tourists in makeshift shacks, while back home, some three-hundred yards from the shore, children rush through the narrow lanes of their small settlement. On 12th October 2013, Cyclone Phailin made landfall on the coast of Odisha, displacing a million people and affecting lives of even more. It washed away the small settlement that had created a life for the fishermen community.
On a bright sunny morning in August, a couple of months before the cyclone hit the coat, some men carried wooden rows in one hand and a bunch of fishing nets in the other, walking toward the small wooden boat bobbing on the shore water. Little girls sold beads and fake, dazzling white pearls to tourists, while their mother catered to them with coconut water and cups of tea. Most of the children of this community spend their days on the beach trying to make some quick money. They have dropped out of school and happily run on the golden sandy beach. They speak broken Hindi and are fluent in Telugu.
I met a man in his mid forties who sold cigarettes, and while negotiating over the price of a pack, he asked me to come see their colony. The lanes were narrow and murky and the smell of dry fish was unbearable. We sat on the small veranda of his ancestral house where fish skins were laid bare and sprawled out in the sun. He promised me a cup of tea and went inside while I was talking with his father. He told me how they were a group of small fishermen who migrated here in search of a livelihood and settled thereafter, continuing fishing to this day.
‘Ah, the government seldom hears us and reaches out to us‘, he said in between quick sips of hot tea, talking about how fishing as an industry was dying and it was getting difficult to support the whole family by fishing.
‘That’s why our girls and little boys sell tea and coconut water and beads out there.‘