Another reason to throng the famous Marine beach in Chennai is the upcoming J Jayalalithaa Memorial. This is coming up next to the memorial of MG Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR. The uncrowned king of Tamil Cinema, MGR was the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu. His successor, Jayalalithaa, paired with him in many movies. She died very recently and was laid to rest in Marina Beach next to the in MGR memorial inbuilt 1988, which has now attained almost the status of a pilgrim center.
I was standing in front of the Presidency College to cross the beach road to go to Marina beach. Here in this college, many celebrities including Sarveppalli Radhakrishnan, Ex. President of India was a teacher. (His birthday is celebrated as teacher's day on 5th September). The college and nearby buildings like Queen Mary's College, All India Radio have a grand colonial architecture. The road perpendicular to the Beach road is Dr. Radhakrishna Salai ( erstwhile Cathedral Road)
On my right is the famous lighthouse. The story goes like this. There was a person, Muthu (means pearl) in charge of firing a cannon every hour to inform the approaching ships of the time. One day the gun somehow failed to fire. Muthu could not stand that silence which was his breath for 20 years, and he became insane. Marina means a dock with moorings and supplies for small vessels is different from a port as marina does not handle large passenger ships. Marina Beach is the world's first longest natural longest natural urban beach in India. There is something pristine, some magic and some mystery about this beach. The salt-laden breeze too is unique.
The Chennai port, naval establishments, and yacht club are not far. The SanThome Church, where St. Thomas was buried is close by. I could see a ship out there coming towards the shore; unfortunately, it is not the old geophysical order of smoke, chimney and ship sequence establishing the roundness of the earth. Now the steamboats and ships are obsolete.
The sandy beach is unique because of the sand ridge formation. When British built the Fort St. George on the beach, the sandwiching effect forced the formation. The width of the beach is around 400 meters; there are undercurrents, and the sea becomes turbulent at times. This is one of the longest beaches in the world- 13 KM.
Fun, frolic, and adventures are associated with this spectacular beach. Right from micro- miniskirts to the full nine-yard sarees can be seen there, kids enjoy the merry go round as well as pony rides. But alas, the pony rides are now banned there to avoid cruelty towards animals. In fact, the swelling crowd of summer was not there in this cold season of Chennai which is 20 degrees Celsius The infamous Cooum river joins the Bay of Bengal at Marina beach. Ironically Cooum was the fresh water inlet to the erstwhile Madras. Due to the landscape typical of any tropical bay regions Marina beach is prone for severe Cyclone and Tsunami. Incidentally, during the last Tsunami a decade back, Cooum did save Chennai by acting as a buffer to the giant waves and water induction.
Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff, the governor of Madras, was responsible for laying the muddy beach with white sand as well as christening it as Madras Marina in 1884. But the plastic invasion is the major pollution concern there.
The Marina Beach, covered with glittering golden sand and a bright strip of blue sea, is the most magnificent man-made beaches in India. Lined with palm trees, a walk on the beach is truly rejuvenating. This long stretch of Marina beach is beckoning you. You can directly reach Chennai by train or air from most of the destinations. Within Chennai, a plethora of traveling modes including the recently introduced Metrorail is available.
An aquarium, swimming pools, and skating rinks are added attractions of Marina. Hopefully, the name of this beach will not be changed to some local name as per the trend in future. I got a packet of Chundal in a paper cone wrap the famous time pass of Marina from a ten-year-old boy. Looks likes the stringent child labour law is yet to touch this pristine beach yet. Crossing the stalls selling Biriyani, Kabab, Idiyappam, murukku, Vajram fish fry ( Kingfish)and Chicken 65-all south Indian delicacies- finally ended on a great Iddly stall. Scores of shops and vendors are scattered all over the place. A Latin American couple was asking the Iddly shop owner about the ingredient of that whitish hemispherical delicacy. Obviously, there is a language barrier, and I offered to be the interpreter. The shop owner Murugan was vociferous and explained about the recent American Heart Foundation's direction of a healthy food ‘ 60 percent Carbohydrates, and 40% proteins are the ideal combination. Murugan explains that the idly made out of rice (carbs) and Black grams (Urdu dal, protein) at 3: 1 proportion is there for time immemorial. Yes, Murugan is right as much as all the Iddly Sambar lovers of South India. Incidentally the indispensable rejoinder to Idly, them Sambar, is not typically South India. The name is taken from Sambhaji, son of Chatrapathi Shivaji of Marata.
The sun was about to set. A magnificent sight one just cannot ignore. The crowd is still there with paper cone snacks. Frisbees are in the air like flying saucers. Unfortunately, the once popular kite flying is missing. The kite thread reinforced with broken glass (to Keep the kite flying high and mighty and if needed to cut the enemy's kite, is very dangerous) are banned in Chennai. Marina is magnificent during sunrise too with a beeline of health savvy walkers. A there is still some nightlife in Marina beach till you are spotted by patrolling the law enforcing police officers.
Sit near a palm tree and close your eyes; you will hear horses carts on the cobbled stone walkways, the hourly cannon shot from the lighthouse and smell the colonial touch'. There was bandstand on Marina Beach, as per some of the old residents of Madras. Let us thank the old Governor of Madras for giving us Marian Beach.