Mandapam, Ramnad District, TN

Palk Strait Diary. A Communist Party Worker's Wall.

I happened to be in Mandapam, the Calais on the Palk Strait, on the Indian side, when me and the reporter I was with, were invited home for lunch by a local member of the CPI (M).

I guess that it's a common thing for a communist party member's wife to have a meal ready at any time of the day for the unexpected guests the man of the house will bring home. A complete lunch with rice, brinjal curry, rasam, scrambled eggs, home-made fryums, along with a packet of packaged curd (no longer an metro feature) and 1 Re sachet of pickles was ready even before we could exchange 'Vanakkam'. If there's a speed cooking competition, here's the sure winner.

Meanwhile, there was no questions about the political leanings of the owner of the house.

He works among fishermen on this corner of India bordering Sri Lanka. It's a very restless place. The civil war across the Palk Strait that lasted almost 3 decades, the current tension caused by Sri Lankan Navy shooting Indian fishermen, the politics of the Sethu Samudram project and the expected trade, when ferry service resume with Talaimannar keeps this place constantly on the boil.

For example, I asked who the man in the framed photograph (above) was, he said that it was his brother-in-law. When I asked him is he was important member of the Communist Party, he told me - no, he was a smuggler who was shot down in the straits. I had no words left to say.

The Communists had a strong National footprint in the last century and it continues to be remembered in this humble house with concrete flooring in the veranda and living room and just fine sand like in a fisherman's hut for the kitchen and inside room floors.

More on what he does and why I was here, soon. With pictures.


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