But never did I think this silence would pervade so much in less than 72 hours. Today since 10am, I have not been able to get through to anyone. Melrit spoke low this morning at 8 am, but the last thing she said was: “You be courageous. We will manage. We slept in the open and now waiting for the next step”.
How did she sense that I am more afraid than them about their life and times far away from the real battle-field? Just two days back when we slept in the open with the women gathered at the Church pandal, Sundari who had to go back home to her little kids at night was so sorry to leave us. Many other women friends kept inviting us to sleep in their homes.
My friend said, “After we have won and the struggle is over and the Plant is closed, we will come to be with you and sleep in your homes.” We all shared a special smile then warm with the thought that this plant will never be opened and freedom and safety will flow in. Sundari has been silent today, her phone ringing in the morning but now switched off.
Xavieramma sat with her back resting on one of the poles that held the Samara pandal on 6th night as we sat talking to Mary and Vivek. Mary was unusually tired and silent. When asked why, she replied that she was working on the Rs 100 a day job meaning the MNREGS the whole day.
She slept with a tiny boy who would accompany her back at dawn walking the whole 2 km distance to their home in the Tsunami colony. Xavieramma was rolling beedis with all concentration. Having been traveling to Kolkata and Delhi the whole of August, she was preparing to undertake the journey to Chennai with children the next day. She made sure that we were comfortable next to her that night.
I woke up at 4am hearing the wooden doors of the Church open and saw her packing her bags and imparting her gentle smile. Not having a mobile herself, I would talk to her whenever she was close to Melrit. Not today morning when I spoke to Melrit and she said Xavieramma is not to be seen.
Melrit was worried about her daughter who was diagnosed with jaundice and could not join them here. Her reassuring but worried and loud voice rings in my ears from this morning. As I write this, I see Xavieramma fall on the beach with police trying to drag her. The image that came this evening of Xavieramma on the beach lamenting would strike the minds of anyone who has seen her strength and vigour .
The pictures of the trampled and dirty beach brought back to me the walk we took that morning along the same beach with three beauties who shared with us their secret journey that noon to Chennai to meet the CM- excited like on a pleasure trip, they would be serious occasionally when talking about their responsibility.
Labisha, Shiji and Shobana showed us so much of the ocean and seashore wealth from the spiny Spinifex plant to algae washed ashore, from crab holes to lobster mounds, corals and seashells and starfishes and sea urchins. I searched for my dear friends unable to think of the same beach resounding with their songs and dances.
Labisha’s phone along with her mother Tamil’s is silent too- switched off. Would their clear and pretty eyes be clouded over by fear and tears tonight? Would their nostrils burn with the fumes of the tear gas? Would they sleep being worried about their young friend who was hit by a rubber bullet and in in a critical state of shock? How do I talk to them?
Little Shiji and her mother Sahayam Initha were so happy to see us that morning as Sundari accompanied us there. Amidst all her hurried schedule, Inita cooled our tea for us. On the way back to Koodankulam, Inita was in the bus and got up to wave goodbye. Now the news comes that Inita is injured.
Idinthakara is in the dark now and silent too … their silence is to be broken by our speech. Please let us speak out for this peaceful struggle.
(About the Contributor: Anitha Sharma is an environmental educator and researcher. She has been associated with the anti-nuclear movement in Kerala and with the People's Movement against Nuclear Energy in Koodankulam, Tamilnadu).