It was a hot summer day in 1969.The long stretch of beach sandwiched between Odai (Tamil word for creek) and Arabian sea seemed interminable in its expanse with intermittent dunes rising and falling, and this was at the east end of Azickal, a coastal hamlet situated in the peninsular India's southern most tip.
Disparaged by the overpowering tides, Odai should have been hesitant to meet them at the mouth and hence probably snaked it course towards east which in turn helped form a swamp and meadow on either side of its banks to present a scenic landscape lined with green grass, yet the place would appear haunted for want of human presence except few older women who would trespass across unchallenging fences to collect fire woods and skinny hungry cows and goats feasting hurriedly on grass.
I was then 10 years and my cousin 13 years old. I spotted my uncle's 2 cows grazing and my aunt was shepherd. Crows were landing to and taking off from the back of grazing cows whose feeble protests were defied altogether. Se gulls, hawks were all active in their hunting. "Where are you going at this time, Don't you know this time you shouldn't go near Othapanai?(Tamil word for Stand-alone-single tree)" . I unheeded her advice, and continued our trotting towards estuary, which was far-flung east of the hamlet, and far away from hustle and bustle of the habitat.
Not very far from this scenic meadow, was one tree, a palm tree, the tree of ghosts as everybody felt since time immemorial and passed on this story of fear from generations to generations, and none would dare approach it even during daylight. We called it Othapanai . Why was only one tree in the vicinity so visible from anywhere as the tallest, whilst other trees of same genus albeit present were not as conspicuous as this tree? Not any one could answer this question or explain the mystery behind it. The tree haunted in everybody's memory. It was said that some villagers had seen apparitions...