The cyclone had devastated the eastern coastline of southern India. Over 150 acres of land was lost to the sea. The huts of the fisher folk had been washed away along with all their possessions. Some lives were lost.
As a reporter for the Times, I was sent to cover the rescue operations that were in progress, and the measures of rehabilitation that had been planned. What I encountered in one area was a strange sight – a phenomenon that was something out of a fairy tale. Fishermen were raking into large buckets, mounds of sea sand.
“Have they gone crazy?” I wondered.
Then I saw that the sand was glistening with gold filings and gold beads. The cyclonic storm had brought in this bounty. Elsewhere temples and bungalows had collapsed due to the storm. During the foundation laying of these structures, many rich people were known to plant gold beads in the foundation. With their collapse, the beads had gone into the sea and were now washed ashore.
“There’s plenty left,” said one fisherman. “Go find a bucket and rake in as much sand as you can before the tide runs out. You might find a bead or two.”
“Why not?” I thought, “I can do with a bit of gold.”
Alas I wasn’t that lucky. I only collected a bucket full of sand.