Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lighthouse at Surathkal

Port Cities and lighthouses go hand in hand.  Lighthouses are vital guides that facilitate night time navigation. The lighthouse towers in themselves have a beauty of their own, besides history, so much so that they have even become icons and graphics, not to speak of its own charm that has attracted people to them. Many countries have even featured lighthouses on postage stamps, including India.  The lighthouse on North Bay Island in Andaman Islands is featured on the backside of a twenty rupee banknote.  (Click on all images to enlarge)

We cruised past this, from a distance, last year.  The fixed window of our cruise boat was tinted blue. 

One of the most thrilling subjects captured by photographers and painters is of the rough waves in the seas splashing hard at the lonely lighthouses, standing on solid rock.

Web-grab image

Navigation itself is hundreds of years old!  Oldest existing lighthouse in the world is in Spain, The Tower of Hercules, dating back to the late 1st century!

Oldest Lighthouse, Spain.

Then there is a tallest lighthouse in the world, the tallest brick lighthouse, the tallest natural lighthouse and so on.  The Navigation Lighthouse is a great subject of interest in itself, ranging from its shape, location, robustness, optics, antiquity etc.  As such, it has always been visited by tourists.

I read that our Indian govt. plans to tap the huge tourism potential and make them full-fledged tourist destinations!  The Ministry of Shipping plans to draw tourists to the romance of lighthouses by developing 78 lighthouses and generate revenue from their adjacent open areas also.  A portion of the screenshot of press release:

From the first time I had climbed to the top of the Marina Lighthouse in Madras [now Chennai] in 1966, I've always loved it mainly for the panoramic view from that vantage point.  My memory of that lighthouse is rather jumbled, but I can still picture the scene that is impressed in my mind.  If I had the ability of 'Mandrake the Magician', [a famous comic series], who hypnotized the suspect and 'projected' his memory on a wall to 'see' the truth, you would see this - I was on top of the tower: There was the vast sea, the sandy beach and a road. It was Sri Murari Rao [grandfather's client] who had taken us to Madras in his car.

Recent image from The Hindu, of that place.

My next visit to a lighthouse came in Februray 1980 at Surathkal, close to the port city of Mangalore. I was with my college cricket team [for my first tour] to play the Inter-collegiate tournament hosted by KREC [Karnataka Regional Engg. College, now National Inst. of Technology].  One late evening, most of us made a visit to the Surathkal Beach.

Surathkal beach and lighthouse [web-grab]

It was a clean beach presenting a very peaceful ambiance.  Clean, probably because it was not yet frequented by too many visitors at that time. My impression was that lighthouses were old.  But this appeared simple and humble but not old. I learn now, that this was actually built as recently as in 1972.  Entry ticket to the top, reached by a flight of winding stairs, was fifty paisa, if memory serves me correct.  I vividly remember the beautiful optics of the beacon lighting system. A special powerful bulb was fixed in the centre, around which a large lens revolved 360 degrees at a set speed.  It was a very interesting mechanism.  The beacon beam flashing for a long distance at night was a thrilling sight from the town as well.  I was never tired of watching it.  I used to wonder how a neat beam was possible. Here, I found how the beacon light beam worked:

Am yearning to see another lighthouse, no one knows when that will come to fruition.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We are not surprised that the Surathkal beach remains relatively unpolluted. We would not call it a beach, but a patch of land beside the rocky outgrowth. Any way, if any one wants to do some research on Surathkal, should do well to find out what was Surathkal like in 1950s for example. It was really a Godforsaken place, hot and treacherous, and those who were passing through it by bus were well advised to proceed further quickly to Udipi. Then came Srinivas Mallya, the Congress MP who used his influence at the Centre, and the rumour had it then he approached Lal Bahadur Shastri to get a Regional Engineering College which Canadian were happy to fund. One could imagine that he used the argument of developing this place. The Regional Engineering College then sucked in academics –the usual route for them from other engineering colleges in the Greater Mysore then ( It was not then Karanaka) to use their caste-based credentials with the then Government of Mysore, rampantly ruled by Lingayats particularly from the new attached region of Uttara Karanaka ( we used to ridicule as the UK!), and well the rest is history, as this community grabbed as many of the creed as one could imagine and install them in positions such as professors and principal, all well paid jobs carrying central remuneration.. The malady then (and now) was the almost benign negligence of old Mysore MPs bringing anything substantive to districts of what was then the old Mysore. This practice of favouring Uttara Karnatak seems to continue as there was the news of a new IIT being established there, and not in Mysore city or its neighbourhood for example, where it would have thrived. But then, the Uttara Karantaka politicians would argue that Mysore has already a few central institutions. Any reason to deny this place any new institutions.
Now back to Surathkal. For a very long time , this place although grabbing the Regional Engineering College, remained relatively undeveloped with a scattering of huts of eateries including the local alcohol brew ( henda). It was evident the folly of planting a highly funded educational institution in a hot arid land relatively hostile for students. But then the typically Indian trait of corruption and nepotism reigned. Compared to this, the Manipal Engineering and other institutions by the Pais, located near the relatively small town of Udipi. collected thousands of rupees of capitation fees for engineering and medical course aspirants. Well it attracted many sons of rich and influential fathers near and far off places, even after these institutions became part of main stream higher education clusters in the State, and distinguished themselves, thanks to funds thrown at them by the Centre and State governments. One example is the current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the son of an IAS father who would have found Manipal to be very comfortable place rubbing shoulders with rich men’s sons. One would argue by then this Engineering College and other institutions here developed into a national institution, thanks to the powerful Pai dynasty.