Urur Olcott Kuppam is one of the oldest fishing villages in Chennai. Generations of fisher folk have lived along this seashore, their lives and patterns intricately woven in with that of the sea. For many of these fishermen, the sea is a mother, the kadaltai, she is the source of their sustenance, their fables and their beliefs and has kept the community and its work alive and active.

However, there aren’t many fishermen in Olcott Kuppam today. The younger generation has educated themselves and gotten jobs in the city. They take the local bus and sit in air-conditioned offices and guard banks. It is safer there. They believe the sea is angry, that we have made it angry. The fish she gives them are dying, the water becoming easily poisonous.

The village is surrounded by the city. And slowly being engulfed by it. Some of the older fishermen have sold their homes and moved into the city. Some have rented it to migrant labourers who need cheap accommodation to stay. These new inhabitants find the proximity to the sea odd. It smells, they say.

The Pattinavar fisher folk once defined the landscape of this beach area but slowly, the village is beginning to resemble a slum, unsure of what its identity is in this growing urban scape.

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