09/02/2016 8:10 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST

Photoblog: After Chennai's Darkest Hour, Nightlife On The Beach

Leah Verghese

Two weeks after unprecedented floods and rain wreaked havoc in Chennai we embarked on a quest to capture the fighting spirit of the city through a photo essay about vendors on the beach, who continue to sell food, toys, illuminated devil horns and even astrological predictions.

For Chennai-ites, the beaches are central to their identity and the identity of the city. Whether it is to escape the sweltering summer heat or to share a quiet moment with a lover, the beach has something for everyone.

1. Buy my masala packets


Rajamma told us while preparing her masala packets, "Tell me if you have a party, I can set up my stall there for that one day. I've been asked many times to put up a stall for college festivals and children's birthday parties."

2. Let me tell your fortune


Raja the parrot and his owner practise kili josiyam -- the art of divination where a parrot picks up cards that tell people's fortunes. "Next week is Pongal, yet the beaches look deserted. Most of the vendors are missing. The city has not got back on its feet to celebrate."

3. Beacon of the beach


Krishnakumar the ice-cream man: "So many people die on the beach while taking these selfies in the water. It is very sad. I try to warn them, but they laugh at me and still venture into the waves."

4. Catching up: two women and a toy shop


"The toy shop also has a backup generator."

5. Fresh seafood, come rain or shine


A popular attraction in Marina is the fresh seafood mobile stall run by the Government of Tamil Nadu. There are always eager customers awaiting their turn, along with beggars trying their luck.

6. Weekdays are rest days


One of the most sought-after sweets on the beach is the son papadi. "We make it at home, and then bring it here. Today is a weekday so we are not getting that many customers, it is a rest day for us!"

7. The last sell before home


It is the end of the day, and there are still unsold fish. One of the vendors makes valiant efforts to keep the fish fresh by sprinkling water but to little avail.

8. Corn-seller: smiles and sparks


"We don't mind our pictures being taken -- people do that all the time. It gets a bit difficult when they ask us to increase the sparks, so that they can take better pictures. The sparks hurt us. In fact, only yesterday a spark went inside my eye."

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