Viswanathan walks with his son Sanjay and daughters Vijyashree (left) and Vijitha on the beach close to the location of his wife’s death in the tsunami.
Vijitha and Vijyashree Viswanathan, now age 13 and 11, lost their mother and younger brother to the 2004 Asian Tsunami. The sisters continue to live with their father Viswanathan in a small house in the fishing village of Thalanguda, 5km from Cuddalore. The house does not have a toilet and water is supplied for only a short period of the day. Viswanathan married Kayalvizhi just over a year after the tsunami and the couple now have a son Sanjay, born December 2006 and daughter, Monica, born September 2008.
Vijitha and Vijyashree continue to be close to their father who admits to feelings of guilt about his re-marriage. Viswanathan shows all of his children more attention than the average father in a patriachal south Indian fishing village. With little opportunity to reminisce for the past, Vijitha and Vijyashree have got on with their lives and appear relatively content. They both rely on each other for support and enjoy the reassuring company of their paternal aunt Shanti who lives in a neighbouring house. Shanti accuses Kayalvizhi of being indifferent to the needs of her adopted daughters and forcing them to undertake too many household chores. Shanti is pursuing the idea of having Vijita and Vijyashree live with their maternal grandmother where she feels their mother’s extended family would be more attentive to the girls’ needs. On holidays the sisters have the opportunity to visit their maternal grandmother Govindamal who lives in the neighbouring district of Nagapattinam. Both Vijitha and Vijyashree continue to pursue their studies at Thalanguda government school.
Photo: Tom Pietrasik
Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, India
November 23rd 2008
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