Andamans, a mix of history, culture and tranquility
Most of the travellers, who arrive in Port Blair, visit the Cellular Jail first. The jail stood as a silent witness to the torture meted out to the freedom fighters, who were incarcerated in the cells. The name ‘Cellular’ it is attributed to the individual cells for the solitary confinement.
Each cell in this jail has its own tale to tell. Those who witnessed the movie ‘Kalapani’ will surely be familiar with these corridors and cells. The expressions of the female protagonist Parvathy played by Tabu reminds us of the agony of a woman awaiting her partner, who has been confined at a far-off place.
The new generation, which could not tolerate the interruption of internet connection even for a few minutes, can easily understand the heights of isolation these prisoners endured.
The cries that were silenced by the boots of the jail staff take rebirth during the rains and pay homage to the freedom fighters, I feel.
Every evening there is a Light and Sound show of the history of the jail. It will sound monotonous for the visitors who have seen the movie ‘Kalapani’. I rested in the park opposite to the jail sipping tea. The lights in the pears in the Aberdeen Ferry were switched on.
The night life in the island becomes active with the restaurants and the street food stalls. In ‘New Lighthouse Restaurant’ you can choose from a wide variety of fishes and crabs. The chefs will prepare you the dish you need. After placing our order, I waited in the Mina Park watching the waves lashing against the sand. Families and kids were engaged in various activities -- some were playing, some were exercising, some were just chatting.
During the visits to beaches during my childhood, I used to wonder what would be on other side of the sea. Now, I am sitting on a shore on the other side. Still, I wonder what all are going on at the other end. The grandma lamp on the North Bay hill was smiling at the sea on regular intervals. The feeling this place gives will attract tourists to this place time and again.
Similar to north Indian states, the sun rises too early here – may be around 4 am. So by 6 or 7 am, sun will be shining bright and those who experience the moments for the first time may think that they have overslept.
Given the conditions, the shops and offices and hotels become active in the early hours of the day. Several small hotels here serve delicious Tamil breakfast such as idli, dosa, pongal, vada and poori. You need to visit big hotels if you wish to taste some continental dishes.
The roads are comparatively clean and I could find garbage on roadside only at Aberdeen Bazar, which is the market area. But the sanitation workers soon removed it. As the town got buzzing, the ferries too became active. Natives depend on these ferries for their transport to the other parts of the town and also for work. They reach Port Blair from different parts of Andaman and mainly depend on ferries and jankars. Even tourists were depending on ferry service to visit other tourist destinations and islands.
The tourist guides will welcome you at the Aberdeen Ferry which has services to Ross Island, North Bay and Viper Island. They start their description by holding a Rs 20 note in their hand and pointing towards the North Bay Island describing the story behind the pictures of lighthouse and valley made its way to the currency note. They will also describe about the packages they offer.
Evading these tourist guides should be the first thing in your list. You can purchase boat tickets to any nearby island from the ticket counter near to the gate. Rates are bit high for the boats operated by the Boat Operators Association which are available only to tourists. Other than boat service, facilities to engage in water adventure sports are set up by the Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex.
A visit to Ross Island will unveil before your eyes the opulence and grandeur of the British colonial system. Ross Island which was just 2kms away from Andaman was the headquarters of the British.
The first British troop which arrived in this island with the prisoners chose Ross Island as their base taking into consideration the availability of drinking water. The prisoners had to construct houses and mansions for the jailors and staff until they were moved to the self-constructed cells. It is obvious that the British would not opt to stay away from comforts even while away from home.
The prisoners set up bungalows, bakeries, shops, water purification plants, churches, clubs, dance bars, theatre, swimming pools, tennis court, hospitals, cemetery and all facilities on par with any well-built city in that century. The shimmering lights, music from the dance bars and the booze made the nights lively.
All from the nature goes back to the nature. Now, the ruins of these buildings are covered by the roots of the banyan trees.
The magic of this Island is that it creates lasting impressions in our mind taking us time behind. I walked along the stony path laid for vehicles of the British military officials. In my mind, I recreated the buildings and imagined myself to be military chief strolling down the path.
Soon, a flock of peacocks woke up me up. Initially, I thought I was still dreaming. Soon, a herd of deer gave me company and the animals seemed to have no problems in mingling with human beings.
By the time, I started creating a story with deer, peacock and rabbits as characters; the boat’s siren rang reminding that the time is up.
The moonlit night was like a bride, who covered her face with a veil. I could see the sea and the shore in a single frame as if I’m looking at the shore from the deck of a ship. The views from the uninhibited Chatham island will give your perspective a new dimension. From the ships anchored at Hado port, smoke curls were still rising towards the sky. Few vehicles lit up the curvy bends on the hill side road behind the harbour.
People were engaged in fishing from the bridge connecting the land and the island. Few natives flashed a smile as they bought fish from them and boarded the last ferry to bamboo flat. For me, the constant companions during journeys at unknown lands are sky, moonlight, stars and the warm smiles gifted by unknown persons. The day turn out to be just another chapter of my memoir. My mind has already boarded the ferry to Havelock Island which is anchored in the Phoenix jetty.