“I am really sorry to inform you friend but I think Goa will not be possible in december” a friend broke this news over mail. Despondency set in me as my holiday plans had been foiled. Of course I cannot blame people because after college, friends had also become professionals with familial responsibilities. I was just thinking for the umpteenth time how or why can I not go places alone?
It was just then that I came to know about this unique group on Facebook called Women On Wanderlust. The concept was a brilliant one. It was a travel plan for women only. I joined this group and I went through the section on upcoming tours.
“Andamans: 3rd December to 11th December” it said.
“Perfect”, I said to myself. I have to be there. Though the cost of the tour required me to hold onto my expenditures for a few months but then I didn’t have an option.
Day 1 :
I boarded the train from Jamshedpur to Howrah on 3rd December. A colleague met and enquired where I was going to. I had to explain yet again that I was travelling alone technically until I met strangers at Chennai airport. I don’t know why everyone was complimenting my courage. It was simply wanderlust on my part.
Kolkata traffic or any other metro traffic can teach you patience. As a person from a small town it is on trips like these that I appreciate the time I save staying in a small well planned town not wasting my time in totally non value added commuting. After all we just have 24 hours in a day.
At 9 pm I boarded my flight to Chennai. The spice jet flight was only 50% full that made me think of all the news I was reading about low cost airlines in debts.
At 0 hours I reached the Chennai airport and went to the waiting room.I could notice pink caps and outfits and I quickly became a part of the pink crowd.We had started to exchange pleasantries and started to know each other at the airport itself.
The WOW group boarded the flight and reached Andaman at 6 am on 4th December. As the plane was maneuvering down the airport it was lovely to see the isles zooming out of the sea.Green Islands in the beautiful blue sea.
It was six but the sun had risen too much on the sky.The sun was strong and hot.The airport was a small one and there were a lot of warning signs “Photography not allowed” and “No corals to be taken away from the island”
Our Travel Agent and tour guide was introduced.Sajid would take care hereafter.We were taken to Rose Valley Resort.On our way we could see typical island homes nestled amongst coconut trees. There were Army Base Camps, Naval Bases and It was on a hillock overlooking the sea.The resort was green and the log cabins were so exquisite.There was a stone and coral surfaced bath.Everything about the place was earthly and natural.
We set out for the cellular jail visit. It was very moving to see the kind of sacrifices that had gone in emanicipating the country and the travesty that we have made of it today. How I wish every politician is taken on a guided tour of this jail to see the pain the freedom fighters had suffered for the love of their country.
We take our independence so for granted. Veer Savarkar had spent 10 years in the cell that had no human contact.The atrocities that the inmates were inflicted with just so that we can enjoy independence. One of the punishments was to extract oil from the machine Kolhu. The targets were deliberately stretched beyond human capacity so that the prisoners could be flogged. The walk through the gallows could send a shudder through any of us.
Just across Port Blair was the Ross Island.It was 15 minute by ferry.It was here that the British had their base.It was a small Island basically underwent a lot of changes.In an earthquake in 1960s 120 acres of the island had gone under the sea.Only remnants of British Colonies were left.This Island faced wrath of the tsunami and it could be seen with the uprooted trees and the deformed shape of trees and islands.
The British bakery, printing press, powerhouses were all entwined by the roots of Banyan.The power houses used the sea water to generate water .The British also had instilled distilleries.
What was of a great interest to me was the way robust construction techniques used by the British.The wall was double layered with bricks.A sheet of iron was sandwiched between the two layers of brick walls.Further there was a nut bolt washer system that fastened these layers. This robustness had caused the wall to stand and weather the devastating tsunami. I also came to know that the Islands were also under the Japanese rule during world war II.
The most special guide that I have dealth with till today, was our special guide Anuradha Rao.She was born at Ross Island and swore by her birthplace. I had never seen a sight so unbelievable.No sooner did she start calling and squeaking like deers than there were some 100 deers near us.She was referring each one by its name as if they were her kids.
The magical sight and her aura left our jaws dropped.Anuradha looked at the sky and as if beckoning the birds and here they were .We could see the trees above us fluttering with birds called green pigeons .Not only this she called squirrels and made them climb the tree. We came to know that she had been tending to the flora and fauna at Ross Island since the past 40years.She received special grants from the Defence service for her service. As the sun set and we left Ross Island I had memorized the names of all 16 females .
We saw the parochial Light and Sound show at the cellular jail of Andamans at night. Most of the prisoners there were North Indians. A lot of them eventually settled there too. At Andamans there were a lot of people who believed that because the place was far away from the mainland, administration was not interested in the people. The people of Andaman are very self reliant and a proud lot who are at peace with themselves and hospitable and interesting in many other ways.
More to follow..