Andaman & Nicobar Islands
The strangeness of travel lies in its ability to change the grumpiest moron into a free soul, blurring the realities to nurture dreams. How uncalled the escape might be, how chokingly you are smothered with the humans but that curious kid looking out in the distance from the unseen windows runs naked in the woods; air doodles gazing stars lying supine on a cliff; makes abstract mental castles; screams, whistles, winks, frowns and pours his heart out; cries and laughs the days and nights away for no good reason.
So longing to be lost we embarked upon this journey to the lustfully virgin Never Land of Andaman & Nicobar Islands blessed with life and death in stunted proportions, to miss the flight and counting some 24 hours inside annoyingly glittery T3 terminal at New Delhi Airport doing nothing but looking at visages distingue running around carrying humanly baggage. The following day dawned upon with divine intervention as the puffy stoned eyes absorbed the picturesque greens of the islands brush stroked on the base of aquamarine of Indian Ocean with a glint, ironically from the real tainted windows. Limbering up we alighted at the old-world Vir Savarkar International Airport in Port Blair sniffing moist tropical air, moping sweat off the face, dumping clocks for following seven days and wondering at the things around swaying on their own tunes.
After a rejuvenating shower with few Mick Jagger moves we headed towards Cellular Jail, also known as Kala Paani to be filled with a mix of emotions. Somehow the moist air around had gone sticking wet with eyes steadfast and giggles mellowed as the walls of dark small cells echoed the screams of Indian freedom fighters who had spent years shackled remembering their beloveds and yearning for freedom. From human figurines depicting the brutal ways prisoners were penalized through to a glaring yellow noose (so plastic) of gallows, to make the nimblest blood curdle.
By six in the evening it was pitch dark in Port Blair and quaint Aberdeen Bazaar was bustling with locals trying to make ends meet. With the whiff of jasmine mixing up with that of fish, temple bells going note by note with soughing winds, clean stray dogs chasing primped up cats on the well-lit curvy windy lanes; tall, dark and lean Tamil men passively uttering tongue twisters from under their thick moustaches selling spices, perfumes and incense; and women walking in gajras with pride – away from the roaring waves hitting the lonely beaches against the backdrop of horrifying dense tropical jungles, creating a beautiful illusion while singing the paeans of death, the canny vivacious life of Andaman sighs in the chaos of this bazaar.
A walk down the lush green hilly terrain of the city of Port Blair dotted with palm and banana trees marked the dawn of the next day, and it was a roadside shack owned by a taciturn mustachioed Tamil man and his risible complaisant wife agilely cleaning the shop fed us with scrumptious vadas, chai and smiles, to charge us up for the ensuing hot and humid Andaman day as we took mac cruise to Ritchie’s Archipelago. In less than two hours we got down at the Havelock jetty and sojourned with lizards at a wooden hut with a porch perched in the woods of beach number 5.
Over three days that went by taking long walks under the starry sky; watching sunrise and sunset from the different corners of the island; hoping restaurants while riding down the undulating roads on cycles with flower baskets; daydreaming on hammocks; running, jumping and plucking tamarinds; building sandcastles; searching for the perfect sea shell; seeing the silhouettes of loners waning on the other end of the beach; sipping whisky under the shade of palm; and singing days and nights away with Louis Armstrong, Billy Withers, Buddy Guy and B.B King – the silky white sand of Radhanagar beach stealthily chased us to Delhi hidden in the recesses of undies, folds of denims and pockets of floral shorts; at times liberating, and at other terrifying, the walk through the dense jungles to Elephanta beach happened to revitalize the comfort-zone corroded spines; and somehow the solitary early morning walk on Kala Patthar beach spiritually touched a soul.
The eerie silence of Neil Island that somehow enticingly welcomed us along with a couple of tourists as we got down at Neil jetty after an hour-and-half ferry ride from Havelock, gradually turned to echo the soliloquys setting an orchestra with songs of humming birds, rhetorical waves narrating the stories of travellers and hearty hellos with waving hands the small village kids would throw at every passer-by.
Like being under catharsis with changing clouds laying on of hands, off white sand making inviting gestures, scattered natural rock miniatures varying from jackfruits to human faces creating a sense of wonder and green fields presenting a visual feast, the days were romantically serene with a couple of Blue Lagoon moments (mere figments) at Neil Island unlike the nights filled with horrific sounds of crickets and bats, especially if you dared to walk through the tropical jungle trails all alone at two in the night, jumping off the creepers to witness two truncated dead white barks standing tall amidst the rocks by the roaring beach.
And after a hiatus of a day in Port Blair walking down the familiar lanes, eating authentic South Indian fish thali, savoring Chettinad delicacies, smelling jasmines and seeing the world going by at its normal pace we mustered up the courage to head towards Baratang Island through Jarawa Tribal Reserve Area.
After a refreshing three hours sleep and a few whisky shots we left at six in the morning to get transported to primitive world that this secluded Island would offer. Spotting a Jarawa family peeling fruits, sitting naked by the road wearing nothing but floral hair bands marked the beginning of our sleepy road journey to crocodile infested mangrove creeks. All thrilled as we moved through the undulating roads of tribal reserve area few of overtly curious blabbering us had our eyes popped up and noses stuck to glass windows while our young flamboyant buck-teethed taxi driver brought on the stories about Jarawas in his broken Hindi. It took us around four hours to reach the limestone caves travelling through the mangrove creeks and humid dense forests, hopping ferries and speed boats. The wonderful creations of stalagmite and stalactites hidden in the tropical jungles had few of such abstract shapes that one could image the stone-age stories carved on these rocks.
By now the idea of big fat realities of vain metropolitan life had somehow started to build up unconsciously as the dusky shadows of this dreamy tale were peeping from the corners. At another lively dawn in Andaman we were walking in the waters of North Bay Island, creeping on the sea surface along with nibbling fishes, glaring sea anemones and diving planktons amidst the blooming corals. It was a journey to the world not felt before with disarmed strangers shying away if you extended your hands, soaking cold sunlight, swimming to live, longing to be lost.
Posted by : Chaitanya Garg at 2:50 AM