Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Nature Claims back

Whenever I think of Andamans two images come to my mind- first of course is of crystal clear water in various shades of aquamarine and emerald and the other is of Ross Island. After my first visit I could not take this place out of my mind. So despite the constraints of time I somehow squeezed in a trip to this magical island once again . It is a very humbling experience to be there.

Once upon a time, and not very long back, it was an ideal British township. There was a government house, an officers’ club, a mess, a general store, a bakery, a workshop, a hospital ,a library, a beach, a swimming pool, a cathedral, a cemetery and bungalows with lovely view of sprawling bay to house the officers. Cannon boomed at every noon from the Ross Island till 1942. Parties, ball dances tennis matches and beach picnics were call of the day . It soon became a favorite haunt for the lovely ladies and gallant young officers . In those days it has a population of 500 including officers troops, Indian merchants and the families.

Named after Reginald Ross , famous marine surveyor , the island got its first settlement as Headquarters of British in the Penal settlement of Andamans on 10th March 1858. In 1872 Chief Commissionarate was established here . After that this island saw the lovely days of fun and gaiety. It hosted prominent visitors and was a cultural hub amidst all the gloom and sadness of penal settlement. Ross Island served the purpose of the British so well because of its commanding geographical location. It is on the mouth of Port blair harbour-just at a distance of 10 minutes by boat. No ship could go to Port Blair harbour without passing through the Ross and the island had fresh water in good supplies.

The fate and the fortunes of this tiny “island citadel” and its habitants changed almost within days with the coming of world war and the threat of Japanese acquisition. Further there were rumours after the massive earthquake of June 1941 that the island is sinking. Majestic buildings damaged by the earthquake were a sign of events to follow .Most of the population – ladies and children, were sent away. And then Japs finally arrived on the jetty of the island on a fine morning of May 1942. The chief commissioner Mr. Waterfall was taken as PoW and sent away. Dy. Commissioner Major Bird was imprisoned and soon beheaded at Aberdeen. In December 1943 during his visit to these islands , Subhash Chandra Bose also came to the Ross as a guest of Japanese Army . But the new masters also could not stay here for long. During their stay of about three years, the Japanese gave this island a military look. Bunkers and small military installations were built from the material of existing buildings . One fine day, they too were forced to desert the island and its impressive buildings for their home shores….they left as abruptly as they had arrived after the British regained control at the end of World War II . The only signs of their presence here are few bunkers left behind by them. However, by this time the seat of power was shifted to Port Blair and Ross Island could never relive those days of grandeur and glory.
Now it was nature’s turn to take back what was originally its own. And very soon this Paris of the East , as it was called in its heydays, was turned into a haunted isle, a wash in memories- with widening cracks, rotten woodwork and crumbling masonry . One by one structures started showing signs of decay .Nature spread its fingers in the shape of roots on the regal buildings of the past and fury of the waves did the rest.

Since late 1970s , it is under the control of Indian Navy and the new masters are no longer interested in restoring the past glory. Rather the island is left as an episode of lost history of the region. Except few deer and a group of peacocks there is no one to share the stories the crumbling walls are telling. No one is interested anymore in the gossip with which the club and officers’ mess used to reverberate every evening and even the dead cremated here are long forgotten by their progeny. Only force that works day in and out is that of nature- its nature’s revenge at its best. The world of romance died out now only the mystery lives on.

Find more photos clicked by me at this island at Andaman pics

1 comment:

alice said...

great post...but i have s'thing to say about the it 'nature claims back' or 'man gives up'?