Monday, July 23, 2007

Sunny Isles in the Emerald Bay

Once again I am at Port Blair, the tiny little island which is the capital of Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands…India’s southern-most part .Its always been so exciting to be at this part of the world…The allure of these islands of the marigold sun strung along the aquamarine water of the bay( they are also called Bay islands) weaves a magical spell even after a series of upheavals both mad made and natural. This region is a part of the mountainous landmass running from Myanmar to the outer reaches of Indonesia….but strangely enough these islands were by-passed by the main shipping lines that piled the waters of the Bay of Bengal . On the positive side, though, this isolation only added to the charm, only enhanced the air of mystery that enveloped this emerald archipelago of 572 islands , islets and rocks.

I have been here earlier …but this is my first visit after Tsunami. During those training days we came here for training with the joint command of army-navy and Airforce. It was good fun to be here with the gang. More than that my best friend Rani was posted here at that time. I have such lovely memories of those fun filled days when we visited the beautiful Radhanagarm beach on Havelock island or when till near about midnight me and Rani walked barefoot for hours on the sandy beach of Carbyn’s cove ( Much to the shock of her orderly and driver). There were also some chilling moments in that trip, I still remember that unhappy feeling I had, when we visited the Cellular Jail National Memorial.Oh, those days of Kala Pani! Even today I find it horrifying that freedom fighters were jailed in those dingy small cells for years (sometimes for life term) by the so called gentlemen Britons. Those young men( many still teenagers) who were fighting for their country…many of them breath their last after days of torture and starvation in these cells, few others were hanged after attempts to escape and most unfortunate of them died as unsung heroes after years of Indian Independence. Some could never adjust to the politics of newly Independent India and decided to stay on at these islands. Then we also went to see the gallows at Viper Island where the air was still thick with guilt and murder.

Its almost 4 years from that visit and in between the Islands witnessed the deadly Tsunami when in one go everything was wiped away. So many lives were lost, so many islands were submerged. It was nature at its destructive worst . But the life won at last. Today the place is struggling back to normalcy. One of the most striking pictures of Tsunami I remember is of a Commodore who was posted at the air base of Car Nicobar Island where destruction was much more than other Islands. The lost his entire family, his house and belongings in the Tsunami . On the fourth day when the Air Chief arrived with the relief team this officer saluted him with the pride of a military man, though wearing just a vest and underwear – for that is what he was left with. I find that image one of the most telling image of the situation.
But life and optimism has always won the battle on these shores however hard be the reality. They have a unique blend of cultures…besides the various tribes of jarwas, onges, Burmese, Nicobarese, sentinelise there are people from practically every region of the country inhabiting the place , making its their own.

Today the sea is no longer turbulent. In fact it is calm and welcoming .The sky is blue as ever and the greenery all around is giving shape to this land of emerald water – as if saying that the past was just a nightmare –a flicker in the eyes of God. The islands of marigold sun and white sand beaches are once again spreading their arms to visitors.

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