Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Emerald Isles of India always fascinated me in various ways. Sometimes the shade changing turquoise to blue waters, sometimes the pristine silver to the golden seafront, the long stretches of coconut groove that line the shores, the lush green vegetation, the mangrove forest, the extraordinary marine life, the serenity of isolation… all keeps enticing me. Being there is a bliss of my life. I treasure those memories calling them alluring, wondrous, charming, graceful, curious, romantic, amicable… and abounding.
My life in Andamans started as a toddler. I have some fond memories of my life there in the log quarter assigned to my father. I used the entrance gate as a swing in my playful mood to disturb sleeping Tommy, the stray dog to get bitten by him. I also remember the dock where huge ships were anchored. But childhood amnesia says I am not supposed to remember such early memories. It may be my mind that creates flawless images of every early childhood stories that my parents keep narrating passionately till now. I see my early life through their words. They say about large number of huge ‘Kankhajuras’ (a type of centipede), the bite of those caused many hospitalizations mostly during the monsoon; the Murugan temple on the road from our quarter to a small hill; the kindergarten where they thought of starting my education; the Marina park where I used to run around and play; Sumati, a Tamil kid, staying beside our quarter, my playmate despite of the language barrier; a night when I playfully broke off my mother’s newly bought lipstick and then rubbing it all over my face while she was busy cooking. All these stories get back to live in my mind as my own memories. Thus, I was introduced to the Andamans.
I was in my teens when my parents were selecting the venue of our annual trip during a vacation. They suggested revisiting Andamans as I was too young to feel the vibe of place back in my childhood. Me being a mountain lover strongly protested to go to the seas. Till then to me, the seas were mundane and dull. But they insisted that I must go there at least once and see those things that I used to visualize till then. I agreed and we were off to the emerald Isles. The first sight from the air of the scattered green droplets on the blue vastness started enticing me. The closer they approached, verdant green coconut groves and forest of other vegetation mesmerized me. Yes! it was my first sight of the Isles with all my true senses awakened.
The more we went deeper into Port Blair the view made me feel that it was right decision to come here. The visit to the Marina park with huge sunflower blooms cheered up my mood even more. The vibrant yellow rejuvenated the yesteryear time for my parents. They started recollecting old days when they used to walk the little me down to play in this park and enjoy the joyful nature beside the sea. Walking further interior towards Corbyn’s Cove beach, passing by the Ramkrishna Mission, we reached our quarters. They were no more ours nor were they anymore made of log. I could sense the emotion in my mother’s eyes saying a lot more than words could have expressed. The heart feeling heavy entering the infamous Cellular Jail. The cold creeps running down the spine knowing about the agony of our great freedom fighters. On climbing to the roof of a wing in the Jail, this heavy heart had a sudden feel of freedom with the open sky above and the vast blue sea behind, overlooking the lighthouse on Ross Island. How strange are these contrasting human sentiments?
The Jolly Buoy Island proved its name. Reaching there through the backwaters and getting the first view of the small isle with mangrove forest encircled by the golden seafront was beyond my imagination. The shades of water were so delightful that it can change a somber person. By then I was head over heals in love with Andamans. Added to this was my teenage infatuation for a guy who kept admiring me all the time, whenever at the sight. My heart was light with bubbles bursting every now and then. I perceived a remarkable state of mind and heart, all were in such an unusual harmony that I never felt before.
How can I forget the magical moonlit night at Dolphin Resort (the single hotel in Havelock, back then), relaxing on a lounger beneath the coconut trees overlooking the rocky seashore gradually dissolving into the light coloured sea? A windy night it was with the full moon shining bright above the coconut groove and their shadows “beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” -William Wordsworth. Far off from the shore within the sea stood a pair of mangrove hugging each other. The moon has spelled a mystic charm of silver robe upon the earth. I was lost in the utopian world of this romantic atmosphere with the shimmering ambiance and the untamed wind. I can still feel the creep whenever I remember the night. “Last night – it was a lovely night, And I was very blest – Shall it not be for Memory A happy spot to rest?” -Henry Derozio. It seemed I left my heart at every corner of Andaman I visited.
Soon came the parting time. With a grave heart and a childish urge, I kept praying to God intensely to let me stay here one more day. To my mistrust, it turned out to be a rainy morning with heavy torrential showers. After multiple trials, the flight from Kolkata that was supposed to take us back could not land and ultimately the flight for the day was called off. Back then there was a single carrier running to and fro once a day. Others dismay but unexpected happiness for me. One more day to experience Andaman and get a sight of my crush. Yes we did meet and our eyes spoke but not a word uttered.
Again my childish heart wished and prayed for one more day. To my surprise this day the arriving flight landed but could not take off due to bad weather. After a long wait, the flight was canceled for that day too. It was unimaginable but was true. A gift of another day was a boon to me. With the noon the weather improved, a stroll by the Marina with the magnificent rainbow over the blue overwhelmed me with endless joy. I could not have asked for more. Finally, I had to bid a teary-eyed goodbye to my dream destination and my crush. Thus came an end to the uncommenced unspoken love affair. Yes! I did promise to come back later.
Then came the deadly Tsunami consuming and eradicating life, property, and land. I was in remorse pain for all lives and places affected but mostly for the loss in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. I was eager to go there again but somehow could not make it happen. But I did keep my promise after many years. This time, it was a mature Me with my loving husband on a trip to the Emerald Isle. It was a walk through the memory lane. Spotting the vast amount of change, sometimes happy sometimes sad recollecting and moving on. The scars of the wrath of Tsunami has healed too. We humans exploit nature for good and for worse.
We keep benefiting ourselves at the expense of nature till its fury turn into revenge. We raped the sea and its marine life since ages and then nature took the revenge in the form of Tsunami. I was glad to spot few measures taken for saving the environment and nature. A total ban and strict regulation on possessing any plastic item on the way to Jolly Buoy Island delighted me. More of such initiatives are on the way. I realized making rules alone will not bring the change we have to change ourselves.
Our trip, this time, was biking and exploring, although I was the pillion rider of my husband. It was again a new and much-awaited experience to seek on a bike. Going up and down the way to Wandoor, narrating nostalgic tales of my previous visit, winding up the road to Mt. Harriot, telling my husband about my silly crush, enjoying the speed boat ride to Baratang… all this had a strange sense of happiness and calmness that came with maturity. Taking the long ride through the straight road by the scattered villages and reaching the Butler Bay beach was an out of the world feeling. Blue so blue was the deep while green of casuarina covered the land and in between was the golden sand and us two. There was no human around only a large white bellied sea Eagle in the sky. The tranquility of the place was broken by the roaring sound of the gushing waves. This being a surfing beach the shore subsided the sea increasingly.
It was an awe-inspiring moment by the open sea. It was a reverential feeling of respect mixed with fear and wonder. The serene white surf waterfall was more of a wonder in a hill and river devoid place. The stillness of the place within the Padauks and other evergreen trees and the underwater rocks covered with leeches, the red coloured dragonfly made this place a temple of peace. The recovery of my wind-blown hat into the backwaters by the new made Ongee friends, the walk through the large coconut groove, the sight of the mighty white bellied sea Eagle, my nagging request to my husband to take me to the isolated Lighthouse by the seafront, having tea in a local warm Bengali household listening to their horrifying experience during the Tsunami were more and more of Andamans. I can keep narrating even more of such tales.
Every stage of my life here has opened a new chapter of sensibility. Playfulness at childhood, infatuation and attachment in teens and peace and tranquility in maturity. Again a teary-eyed goodbye with a promise to come again. This time, my husband has to fulfill my promise and take me to the yet to be explored lighthouse and many other lively isles. I wish to make promises repeatedly so as to experience Andamans even through my further stages of life.