The small island of Ross in close proximity to Port Blair is mingled with stories and ruins of past along with the beauty of nature. Once the administrative headquarters of the group of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, it held the position of prime importance with rich and luxurious structures equipped with all amenities, far off from the mainland. After the realm of such opulence, the rich glory gradually came to an end with the earthquake and subsequent seizure by the Japanese.
Now this tiny Island is under the supervision of Indian Navy. It has been transformed into a National Memorial. The ruins of the lavish buildings engulfed within the strong and thick roots of age-old trees are a merely unrecognisable part of history. The signboard beside them depicts the graphical representation as well as the textual description of their regal past.
The Marine Water Sports Complex or the Aberdeen Jetty offers an excellent view of the Island. Now again I become nostalgic recollecting memories of this spot since my childhood stay and the successive visits.
I will not indulge in the historic narration of this place in details. One can gather a good amount of information from our Google friend. I would better share my experiences to keep my post short and personal.
There were frequent trips to Ross as a toddler with relatives visiting Andamans for tour purpose. Later I became a tourist too. And always managed to make it to Ross on every visit. Read my previous experience in Andamans.
I have meek childhood memories of Ross. But I clearly remember the thick coconut groves and the pile of fallen coconuts under. Where I used to run and play.
While on my early visit, the now Marine Park or the Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex was a huge garden of pretty sunflower blooms. I remember clicking images of those big lovely flowers on my old Kodak film camera then moving to the boat that took us to the Ross and Viper Islands.
The best part of the short boat trip was arriving the Ross jetty and watching the swarms of the multi-hued fishes under the transparent jade waters. I stood long wondering the beauty of these marine creatures.
Then pushed aside by the group of people arriving by the next boat. The ruins are now preserved and paved paths are made through them with proper marking. Although the density of the coconut trees has lessened. Still, the charm remains the same.
The Bakery of the British era which offered best confectioneries, loaves, buns, cakes, croissants and other French Delicacies to satisfy the British appetite stood on one side. The refined flour as the raw material was produced by the hand driven ‘Charka’ on Viper Island by the convicts.
The classy swimming pool in now home to sea urchins. They gathered here through the inlet of tidal waters and made it their sweet home. The signboard near narrates all history and the other details of the mechanism of inlet and outlet of water during the British rule.
A local vendor selling matka kulfi, occupying a small corner near the entrance, is another favourite spot for the visitors. We are no exception. No sooner I was handed over my piece, I slurped up the creamy delicacy. As I finished off my portion. A male, friendly deer approached us. He constantly poked us with its hairy horns targeting the remaining kulfi in my husband’s hand.
I realised how we humans have changed the food habit of these wild animals. It has been seen that visitors offer whatever food they have to the animals freely roaming in the island. Thus they developed the taste of human foods. There are boards now saying a good amount of fine to be imposed on those who feed the animals.
On the North Bay, island side lies the water distillation plant. The huge rust covered boilers are the remains of the water purification plant. During the days of the early settlement, there was a huge need of fresh water to prevent many deaths caused by water-borne diseases.
The ruins of every structure stood as the reminiscent of the British architecture. The Presbyterian Church was once an elegant construction made of stone and Burma Teak. The beautifully etched stained glasses from Italy decorated the window panes adding to the aesthetic sense to the structure.
Some years back the ruins of the structure were in better condition. I keep writing on my favourite island since long. My first article got published in the daily newspaper – The Statesman’s travel supplement. The picture of this church was resplendent as the cover image of the document.
Now this church is even older buried under the burden of age and engulfed within the network of thick roots. Only the sign made it clear indicating it as a church in the past. The attractive peafowls roam freely everywhere sparing the fear of humans. They distract our attention from the buildings.
Moving to the northern side of this island is the rocky Ferar Beach. There is instruction for not entering the water. The ever blue sky with the white patches above cast a magical charm on the emerald waters. A bright sunny day is an ideal time to see the game of colours in the sea and the sky.
The aged Banyans stand strong on its bulky stem and sturdy aerial roots spread across. The cemetery board narrated the story of the young boy who lost his life barely 22 hours after birth. These large networks of roots around the shady cemetery along with the graves create an eerie atmosphere.
All the ruins lie scattered within the island, the Subordinate’s Club, the quarters and many others. Some quarters are now used by the Navy. I love the way the animals roam here freely. They appear from every possible corner and then walk away gradually. As the cute furry bunnies were resting and cleaning its furs I got ample opportunity to click them.
The ruins of several buildings – Press, Government House, Ball Room, Chief Commissioner’s House, Subordinate’s Club, the free wandering deer, bunnies and peafowls, the lanes lined with coconut groove, the bunkers, the jetty, the sea and the sun sometimes the rains as well – are all an integral part of the Ross Island. Their unique identification gives identity to the island. Above all unfurls our vivid tricolour signifying the historical as well as the geographical importance of the place that is now a part of our proud nation of India.
Some more information on this Island through pictures: