Andamans – Of Beaches, New Friends and Mishaps
Last time it was about being foxed by an old woman in the beautiful valleys of Dharamshala. Though I would have preferred to be outwitted by a young vivacious lady (as happens so often in the Bollywood movies), I think my luck runs a little dry in that area. This time I thought of sharing one or two of the weird experiences I had while I was enjoying a trip to my favorite destination – the Andamans.
The winter season seems to be my preferable time to pack up and leave the biting chill of Delhi and go to one or the other of the sunnier and brighter places in India. It was around mid January that I embarked on my eventful trip to Andamans. The turquoise waters and the small green islands of Andamans held a particular fascination for me. I remember the times when I saw pictures and videos of Andamans on television and then on the internet; I had this unfathomable yearning to run wildly on the clear white beaches of Havelock, get lost in the numerous caves that dot the numerous islands, sleep under the shade of one of the trees on Ross island, and enjoy the local cuisine full of coconut delicacies. I had nurtured the dream and when I reached Andamans, it was even more beautiful and magnetic than my half-baked ideas of it.
My first stop was naturally Port Blair. From the airport at Port Blair, I immediately moved on to a small ship which was going to the one place I would be happy to be marooned on for the rest of my life – Havelock Island. The journey on board the ship itself was interesting to say the least. The vast blue ocean on all sides dotted with tiny green emerald islands on the horizon. The passengers on the ship were of varied nationalities. Cutting short a short story, I became quite friendly with a group of Finnish travelers who were on their first trip to India. We chatted about the Finnish metal bands and the conversation slowly veered towards the other holiday destinations in India. Mark Iisakki was particularly enthusiastic about Shimla and Goa. Aliisa Aina, a small freckled girl of about 22, wanted to visit Benares and Nalanda.
Sometime later, we decided to go on the deck and Mark proposed to play a song on his acoustic guitar. With a cool breeze blowing, the sound of the guitar sure gave a sense of peace and calm that was quite unlike anything I had felt before. Needles to say, my clumsy self got entangled in another adventure that my friends so wrongly put as a mishap. I was leaning against the railing, puffing on my cigarette and was lost in the serenity of it all when suddenly the ship encountered a gentle tumble against the waves. Since all my attention was on the song and the cigarette, I tumbled headlong in the water. I cannot ever describe what I felt at that time. First it was like “Oh God! I am so dead!“ When I hit the water, my mind screamed “Idiot! We are doomed to be left behind alone in the vast ocean!” Then what came as an electric shock was the fact that I remembered that I did not know how to swim. It was here that I used the full power of lung muscles and screamed like I had seen Satan chewing on my ears. What I had failed to notice was that immediately after I had plopped clumsily in the sea water, three divers on the ship had jumped in with rubber tires to rescue me. I could feel the strong arms pulling me out of the water and getting me on board again.
By the time the excitement (and the admonitions) had died down, I was wearing a sheepish grin. My Finnish friends were sitting with me and after a while of hilarious jokes on the fall, we went back to the guitar and the song and the cigarette. After a while we stopped playing and sat without moving or speaking; for we could see, looming in the horizon, the beautiful island of Havelock.