The flight landed safely at Veer Savarkar International Airport.We did it.I took a deep breath.Little bit of drizzling.Since this airport is also used by Indian Navy,photography was strictly prohibited.We found a tourist info booth where I bought a map,as it would come handy in this no-to-less network area.Hired a cab to hotel.As the cab hit the road,we both pressed our respective noses to the windows.
I had a stereotypical notion about Andaman;the lifestyle is not like the mainland that we live in.This place will be mostly filled with aggressive tribals following cannibalism to some extent and dense forests.Oh ya..I actually thought that:|
There is an exaggerated version of Andaman on the internet to attract people as tourism is the lifeline.However what you see in google images and the real Andaman are quite different.It’s not like you will be merged with the nature with no connection with the outside world at all.There is enough network coverage available to make calls.However the internet services are not well developed.People settled over here are mostly from Bengal,Orissa,Tamil Nadu etc.They are well settled with proper houses,cars,bikes,smart phones and all that we normally find around us.The houses,shops,markets,dress trends that the people follow,the way they interact is almost equal to my very own home town. So it’s not like they wear only leaves to cover them.:P There are sufficient numbers of snakes and mosquitoes,but no, we weren’t troubled by them:P
Oh sorry! I got carried away!But the above mentioned things need to be accepted because otherwise you have to suffer quite a few disappointments:P
We checked into our hotel ,freshened up and started the quest for food as the hotel did not have restaurant facility.By now,we had come to know for sure that Hindi is the local language(Internet did not fool us on that one).Since both us were way too comfortable in Hindi,it was just like being in our home town.
We took an Auto to Cellular jail which was around 5 mins from the hotel.We reached Jail by 4 o’clock.In cellular jail,the saga of the heroic freedom struggle is present to the tourists in the form of light and sound shows.There were two shows in the evening: 6.00 pm and 7.15 pm with the latter one being in English.Since,the ticket window had not opened ,we went for a walk to the nearby Market. Ate an icecream near Netaji stadium.
Found a hotel after some 15 mins of search.The hotels and ATM’s are very rare in this place.Kept a note. Kattabomman hotel is a small restaurant in Aberdeen bazar area. The menu consisted of south Indian dishes like Idly , dosa and poori with south style sabjis. Taste was good and at a reasonable cost. Cons – Only 5 – 6 tables were available.We searched for an ATM(Mind you! we were in this area during the peak time of demonetization).Now that our stomachs were full,we got back to jail.
OMG!There was a long queue outside the ticket counter.Two different lines for men and women.
Reenu went to buy corn and I stood in line.A middle aged man came and started whispering to the lady in front of me.The language caught my attention. KONKANIII!! I was so happy that,without realising that I was eavesdropping,I burst out.”tumi Konkani???”
Both of them were caught completely off guard.”Oh Konkani people are also here”,he said very nervously to his wife.No surprise,I shut my mouth tight for next ten minutes.
It was still drizzling.We got tickets for 6.00 show and waited with our umbrellas.
Heard people talking about recent storms and we joined the conversations.From whatever we gathered,some of the hotels in Havelock and Neil took full advantage of the disaster and charged customers double fare.We entered the jail and found ourselves watching an adrenaline-charged-historic struggle brought alive.The feel of what our countrymen had to go through was nicely narrated,making excellent use of the surroundings including the ancient Peepal tree and the faansi ghar.
After the show we returned back to Hotel with the goosebumps still on.Had simple yet delicious thali in the room and then we threw ourselves on to the bed.
In Andaman,Sun rises at around 5.30 am and sets at around 4.00pm.Yes, you read it right! We had an early start. Due to network issues,a hard copy of Andaman map and the talkative local people formed our navigation system.We had Sambar mein dooba hua vada and tea at the Annapoorna restaurant.The first attraction to be visited was Cellular jail.Since we already had a verbal introduction last night,it was time to view the jail in broad daylight.
The first thing you find the moment you enter this Jail,is the Prison museum.This introduces you to the horrors of cellular jail.I mean it.The torture the political prisoners had to go through is enough to make anyone’s blood boil.
The cellular jail originally had seven wings,with four of them being damaged by natural calamities.
We entered the area ,where we were last night.
We went for a Jail tour.
I entered one of the kothris.
It was a 10 feet by 10 feet room with a door through which only one person can enter at a time and a small opening for a window beyond anyone’s reach.(See the video)
Climbed up to the jail’s terrace(is that what they call it?).We could see the reach of all three wings and a scenic water view.
However,the overall cellular jail visit was a mentally painful one because of what I saw next.
The jail has a work shed where different kinds of torturous work were assigned to prisoners.The target used to be beyond a human’s capacity,particularly for political prisoners.Like getting 30 pounds of coconut oil.If they can’t complete the assigned work….more torture!
We visited a nearby park that had statues of some notable freedom fighters who had spent time in the prison;such as Veer Savarkar,Mahavir Singh,Mohan Kishor Namdas,Mohit Moitra who breathed their last due to the brutal force feeding,Indu Bhushan Roy who became a physical and mental wreck due to the abuse.
We bid goodbye to the jail(I mentally unchecked the topmost item in my travel checklist:P) and then set for our next stop;Directorate of Tourism, Andaman.:D
To be continued…