We returned yesterday after three nights in Andaman. It was a long time wish that got fulfilled. We had heard of Kalapani in childhood. One normally would shiver with the stories related to the word.
Andaman is unique in many respects. It has rich content for tourists of all types. Cellular Jail is the national memorial and a must pilgrimage for every Indian. The beautiful sea all around the huge number of inhabited or uninhabited green islands provides the ultimate joy. The protected Jarwa tribe takes one into the anthropological uniqueness of the journey of the human race. The nature has bestowed many more attractions such natural rain forests with very tall and straight trees. A question came in mind. Why some trees are so straight going straight in the sky and why some are so crooked? The lime stone rock formations
that we could see was the real great gift of nature to the island for attracting the tourists.
We roamed around in the Cellular Jail extensively. Surprisingly, it was only after 22 years of independence that the Jail could get its glorious place as National Memorial. Why did the early rulers not do that? It celebrated its centenary in 2006. Unfortunately, there is no slovenlier shop in the premise. I was badly searching for some authentic reading material. I had a chance meeting with the lady who claimed to be the in charge of the Jail and had visited even Hiroshima Memorial in Japan. She got me a folder giving the details of the Jail. I suggested her to get some better toilet faculty. Actually she had seen Yamuna from a distance searching for a lady’ wash room. She had come to open one that was locked.
After the first war of independence in 1857, the Britishers wanted to find a place to keep the native prisoners in a place far away from the mainland so that their torture stories do reach to the people in general. Most of the early political prisoners were zamindars, nawabs, writers and poets.
Out of the seven wings of the Jail only three remain. Only the cell of Veer Savarkar displays his photograph and a name plate. Why could not the researchers identify the cells of some other prominent freedom fighters? Does the responsibility of the government get over with listing of the names on the marble stone in the central tower? The list has names of prisoners from many states, but clearly the largest number is from West Bengal. But why have the present generation Bengalis and West Bengal government forgotten their brave sons who sacrificed everything to get the freedom from Bristishers? Sound and Light show was impressive with Om Puri as the surviving Pipal tree near the jail narrating the story. I wish some shadows could have been used to make it more vivid and live. Why should our professional people do jobs halfheartedly? Is it because of the budgetary constraints?
We spent a whole day visiting some of the islands: North, Ross, and Viper through seven points harbor area using motor boats. I wish some independent authority control the quality of the services provided by these small entrepreneurs and also come out with facilities that makes the visits to the island interesting and enjoyable. On Ross Island that is under the control of the Indian Navy, there is neither good wash room nor eating facilities though the navy charges Rs 20 per passenger as maintenance fee. At least those taking the maintenance charge could have provided some informative literature. Incidentally I bought one for Rs 3.
Yamuna wanted to see Jarwas, one of the earliest tribes who live in a protected forest in the primitive manner. We could make it only because Yamuna had made a friendship with one resourceful lady from New Delhi while waiting for the show at cellular jail. Almost all the tour operators that we contacted had refused the possibility of taking Baratang island tour on the last day because of a damaged bridge on the way through Jarwa reserves. But the lady got it arranged through an operator that had buses on the both sides of the bridge. We had just to walk a little near the bridge and Yamuna did that bravely.
To our good luck a Jarwa couple pushed themselves in the bus. Everyone got scared and attentive. But we could see the tribe in its primitive form. Both appeared to be malnourished small and thin. The woman was totally bare body above the waist. At waist she had some skirt like covering perhaps that would have been offered by some or she would have prepared herself out of waste colored clothes lying on the wayside.
Three tiring days and well earned sleep at nights made us feel great. I am back again to report my views.