An­daman & Ni­co­bar Is­lands - The Far In­dia

Storizen Magazine - - What's Inside - – by Deepak Goel

There are few ex­am­ples in the world of places that have none of the at­tributes and char­ac­ter­is­tics of a metropoli­tan yet have an eclec­tic amal­gam of cul­tures lan­guages and food habits. One such place is An­daman and Ni­co­bar Is­lands, beau­ti­fully and rather strate­gi­cally tucked in the Bay Of Ben­gal that forms part of the In­dian Ocean. These is­lands are closer to coun­tries like In­done­sia, Myan­mar and Sri Lanka de­spite be­ing In­dian ter­ri­tory, giv­ing In­dia a pe­cu­liar strate­gic di­men­sion in terms of geo­graphic spread close to the Equa­tor. The same fact also al­lows North In­dian tourists their long­est do­mes­tic flight.

The is­lands get their share of the amal­gam be­cause of their prox­im­ity to three In­dian states-Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Ben­gal. All these three states have dif­fer­ent lan­guages, cul­tures and cuisines. Peo­ple from all the three states grad­u­ally mi­grated to the is­lands over the last many decades but con­tinue to hold on to their dis­tinc­tive food habits and other traits al­low­ing very lit­tle fu­sion de­spite liv­ing to­gether for long. An­daman and Ni­co­bar are set of two dif­fer­ent is­lands but they are col­lec­tively de­fined as Union Ter­ri­tory of In­dia. The is­lands were pri­mar­ily used by the Bri­tish to con­fine the In­dian free­dom fight­ers in what is now very fa­mous Cel­lu­lar Jail. Af­ter In­dia got free­dom from the Bri­tish, the Cel­lu­lar Jail has now been con­se­crated as a place mark­ing In­dia's long, ar­du­ous and trau­matic fight for free­dom in which hun­dreds lost their lives. Cel­lu­lar Jail is now an in­trin­sic part of any­one's itin­er­ary visit­ing the is­lands, par­tic­u­larly of the In­di­ans. For those tourists who are look­ing for a break from overuse of their com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vices, these is­lands can def­i­nitely of­fer that respite since there is very poor in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity, mak­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of overuse of such gad­gets im­pos­si­ble. The few cy­ber cafes on the is­land of­fer more of frus­tra­tion and less of con­nec­tiv­ity in the name of in­ter­net surf­ing. Ditto for mo­bile tele­phony. One would be in a shock on the is­lands to note how easy it is for gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees. De­spite the is­lands be­ing Union Ter­ri­tory of In­dia, very dif­fer­ent rules seem to ap­ply to the gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees who start their work at 10 am and go for lunch at 1pm, re­sum­ing work for barely an hour from 3pm to 4 pm af­ter which the of­fice gives over. The pri­vate sec­tor em­ploy­ees also get to en­joy sim­i­lar long lunch breaks but they work till 6 pm. The short work­ing hours of the gov­ern­ment de­part­ments poses some prob­lems for the tourists. Visit to many is­lands re­quires per­mits which is only given by

Gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties there but the of­fice of these au­thor­i­ties is open for a short time, al­low­ing very lit­tle op­por­tu­nity for a tourist to get the per­mits and also be able to go around places of in­ter­est. For an is­land where most of the peo­ple de­rive their livelihood through tourism, the in­con­ve­nience caused to tourists by way of tim­ings like this comes across as a stark oc­cur­rence. An­other thing that comes as stark is the ex­tremely loud mu­sic that plays in public trans­port buses on the is­land. Mak­ing a mock­ery of any civic sense that can be there, the buses play mu­sic loud enough for peo­ple liv­ing in neigh­bor­ing In­done­sia, Myan­mar and Sri Lanka to en­joy. One may also be sur­prised with that fact that lo­cals travel long as 7-8 hours in fer­ries from one is­land to an­other car­ry­ing live chicken in their hand­bags to of­fer their rel­a­tives or friends. Among all these traits of the place comes the uique fea­tures of na­ture that an be found on the is­lands like the Barataang caves that have been formed by lime­stone sta­lac­tites and sta­lag­mites that shine and even glow at times.

It also has some of the most stunning man­groves which dot the length and breadth of the is­lands. No de­scrip­tion of the An­daman and Ni­co­bar Is­lands can be com­plete with­out the men­tion of scuba div­ing sites. With­out ar­gu­ment, the is­lands are one of the few places in the world that of­fer such ex­hil­a­rat­ing scuba div­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. One can also do the en­tire PADI (Pro­fes­sional As­so­ci­a­tion of Div­ing In­struc­tors) course that is of­fered by many pri­vate com­pa­nies.

It is these unique and dis­tinc­tive fea­tures and sights that make a visit to these is­lands vivid in the me­mory for a long time. Deepak has post grad­u­ate qual­i­fi­ca­tion in jour­nal­ism from Asian Col­lege of Jour­nal­ism and has worked with or­gan­i­sa­tions like The Hindu, PTI, Out­look mag­a­zine and Times of In­dia Group. He is an avid trav­eler and has trav­eled to al­most all states and UTs of In­dia. He has also vis­ited 11 coun­tries in Asia Pa­cific and Europe. He is an acute ob­server of life and ex­tremely happy-golucky.

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