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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

29. MY FATHER MR. RC SHARMA : EARLY YEARS OF STRUGGLE



My father Mr R.C. Sharma
SCENE 1 (YEAR 1934)

“B..A..N…..Ban,” the teacher in the village school was teaching English to the students of Class V.
“B..A..N…..Ban,” the students repeated.
“M..A..N…..Man,” the teacher spoke loudly.
“M..A..N…..Man,” the students followed in a sing-song voice.
“C..A..N…..San,” the teacher again announced.

“No. C…A…N is not San…It is Can…CAN,” the class was interrupted by the loud voice of a frail woman who had just walked into the classroom to hand over lunch to one of the students who had forgotten it at home.

The teacher was indignant and shouted, “ C..A..N is San, not Can. Do you know better than me?”
“Yes..Of course, I do know. My elder son is studying in the city. I have heard him saying C..A..N Can, not San,” she retorted without any hesitation.

The teacher felt even more humiliated and almost shouting at the top of his voice said, “Then you take away your son from this school. I’ll not teach him. Take him to your city school. There is no place for him here. Take him away…Right now,” he grabbed the boy by his arm and pushed him towards the woman. The child almost lost his balance but the woman held him midway and saved him from falling.

The frail woman was bold and fearless. She stood straight, “Yes, yes! I also don’t want my son to sit here in this school and learn wrong things from a fool like you, Master. Come with me, son”, and she walked away from the school holding the tiny hand of a nine year old scared boy.

*****


SCENE 2 (YEAR 1934)

Two months later, a small boy with closely cropped hair and silver rings in his ears feeling very conscious was sitting in the last row of the classroom in a Govt. School in the city of Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh.

“Look at him. He looks like a scared mouse... Ha..ha..ha”, said one of the fat affluent looking boys of the class.

“Mouse? Yes..yes.. mouse… Let us drag him by his tail,” said another trying to grab his choti (a bunch of hair on the head of Hindus) as the third one actually moved towards him to enjoy the fun of pulling his hair. All the other boys in the class watched the fun and giggled.

The little boy was scared to his bones but fortunately for him the Maths teacher walked into the class at that very moment and the bullies retreated to their respective desks. After the attendance, the teacher opened his bag and took out the monthly test notebooks. In his tough strong voice, he said, “Ram Chander?”

“Yes, Sir,” as he stood up, his legs were shaking with fear.
“This is your note-book, Oye Murkiwale (the one who is wearing earrings)?,” the teacher’s tone was stern as usual and the boy was gripped with fear.
“Yes, Sir,” he replied in a shaky voice still going weak on his knees fearing the worst.
“Come here in front,” the teacher commanded in a thunderous voice and a chill went down his spine as the little boy very hesitatingly moved towards the teacher who in the mean time again roared, “Hasn’t your mother given you any food today? Move fast!”

As the little boy quickened his pace and moved towards the teacher fearing caning on his palms, the teacher came forward, caught hold of his trembling shoulders and turned him towards the class. With his hands still on the boy’s shoulders, he addressed the class, “He is the only boy in the class who has scored ten out of ten in the test. Well done, my boy!” 
He patted his back.

Next, the teacher announced looking at the three-some on the last bench, “Oye Fatso! Oye Blackie! Oye Fox-Face! All three of you come here. You rascals, don’t you study at all. All of you are a blot on my class, getting big zeroes in Maths. Come here fast,” the teacher’s tone was as brusque as it could be.

What followed after this, the meek little boy had never imagined even in his wildest dreams. The teacher handed him over his cane and asked him to lash the three boys, who were torturing him a few moments away. “Cane them on each palm five times, one each for one mark lost. As the little boy was scared and hesitated to comply, the teacher yelled again, “Do as I am telling you or you get the caning.”

Whoosh…whoosh…whoosh…the sound of the cane resonated thirty times in the classroom for the next three minutes.

Then on, the young boy became the uncrowned King of the class.

*****


SCENE 3 (YEAR 1940)

A small room in Dehra Dun near Mata-ka-Bagh. Two small cots placed side by side. A wooden plank kept in the middle joining the two cots. A kerosene lantern placed precariously on the plank providing light to both. Two youngsters aged 14 and 26 sitting in their respective cots and pouring over their books. The younger one is studying for his matriculation. 
Exams are on the anvil. The lantern is flickering.
“Go off to sleep now. The lantern is flickering. It is running out of kerosene,” the elder of the two said.
“But I have not finished my revision,” the younger one replied.
“Why don’t you understand? There is no kerosene in the house now. I’ll buy some for tomorrow if I get my tuition fees. Put away your books and go off to sleep. I will also sleep now.”

The flame flickered one last time and it was pitch dark in the room, kerosene fumes filling the room. The elder one pushed his books onto the floor and stretched himself on the cot.
The younger one picked up his books and quietly slipped out of the room. Next moment, he was perched on a tree trunk lying on the roadside under the lamp post. The study session had continued uninterrupted.

*****


I have to carve
my destiny
SCENE IV (YEAR 1942)

“Your Inter result has come. It is time you start looking up for a job. I’ll speak to someone and you can easily get a clerical job somewhere.”
“No Bro! I don’t want to work, I want to study further.”
“I can’t afford your fees. It is better that you start earning now.”
“But I have topped in the Board exams. I’m sure some college will condone my fees”, there were traces of a new found confidence in his voice.

He took a train and reached Cawnpore (now Kanpur) and met Dr. Kalka Prasad Bhatnagar, the then Principal of DAV College, Kanpur. Seeing his mark-sheets of High School and Intermediate, he was given admission in the College with tuition fees, hostel - boarding & lodging expenses fully condoned.

This is the time to prove. This is the time to make big in life. This is the time to break the shackles of poverty and come out. This is an opportunity for laying foundations of a meaningful, satisfying and rewarding life ahead.

*****



In DAV College, Kanpur (1946)
Seated on the left. 
SCENE V (the year 1946)

January 1946. Examinations for MA (Economics) are scheduled to start in April. The lecturers are trying to finish the course at a frantic pace. There are extra classes every day. The principal Dr. KP Bhatnagar is a hard task-master. He would not let go of any lecturer if the course is not finished on time or if the performance of the college students is not up to the mark. It is a question of his personal prestige. He is aiming to be the Vice- Chancellor of Agra University, the biggest University in northern India shortly. The atmosphere in the college is charged with hard-work and anxiety.

And suddenly, he is suffering from high fever. The diagnosis is typhoid. This miyadi bukhar (fever with a minimum specific time-frame) will take at least 21 days to go. No grain is allowed to be eaten during this period. Fruits, he can’t afford. All this would be followed by crippling weakness for days on.

The fever has come down but he is still very weak. But he has no option but to get out of the bed as early as possible. It’s a question of “Do or Die”. He pulls himself out and goes for his bath but weakness overpowers him. He faints in the toilet. His room-mate manages to assist him back to the room. He is trying to convalesce as quickly as possible. 

One evening, the roommate enters the room and announces with concern, “Ramchoo! Wo saale sab bahut khush ho rahein hain (Those fellows are feeling very happy.) They are saying that now that you have become so weak and would not be able to study, their friend will top in the exams.” He sits up in his bed, “Jaa ke bol de un saalon ko, top to main hee karoonga.” (Go and tell those fellows that I will be the one who will top in the exam.)

Study....study....and study...The focus is clear.
Next few months, his focus is even sharper. He does not know when the sun rises and when it sets. The books are his world. Reading, assimilating and reproducing as notes is the only activity he is aware of. The room-mate provides him all the moral support and keeps him pepped up. In turn, he would read his laboriously prepared notes when he went off to catch up on his sleep. 

Time flies away like leaves on a stormy summer afternoon. The exams come and go. The result is announced. 
He stands tall amongst the successful candidates holding first division and first position in the University.

Thus ended the first phase of his life bringing him to the threshold of a new and bright world with hope, expectations and cheer as his companions.


*****



Taking the salute on Independence Day
 as City Magistrate,
Bulandshahr (UP) in 1959
25thApril, He was born this day in the year 1926. Yes, today is his birth anniversary. Had he been alive, he would have turned 86 today. Although he has left his physical form, he is still alive in all of us, his children, who treat him as the source of light in our lives. He is also alive in the hearts of all those who came in contact with him, the poor, the needy and the downtrodden and the people who worked with him.

He lived for his ideals. He lived for justice. He lived for righteousness and honesty. Even after his demise 15 years ago, his ideals are alive in us, his children and continue to lead us. 

May we and our future generations continue to be inspired by you and your ideals, dear Father!




(This is not the end. More about his life and achievements later in my blogs……)

Thursday, 19 April 2012

28. HAVELOCK ISLAND (ANDAMAN & NICOBAR), INDIA - TRAVELOGUE


Havelock Island
Havelock Island, no doubt, is Andaman & Nicobar Islands’ most sought-after destination. This is an island with the best beaches in Asia, the only island where foreign tourists are allowed to stay overnight and a place which must not be missed at any cost. We purposely planned our visit to this island to the last day so that we could end our trip to this beautiful part of our country with the best memories still lingering in our minds.


Crystal clear water, white beach.
And yes, it did happen like that! This turned out to be a fantastic visit not only in terms of the travel to the island and in enjoying its beauty but also in terms of getting a strong tan and sun-burns despite profuse use of sun-blockers. Yes, the memories lasted quite long with skin still peeling off. Well….well…well! That was only in lighter vein. The fact is that this was actually a fabulous visit.  


Cool feel of waves

While planning for the visit to this island, we were told that the tickets for the cruise have to be booked in advance. So we went to the office of “Makruzz”, a company which runs a stylish catamaran to ferry passengers to this island. This is supposed to be the best and the fastest vessel in the island which starts daily from the Phoenix Bay Jetty in the morning.


There were three types of return tariffs for the cruise, Royal (Rs. 2200 pax), Deluxe ( Rs. 1600 pax) and Premium (Rs. 1400 pax). The lower cabin was supposed to be having “No View” of the sea,   second one was on the upper deck with a view and yet another one, the best in the cruise with great view etc.  Thinking that we are going to the best place during our visit, to the best beach and by the best vessel, we decided to pamper ourselves and booked the top of the line class only to realise later that we would have been equally well off in the Deluxe Class too. Anyway, no regrets!!!




We board the bus for the jetty
For the cruise, we were required to report at a particular point from where a bus would take us to the Phoenix Bay Jetty. We reached there at 8am sharp, to be taken to the jetty office by bus which was barely five minutes’ walk. Then there was a proper check-in process, almost like a visa and passport kind of thing. A systematic queue thereafter and we were ushered in and taken to our exclusive Royal Class.



Makruzz Vessel
For the first time in the islands we experienced a vessel which was of almost international standards. The vessel was 37m long and had good interiors unlike what we had been experiencing so far in the boats and indigenous vessels. It was air-conditioned and had a public announcement system, a utility shop and food and beverages on board. The display of safety equipment available in the vessel was quite comforting for non-swimmers like us.

Once seated comfortably, the concierge came to check about our beverages and snacks. Only then did we realise that they give only pre-mixed extra sweet tea/coffee. Both of us being off sugar just cannot relish the taste of sweet tea anymore. So we enjoyed the potato chips and a hot samosa. We had an exclusive cabin for four and since no-one was foolish enough to part with extra money as we did, we were the only two passengers in the cabin. But even privacy was at stake what with other passengers barging in frequently to have a look at it or to take photos from there, only to be pushed out by the security chaps time and again creating avoidable bad blood.


At Vijay Nagar Beach
After about an hour, vessel Makruzz reached Havelock Island. That it is beautiful, there is no doubt about it. We just loafed around the place to get a hang of it and enjoying  tender coconut water. By the time we decided to proceed further, all the cabs had disappeared. Most people had perhaps already booked one in advance. And when we started looking around, only three-wheelers were available, an option which I turned down forcefully. 



The beautiful tall trees adorn the sea-side.
We realised that in the limited time available to us, we had to visit Hathi Tapoo (Elephant Beach), Vijay Nagar Beach and Radha Nagar beach, one of the 7 best beaches of Asia. With great difficulty, we managed to find out a cab which agreed to take us to Radha Nagar beach via Vijay Nagar Beach at exorbitant rates. There was not enough time to go to Hathi Tapoo which is known for scuba diving and snorkelling. So in our wisdom that we are any way not going in for snorkelling and scuba diving, we decided to give it a go by and opted for Vijay Nagar beach which turned out to be a disappointment. There was only one family and the beach was dirty to say the least.


Are we in India or in Bahamas?
This disappointment with Vijay Nagar beach was more than made up as we reached Radha Nagar Beach navigating app. 10 kms of narrow road meandering through thick green forests enveloping both sides. Wow! What a place! Unusually tall lush green trees, pristine white beach, azure blue sky, turquoise water changing to emerald green in the distance, the experience was a real treat to our eyes. It left us absolutely awestruck. Are we in India or in Bahamas?



It all feels like a dream now....
The firang bikini babes trying to get a tan as quickly as possible on one side and hordes of Indians diving away in deep blue waters unmindful of the tanning effect on the other side, it was a study in contrast, the only common bond being that each one was happy doing what s/he was doing. So we also decided to do what we could do best and took a lot of photographs of the beach and the sea waves.



Helping Kingfisher to come out of red..:-)
Soon it was time to leave and have our lunch somewhere before we board the catamaran at 3pm. We chose to go to “Sea Shell” and had a delicious lunch preceded by fish tikka and beer. Sitting under the canopy made of bamboo and palm leaves with warm sea breeze touching us softly, we did not want the lunch to end. But as is the wont, all good things have to come to an end and we had no choice but to get up.



sHe sEllS sEa shEllS oN tHe SeA sHoRe :-)
Before leaving Sea-Shell, we decided to take a stroll around the hotel and were once again enamoured by the beauty, the peace, the tranquillity of the place. Sitting by the beach after a sumptuous lunch and experiencing the sound of waves and cool sea breeze was an unprecedented feeling. How we wished that we had planned to stay at least over-night in this place. But as it was getting late for our return journey, we had no option but to leave the place with the resolve to return here with a few days’ stay factored in our visit. Any takers to accompany us? 


Bye bye SeaShell...we'll come again.


For more TRAVELOGUES, please visit my dedicated blog on travels http://globalhindustani.blogspot.in

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

27. CHATHAM SAW MILLS, PORT BLAIR (ANDAMAN & NICOBAR ISLANDS), INDIA: TRAVELOGUE


The main gate of Chatham Saw Mill
When I was told about Chatham Saw Mill, I wondered what is there to see in a saw mill. There must be some machines, some logs of wood and intolerable sound of saw machines. After visiting the place, I realised what an important place this mill was and how much history it must have witnessed over the years. 
Chatham Saw Mills is one of the oldest saw mills in Asia and it is huge. It cuts wood of all types into various sizes and pieces and is the main supplier of wood for all the local requirements. The mill which is the back-bone of the wood industry in these islands is owned by the Forest Deptt. and bears testimony to the contribution of the British towards putting industries in place. We can't simply criticise them for their ruling our country ignoring their contribution to our land.


A 100m bridge connects the mill with Port Blair
Chatham Saw Mill is connected  to Port Blair by a 100 m long bridge. The history of Chatham Island dates back to the year 1789 as this was the first landing place for Lt. Archibald Blair who reached here in his vessel Viper in the year 1789 in search of a land mass for British settlement. As the “Viper” crashed near a small island now named after it as Viper Island, Lt. Archibald Blair set his foot on Chatham Island which is very close to Viper Island before he identified Port Blair as the place for housing the convicts in a jail.



Elephants were used to push the heavy logs around
Chatham Saw Mill was started by the British  in the year 1883 with second hand imported machinery to process and cut locally available wood for using in the construction of various buildings including the Cellular Jail in Port Blair and development of the administrative and residential set up of the British at the Ross Island.
During World War II, the Japanese bombarded the factory on 10th March, 1942 for over an hour destroying the factory, the machines and taking the lives of hundreds of workers. The mill lay crippled during the next three years and was revived only in the year 1946 when the Japanese left and the British returned.


Outside the Forest Museum in Chatham Saw Mill


There is a Museum within the compound which is a storehouse of information on Andaman & Nicobar Islands displaying almost all the possible data about the history, geography, flora and fauna available in Andaman Islands apart from various types of wood available here.





Outside the Forest Museum



On display in the museum are a number of wooden handicrafts and furniture made in the area showcasing the skills of the locals. The sections of the various tree trunks displayed looked absolutely gorgeous. Some of the tree trunks were unbelievably large in diameter. The natural design within the wood were exotic. The museum also provided detailed information about various types of corals in this area.






Pillar of the Planet

There is a Memorial called PILLAR OF THE PLANET in the mill’s premises which came into existence in March 2009 to commemorate 125 years of Forestry in the Island. 

The Mill's building is mostly made of wood and one could go around the place provided you do not go too close to the saw machines.
Photography within the Mill is not permitted denying me a opportunity to capture the activity in my camera.










Section of a tree trunk on display in the museum

During the British rule, the timber processed here was supplied to western countries and even to USThe beautiful crimson walls of the Buckingham Palace are made of the local Padauk wood processed in this ancient saw mill. 
How I wish I could bring this lovely wood from here to build the doors and windows of my house in Delhi. Unfortunately, you cannot do so. What a pity!

For more TRAVELOGUES, please visit my dedicated blog on travels http://globalhindustani.blogspot.in

Monday, 16 April 2012

26. PACKING LIST FOR TRAVELLING BY CAR

PACKING LIST FOR TRAVELLING BY CAR


I have been advised by almost everyone right from my childhood that one must travel light. It has taken me six decades to throw away this advice into the dust bin because for me now my personal comfort is most important and I don’t like the idea of running around or compromising with uncomfortable situations. I am not a backpacker any more but I can’t afford the luxury of all amenities and facilities too. I plan budget holidays but cannot compromise on my comfort and habits. Therefore, I have drawn up a list of items which I must carry when I venture out as a tourist especially by car. Yours could be slightly different as per your habits and tastes. Just peruse the following list to see that all your essential items are with you when you are away from the comfort of your home.

1.TEA KIT: For me a good cup of tea as per my taste and at my time is very important. If I get up at 6 am in a Guest House on a winter morning, nobody is going to bring me tea at that time. Even if they do, the chances are that it would be a decoction tea boiled till all the tannin is released in the liquid. It may have been boiled in pure milk or the size of the cup may be too small. So why start my day by spoiling my mood right in the morning? Hence a tea-kit is the most essential accompaniment for me while travelling. The following items are suggested:
a.   A small electric kettle,
b.   Tea Bags as per your taste,
c.   A bottle of Coffee Powder. Yes, I mean a bottle and not a refill pack as handling an open packet only creates hassles,
d.   Dairy whitener, emptied in a plastic jar for easy handling,
e.   Mug(s) if you like your tea in a large mug. Most hotels/Guest Houses have small cups which do not satisfy my early morning craving for tea,
f.    2 Spoon(s), one for stirring and the other for taking out milk powder.
g.  Duster/Tissue paper as you may like to wash and wipe your mug dry before packing it up for the next destination,
h.   A packet of your favourite biscuits (Marie?) to accompany your morning cuppa.

2. PHOTOGRAPHY: No trip is complete unless you bring memories  back with you. Hence the following are essential:
a. Camera: I think one must carry a camera and take as many photos as possible. Later, if you don’t like, you can always delete them.
b. Camera stand: Not essential but desirable.
c. Cell-charger: If you are using rechargeable cells, you may need to put them on charger every night.
d. Extra cells: If you are using ordinary cells, you surely would not like to land up in a situation where you want to shoot and the camera does not comply,
e. Extra camera card of at least 8 GB memory for camera is extremely important. In case the memory in your camera is full and you are yearning to take more photos, you will not start looking around for a shop. Even if you do, either you will not find it or it will be too expensive,
f. Camera Lenses, optional in case you are  an amateur photographer but essential if you are an avid one,

3. MEDICINES
a. Routine Medicines: You may like to carry sufficient stock of the medicines in case you are taking something regularly and may not like to search around for a chemist shop in a small town who may not have your brand or may be dealing in spurious drugs,
b.Emergency Medicine Kit: Dispirin for headaches, Crocin for fever, Some anti-allergic for cold or allergic reactions, a pain-killer for sudden tooth-ache/ear-ache, Digene/Eno for acidity, an antibiotic for stomache infections and a medicine like Immodium for uncontrolled loose motions etc. An upset tummy and high fever need to be controlled forthwith and you cannot wait till morning to see a doctor.
c.First Aid Kit: Must have Volini/Moove ointment/spray for any accidental muscular pulls, sprains or strains, a few Band Aid strips, some cotton soaked in spirit, an antiseptic ointment, a 2” gauge bandage and a 3” crepe bandage,

4. CAR ACCESSORIES
a.  A Towing Rope is absolutely essential. If your car breaks down suddenly on highway, you should be able to get it towed to the nearest town.
b. Dusters/Glass cloth for cleaning the wind-screen time and again,

5. CAR DOCUMENTS: All the following documents must be carried in original if you are travelling inter-state:
a.  Car Registration Papers,
b.  Copy of Insurance Policy,
c.  Driving Licenses of all the people expected to drive the car in routine or in   emergency, and
d.   Car Pollution Check Certificate,

6. DOCUMENTS FOR SELF
a.   Identity Card
b. Voter ID card/PAN card as it is essential for checking in most hotels,
c.   Credit Cards (along with ATM password),
d.   ATM Card (along with password),

7.   BEDDING
a. One bed sheet per person for using as inlay for the blanket which is often used repeatedly by different guests and may not be hygienic enough,
b. Your own pillows are desirable if you want a good night’s sleep.
c.  Towel, at least one in case of emergency

8.  MOBILE PHONE
a.      Mobile
b.      Mobile charger
c.      Top up with sufficient amount in case of pre-paid connections

9.  IMPORTANT CONTACTS 
   All local and emergency contacts must be fed into your mobile phone for easy access and hotel booking papers should be available in your glove cabin. Important documents which one must not forget are:
a.Documents relating to your bookings/stay arrangements at various places,
b.Phone numbers of your contact persons in places of visit,
c.Emergency Phone numbers of your friends /relatives

10.   OTHER ESSENTIAL ITEMS
a. Spare specs if you wear specs. You never know when you may accidentally break it and then become incapacitated,
b. Goggles desirable while driving to reduce strain on eyes,
c. Sun-blocker cream if you are going to expose yourself to high UV rays,
d. Music CDs for your car or your favourite music on a pen-drive/I-pod.

While doing all this, please don’t forget to pack your most comfortable clothes and footwear for various occasions expected during the travel which may require formal, informal or casual dressing.

*****
For my TRAVELOGUES, please visit my dedicated blog on travels
http://globalhindustani.blogspot.in

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

25. JOLLY BUOY ISLAND (ANDAMAN & NICOBAR ISLANDS) - INDIA : TRAVELOGUE


Jolly Buoy Island as seen from the ferry

SIGNIFICANCE OF JOLLY BUOY ISLAND  

Even before I reached Andaman Island, almost everyone advised me to visit Jolly Buoy Island. What is so special about it, I wondered. I was told that it is a part of Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park which is a unique project in the world. The marine park is spread out in open sea, creeks and 151 islands over an area of app. 280 sq kms. Jolly Buoy is one of these 151 islands.


The ecological wealth under these waters needs to be protected
My question “Why a Marine Park?” was answered amply by the bill-board at the Wandoor Jetty  which stated the purpose of the project, to conserve the unique bio-diversity found in this area, to provide protection to flora and fauna, to protect, preserve and manage the  natural breeding grounds and   habitats of marine life particularly which is rare and endangered , to promote scientific study and research, to create awareness amongst masses about the fragile marine eco- systems and their significance and to promote eco-tourism. Well, well, well, it all sounds pretty heavy. No?  In nutshell, in simple English, let’s say the Govt. of India is trying to take care of variety of fish and corals in this area. 


Waiting for the vessel at Wandoor Jetty

VISIT TO THE ISLAND, A MAZE OF OFFICIAL REGULATIONS

Due to the importance of this area, the entry to the island is restricted.  Only 5 boats per day are allowed which carry 50 passengers each who are allowed to stay there only for 2.5 hours. A visitor to this area requires a permit from the Forest Deptt. Entry to Jolly Buoy Islands is allowed from December to May only. Monday is the weekly holiday.

The private tour operators conduct the tour in ferries. There is no commercial establishment on the island and no food or water is available there. Polythene bags and plastic water bottles are not permitted. The only conveniences available at the island are a make-shift wash-room and a Changing Room.

 The steps involved in going to Jolly Buoy Island are:
1.   Obtain the Entry Permit from Forest Deptt.  located in the office of Directorate of Tourism in Port Blair. The Permit Charges are Rs. 50 per person and a form has to be submitted along with the proof of identity. 

2.   Get the Ferry Ticket from a Boat Operator who also sits in the same office. The Boat Charges are Rs. 550 per person which cover ferry charges, transportation charges from ferry to the beach as there is no jetty there, hiring charges for the glass-bottom boats for viewing under-water coral reefs and hiring charges for snorkelling equipment.

3.   On the morning of tour, get your lunch packed, and proceed to Humfryganj  (Wandoor),  a distance of about 30 kms. You can take a Tourist Bus to the place or hire a cab,

4.   Once at the Wandoor Jetty, take a thermos flask from the counter. One can carry water only in the water bottles provided by the Govt. by giving a security deposit of Rs. 100 per bottle which is refunded when you hand over the bottle on your way back.  Jute bags are also available in similar manner.


Coconuts are so green, so big and soooo fresh. Loving it!
WAITING FOR THE FERRY, THE FUN BEGINS NOW:
The boat is late but no problem. Coconut water (Daab) is available in plenty @ Rs 20. The coconuts are really huge and absolutely fresh. Without realising their size, we buy two and hubby found it impossible to finish it. The hoggy that I am, I ended up having one and half and a tummy about to burst.  


MV Silver Wind, our passport to heaven

10.40am:  Vessel MV Silver Wind has been sighted. We all walk into the jetty. I suggest to co-passengers that we all stand in a queue and I am surprised that all comply. The boat-keepers are tying the vessel with the Jetty with the help of ropes in a very crude manner. Later, passengers were helped by the Boat-keepers to actually hop on to the boat.
  
Meanwhile, a large family perhaps from Bihar tries to push their way by breaking the queue. I protest loudly and others also join me and we manage to bully them into waiting till everyone gets on to the ferry. But this adamant family refuses to go to the tail-end of the queue and waits impatiently at the entry point only, trying time and again to break the queue. If their looks could kill, I would have been dead long ago.

Emerald is the mood of the day.

On the boat, there is a lot of noise. There is a group of tourists from Kolkata who are highly excited. The boat starts sailing through the emerald green waters. The scene on both sides is exotic and we are mesmerised by the divine beauty of the islands that we see. The dense Equatorial forests on the uninhabited islands on both sides, very tall trees reaching almost up to the sky, creepers climbing right up to the top, the sky with scattered clouds and the emerald green water; the nature is hypnotising us. The sound of the ferry and the loud noises made by the passengers are sounding absolutely out of place. We seem to be breaking the peace and disturbing the beauty of this exotic place. In about 40 minutes, the vessel switches off the engine. We are almost there, close to the Jolly Buoy island.



In the boat with glass bottoms, trying to see coral reefs

JOLLY BUOY ISLAND, THIS IS THE JANNAT (HEAVEN)
Once,  near the island, we are asked to alight from the ferry to small boats which will take us to the island. Passengers start rushing and pushing around. Why are we such an impatient lot? Anyway, through a very crude contraption, we hop onto the boat which has a glass bottom and which takes us around to show the coral reefs. All are leaning over and straining their eyes to see the coral reefs of various colours and designs through the glass base. In 15 minutes, the trip is over and we are on the island.



In the Bahamas of India


As we alight on the island, our eyes are wide open with awe. The beach is pristine white. There are three colours on the horizon, pure white, emerald green and azure blue. I have never seen anything like this in my life. Only the photos of Bahamas that I have seen look like this. Wow, nature at its best!



This was our best effort to get into water.

We do not know how to swim but neither does that elderly lady in salwar-suit. She plonks herself on the beach in water and is simply enjoying the feel of the cool water. Later, she admits that she did not know swimming either, but having come so far from Delhi, had decided to enjoy the feel of the water. “What if the waves had taken you away?” I cannot hide my inquisitiveness. “Dekhi jaati,” I admire her nonchalance. But we are the "Play Safe" types and do not venture into unnecessary dangers. "Jin khoja tin paaiyan, gehre paani paith. Main bauri boodan dari, rahi kinare baith." (Those who ventured into deep waters, got what they sought . Poor me, I was scared of drowning, so I kept sitting on the sea-shore.) 



On a jungle trail, in search of shade

We walk around in the water for some time enjoying the beauty of the beach and trying to capture it in the camera. But the sun is very hot. The smart ones have their umbrellas with them. So we start walking into the jungle in search of some shade and soon locate a nice canopy made of grass and bamboos.


Lunch time under the canopy in the island forest


It is already lunch time and this appears to be a good place to enjoy the cool breeze and nibble at our sandwiches with sips of Amul Lassi which we had brought with us.


Post-lunch siesta



Enjoying Amul lassi





Lunch over, hubby decides to stretch on the narrow bench to take a short nap. Nap is not possible on such a narrow curved bench but he somehow manages to balance himself precariously there and has semblance of lying down. 





Over-cautious that I am, I refuse to take any such chances and continue to enjoy my cool lassi under the canopy.








Can anybody  please tell me what  this animal is called. Komodo Dragon?

Sitting under the canopy, with the dense forest on one side and deep blue sea on the other side, we suddenly spot a huge lizard like animal. I don’t know what it is called but we captured it in our camera. Soon there was a lot of excitement and many people gathered around to look at it. Some said it is called "Komodo Dragon". It had such mean eyes.

         
The Glass bottomed boat that took us to deep seas for viewing coral reefs

Soon it is time to go back. MV Silver Wind has come to take us back. Again there is such a rush to get into the boats to reach the vessel. Why this kolaveri kolaveri  kolaveri di? Nobody will be left behind. But we are Indians! We are an impatient lot and can’t wait at all. All rush towards the small boat and manage to climb on to the vessel through another make-shift contraption…a jugaad!



A dolphin has disappeared here after creating all the stir on the vessel

Back in the vessel, there is a kind of lull for some time with all exhausted and sun-burnt passengers with eyes half shut. The beautiful green islands are not creating the same excitement any more. Soon somebody announces loudly, “Doalfeen.... Doalfeen …. ekhone”. And a whole lot of passengers are shaken out of their stupor and rush to that side of the vessel to have a look at the dolphin. The boat tilts heavily to that side and my heart misses a beat. “My watery grave is going to become a reality today,” I think.  Will the boat turn over? What are they doing?  The caretakers of the boat came shouting, “ Baith jaaiye…..  baith jaiye … apni seat pe laut jaiye …..  Boat palat jayegi.”  (Please sit down…go back to your seats. The boat can turn over).  But is anybody listening? They all want to see the “Boro maach” (big fish) and all the pleadings of the boatman go over deaf ears. I suddenly think of our Parliament where Speaker Ms. Meira Kumar keeps saying, “Baith jaiye, baith jaiye” and nobody listens to her and a smile comes to my face. I am so amused by this thought that I stop thinking of life-boats. The reality of the moment is Dolphin. Nothing else matters. “Live in here and now,” I tell myself.

Thank God! The Dolphin disappeared and our dare-devil co-passengers returned to their seats mighty excited about their latest achievement of having seen a dolphin.  I took a sigh of relief as Wandoor Jetty was sighted at a distance.  Thus ended our trip to Jolly Buoy island, a place absolutely out of this world. 


*****
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