Destinations Magazine

Island in the Sun

By Kartix

My last visit to the Andamans was more than three years back. Elrika and I had gone north for a while to Mayabunder and villages around such as Webi and Karmatang. But I vividly remember the first trip ever to the Andamans in late 2016. The plane flew from Bangalore for about two hours with no captivating scenery other than a quadrillion clouds, and then the pilot announced the descent, and minutes later I saw the sea, the sand, the lagoon, and then thick-as-a-brick forests. I thought we reached the main North Andaman island, but we were right above the North Sentinel island, where the Sentinalese live; one of the rare uncontacted places in the world. The community lives there on their own with no contact with the rest of the world; no roads, no distinct cultivation patches, no visible homes, no signs of clearing, and even no visible boats! The feeling I got was unexplainable; I wondered what they grow, what they eat, how their language sounds, and in general, how their lifestyle is. A closer look through google earth does show up some walking paths, few clearings, but no signs of houses and boats.

Island in the Sun

The view that one gets from the plane as one approaches the North Sentinel island.

Last evening on a conversation with Evan in Port Blair, I got to know that the Sentinalese started using metal tips on their arrows, shifting to metal from stone following a ship-wreck in the North-west part of the island. Evan said that he had heard someone mention that the ship-wreck transformed the community from the stone age to metal age! I wonder if they do light fires for cooking or clearing land; would be fascinating to look at high resolution imagery from the island.

Back in the larger North Andaman islands, the plane descended further and got closer to the main island; few houses, many clearings, and visible signs of concrete, plastic, and metal, but the forests around still seemed thick and enveloped in fluffy-cotton clouds. When the plane landed and in the next few days, I realised what being in an island implies. Things arrive here but never go back. So, all the plastic and glass waste stays in the island, so it is even more important to be conscious of the everyday miscellaneous items we use. On that note, I wonder; the whole planet is an island too, things that we use are manufactured, but there is no other place to discard than in the planet itself. Except, then there is space debris, which we are also responsible for!

The people you meet here in the Andamans are from all over the country; its a motley blend of cultures, people, cuisines, and languages. Different people arrived here at different times brought by the British, the Indian Government, the Forest Department, as well as the army and the navy. So, it is not uncommon to catch an auto run by a Tamilian, eat food at a Chinese restaurant, buy bakery items from a Keralite-run shop, snorkel with a Karen spear-fisher, and then have dinner at a Bengali restaurant, to name just a few of the options. Hindi is a binding gel for everyone, and the Hindi language has evolved as a mix of a number of other languages; a mainlander would not have a clue about some of the words (take 'Gusul' for example!), that could have been borrowed from any part of the country and blended into a local mash of language. Its all very interesting to me.

Things got even more interesting as we went north to villages around Mayabunder. The dominant community there is the Karen. The Karen were brought over during the British time since they were experts at training elephants to harvest timber from the forests. The elephants are still here too; several herds of 'retired' elephants inhabit the islands and have turned feral. Besides elephants, there are spotted deer, barking deer, domestic cats and dogs, pigs, bull frogs, that are found in large numbers in both human-inhabited and uninhabited islands.

Tomorrow, we travel north again to Mayabunder, Webi and Karmatang. Will log in more from there.

Island in the Sun

I sit here and write this post; its difficult to sit peacefully here and not write something!

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog