Saturday, April 16, 2016


27 Feb - Jolly Buoy Island, Talent Show

As usual, we were up early. We packed most of the stuff as this was our last day on the Island and were to head home the next morning.

We went for our usual morning walk, taking in the beauty of the palms and bamboo and coconut groves.

Once again, after a sumptuous breakfast, we started at 9.30 in two Tempo Travellers, armed with a set of clothes and snack packs and a water bottle each - as per instructions. During the 20 minute drive, I caught glimpses of houses of various sizes and tried to click pictures - pardon the quality - we were driving, you see.....

all in garish colors - dark pink, maroon, green, blue and dark yellow .... and believe me - bright red too! Either the people here are colorful or this is their way to beat the heavy rains.

We reached Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Wandoor. Here, each couple was given a Milton water bottle. We had to transfer the water from our plastic bottle to that and throw the former in the garbage. No plastic was allowed in Jolly Buoy Island and strict measures were undertaken to curb violators. I really loved the meticulous efforts of the staff everywhere there. In fact we had to undergo a strict 'security' check of our bags - for plastics. Many of us forgot that we were carrying a plastic bag for the wet clothes during our return. They were promptly disposed then and there.

Our boat was to leave for Jolly Buoy Island at 11.30. So we just chilled  there, enjoying the lovely breeze as we went around the museum and small garden.

We put on our life jackets and enjoyed the 30 - minute boat ride to Jolly Buoy. 
As the island came closer, it looked breathtakingly beautiful.

We got down on to the 'magic jetty' ( a colorful floating pad) .... 

and from there boarded on to glass boats with capacities to seat around eight. The boat man took us farther for a free 15 minute ride to enable us to enjoy the underwater coral formations and fishes. This was better than the one in Elephant Beach. 

After this we were taken to the shore and we started exploring the small but amazing beach. I felt this was the best beach!
We walked with our feet digging into the light peach colored fine sand, sat our bags and bottles and foot wear in one spot .....

and waded our feet through the crystal clear water to be hugged again and again by the sprightly waves ....

Many of us were tempted to take a short swim.

Some ladies were more enterprising - they decided to try snorkeling with the coaches (rates ranged from Rs 500 - 1000). 

The seniors behaved like kids and needed a lot of coaxing to get back for lunch. It was 2.30 pm by the time we changed in the few changing rooms and sat down on .....

tree-trunks / benches and relished the packed lunch of pulao, peas-potato curry, laddo and fruit juice. All the paper plates (remember, no plastics) were neatly shoved into the trash can - suddenly we seemed to be abroad, where every one of us adheres to the rules!

It was with a heavy heart that we left the alluring beach at 3. In half an hour we reached the Marine National Park, returned our empty Milton bottles and boarded our Tempo Traveler. On the way we halted for chai / coffee; we also got to do some small shopping - there were shell spoons / clips etc. - all for Rs 25 - 100. Then we reached our resort at 6.15. 

We were reminded that we were to assemble at the resort's Conference Hall at 7.30 for the Talent Show.There was just time for a shower and getting into our costumes for the show. We dressed up as the Odd Couple - my husband as a South Indian mama - in dhoti - uthariyam and 'vibhuti -kumkum' .... and myself as the mod 'mami' in jeans-n-top. 

Another enthusiastic couple was the Maharashtrian bride and groom. There was our friend as a politician looking like Vilasrao Deshmukh's brother. All others turned out in their Sunday best.

When we entered the Conference Hall, we were taken by pleasant surprise to see it well decorated and with a good sound-n-light system. We got our badges with numbers. Judges were seated and the Show began with a bang and as it progressed, we realized it was an almost professional show.

First Ulka presented a fabulous 'lavani'. 
Ulka mingling with the audience after her performance ...
This was followed by individual cat walk. Then Kaustubh presented a touching 'One-man-show'. Then I conducted Musical Tombola for the group - I had prepared tickets from home - with names of 'relations' (didi, chacha etc). 
Everyone enjoyed the game. Then it was time for Couple Parade.
This was followed by 'My Boli' competition - where the competitors had speak for two minutes in unadulterated mother tongue - with no smattering of borrowed words.

Finally everyone let their hair down at the dance floor. It was indeed a riot and every one of the seniors had a blast.

The highlight of the evening was the Prize Distribution.
Each winner at this competition won a gift voucher from Veena World - for various titles - Singing Queen, Dancing Queen, Style King, Smile King, Enthusiasm Queen, Motivation Queen, My Boli King, Costume King, Mr. Veena World and Miss Veena World ..... My husband bagged the title of Mr. Veena World and yours truly, the title of 'Singing Queen'. 

By the time the fabulous show got over, it was 10.30. After dinner, we returned to our room and hit the bed.

28 Feb, Goodbye Andamans!

We were up before 5. After finishing our last minute packing, we went around the resort one last time - we wished our stay here had been longer. After breakfast at 7.30, we left for the airport at 8.30. 

At the airport we were handed a snack box each for our lunch during the flight. We had really been pampered with food and attention throughout our tour and we had a great time.

When we took off, we bid goodbye to Andamans, chewing the cud of the week's fun we had had in these pristine islands. And all due to Veena World.  Our thanks and best wishes to the team!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


26 Feb - Return to Port Blair via Neil Island, Cellular Jail
As usual, we went for an early morning walk at the beach which was once again on low tide. We packed our bags as we were to leave Havelock that morning. We were to return to Port Blair with just a stopover at Neil Island. We were under the impression we were to disembark at Neil. But it was not to be as we had to visit Cellular Jail in the evening. We were sort of disappointed.

We were all seated comfortably for the 40 minute ride to Neil. But eventually it took almost double the time. And the last half hour was a very BUMPY one! Suddenly people started doubling up, bending over, gasping, controlling the urge to puke even as they gesticulated for 'puke-bags'. The crew was ready with paper bags and napkins and assistance to the needy. It was funny ( was it?) to see the youngsters more affected than the seniors. Those unaffected included us as well as the oldest members of our group. We just shut our eyes and tried to relax through the turbulence as everyone hoped it would end soon.

We reached Neil Island at 11.40. Some disembarked, some boarded, some remained seated. After 20 minutes, we started our ride to Port Blair. We were keeping our fingers crossed that the mini voyage would be better now. And it was - but not as pleasant as our onward journey. All passengers had been battered physically, mentally and emotionally - in fact we did not regret we didn't get down at Neil! We were glad to reach Port Blair in another 75 minutes.

We boarded the bus and reached Megapode Restaurant in five minutes. We freshened up and sat down to lunch. It was 'Chathurthi', so Kaustubh had earlier placed an order for 'sabudana Khichadi' for those on fast. He had warned us not to expect typical Maharashtrian 'Khichadi' as the chefs there were not used to it. Man, it was something totally different - runny, yellow, with very little groundnuts ...... Anyway, all of us were not in the best of our appetite, so no issues! 

We were rather happy to relax, enjoy the cool breeze and take in the breath-taking views around ... till 3.

Rejuvenated, we were geared up for yet another scintillating experience. It was 26 Feb, the death anniversary of Veer Savarkar and our Tour Managers had planned for the visit to Cellular Jail on this special occasion. Everyone was brimming with excitement when we reached there at 3.30.

Cellular Jail 
This National Memorial stood majestic even today.

As we entered, the three wings of the (in)famous Jail majestically welcomed us. 
We saw the "Swatantra Jyoti', 

the Peepal Tree, the seats for the 'Light & Sound Show' at dusk ......

Our guide Mr.Shibu joined us and gave a graphic account of the place in impeccable English and Hindi.

It was with a sinking heart that we noticed the condemned cells from where the condemned convicts could see .....
.... the place for rituals before execution ....

..... the gallows ...
Then we went around the Work Shed. Jailer Barry's 'throne-chair' sat at the entrance. It was heart-wrenching to see the oil mill - the prisoners had to peel the coconuts and had to move ox-like to extract oil - they had to achieve the lofty target, otherwise they would receive some sort of punishment .....

whiplashes / fetters / punishment dress which would be itchy.
Model of the original Jail
Originally there were seven wings with the watch tower at the center. Four wings had been badly damaged due to bombings during World War II and they were razed to make way for new constructions in the 60's.

The tiny windows of the two-storeyed wings were positioned high.

Also windows of no wings faced each other. So the convict in each cell had no chance to even 'see' anyone. It is said Veer Savarkar lived for years there without knowing his brother was there too!

The latch was sooo long that it was impossible for a convict's hand to even attempt opening it.

It was Savarkar's death anniversary and our Tour managers had coaxed us to be ready to join the chorus as they presented the songs 'Jayosthuthe' and  'saagara ...' as a tribute to Veer savarkar. Other tourists listened in rapt attention / joined us.

All of us paid respects to Savarkar as we entered his cell - the last one on the second floor. Yes, even the oldest members of our group made it.

From there we went right to the top - to see the watch tower.

The view from there was breath-taking - now. Earlier the merciless guards wouldn't have cared for the scenery!

We also got to see the G.B.Pant Govt. Hospital constructed in the place of the dilapidated wings of the Cellular Jail in the mid 60's - as I have mentioned elsewhere, my father, as the Principal Engineer was in charge of the project.

We thanked our Guide Mr. Shibu for our wonderful experience.

We had a group photo clicked before we were forced to vacate the place at 4.45. 

All the tourists crossed the road and settled themselves in and around Savarkar Park. We had to spend an hour before re-entering Cellular Jail for the 'Light & Sound Show' from 6 - 7 pm.
We dug into our snack packs and relished 'chai'/ tender coconut and .... the breeze. The friendly pigeons and crows swarmed around us for crumbs.... 

The sun set at 5.30. We showed our tickets and were allowed inside.
.... we took our seats.

The Show started at 6. The narrator was the 'Peepal' tree. Photography was prohibited. So everyone enjoyed the show without distractions. Not much of 'show' ; more of dialogues / narration with a spattering of lights. I liked the tri-color lights on the three floors of each of the two wings.

The visit to Cellular Jail was definitely the highlight of the tour for all.

We returned by bus to our earlier resort 'Rose Valley'. This time we were allotted a different set of cottages. 

Ours was 120 , named 'Barren'. We freshened up and went to the dining hall for dinner; the day's special was a coconut-based Nicobarese dish - which tasted somewhat like 'Avial'.

We called it a day as early as 9 pm.

Next day's agenda was visit to Jolly Buoy Island.