Hello Port Blair!!

The sky as clear as a crystal, we saw small islands of various shapes and sizes, completely untouched by the destructive hand of humans, swiftly pass by beneath us, as we flew over the Bay of Bengal, on our way to Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar islands. Too soon, we landed at the airport, too small a structure comprising just one runway and one gate to be called one. As we joined the group of people who had registered under the same travel agent as us, initial introductions were made, before we were swiftly taken to a hotel and were shown to a handsome and luxurious room(that we did not have the time to enjoy), and were asked to be ready in an hour. Freshening up as fast as we could, we went downstairs, and were immediately herded into a bus, that took us to the port.


A huge ferry, with rickety wooden benches, seating around seventy people and spewing out copious amounts of black smoke, then took us to an island about an hour’s ride away- the Viper Island. This island, named so because it was once heavily infested with vipers, one of the most venomous snakes in the world, was used by the British when they were ruling India to abandon the freedom fighters who were stirring up trouble in the main part of the country. We were accompanied by a local tourist guide who gave an excellent heart-rending performance, explaining the hardships that the brave men endured for their country and all that they had to undergo to get us the freedom that we are now taking for granted. History says that these men were mercilessly abandoned on the island, where they either slowly starved to death or worst of all, were killed by the vipers. Later, after a lot of protests against this horrible treatment, the British built a courthouse and hanging gallows, after deciding to hang the prisoners rather than banishing them to the island. These structures, which after freedom became national monuments, unfortunately were destroyed in the 2006 tsunami that affected this archipelago very badly. Now, it’s just the skeletons of these buildings that still stand as silent witnesses to this sorry tale.

The Hanging Gallows...

The Hanging Gallows…

The heart rending speech...

The heart rending speech…

Back on the ferry and back to Port Blair, we next went to the cellular jail, once again built in the period of the East India Company, to torture freedom fighters. Here, they were subjected to a punishment called the kala pani punishment, literally translated as ‘black water’, which denoted solitary treatment. A lot of brave men lost their mind and body in this prison, where they were put to extreme torture. The prisoners were made to perform menial tasks, were set unreachable targets to achieve, and when failed, were put to torture. We attended the sound and light show in the main courtyard of the prison, where they explained the complete history of the prison in detail with brilliant light and sound effects that actually transported you to the torture chamber.

The Cellular Jail...

The Cellular Jail…

The room where it all ended...

The room where it all ended…

A little shaken with the cruelty, while at the same time proud of my ancestors who had fought and endured so much for our freedom, we went back to the room, tired to the bones, every part of our bodies crying for some rest. We hit the bed as soon as we had dinner, moaning about the fact that we had just a few hours of sleep to catch before we hit the sea again, but looking forward to seeing more of what this beautiful archipelago had to offer us.

34 thoughts on “Hello Port Blair!!

  1. Wow, thank you for sharing these photographs and your account of this chilling visit. It’s so important to remind ourselves of the people who gave up their lives in the name of freedom.

  2. My roomie stayed at PortBlair for a year(her dad is in the Indian Air Force).I saw all her pics.Oh boy the beaches!Nothing like the ones we see in the rest of the country.Looked like a work of art.Make sure you don’t miss the rest of them too.Have fun!!

    PS-Cellular jail sends a chill down my spine.Agree with you,proud of my ancestors!

  3. Sumithra,
    Sometimes it is embarrassing to be of English ancestory. I was reading recently about Tasmania and how the Brits took the island from the indigenous people, killed most of them off and the rest were sent to a nearby island. The last indigenous Tasmanian died in 1876. Then there is my own country and the way that Native Americans were and still are treated. With that said, I am proud of my Cherokee ancestry. At least part of me is Native American!

  4. Sumithra,
    I am trying to reach you via Facebook! I can send you a picture so you can see my high cheek bones which is a common trait of Native Americans. Your FB page has something about a second folder for messages and I do not know how to work this but I will try.

    • Dear Louis,
      Sorry for getting back to you so late.. Yes, I did get the message with the pics!! Thank you, and it really is nice to be of an ancestry that had to fight for its rights!! Makes you feel special!! 🙂

  5. Excellent commentary, very mindful.

    I don’t understand torturing. I “understand” it when someone’s trying to get information out of you – obviously terrorising you – but setting impossible tasks and saying “You didn’t do it, so now you will be tortured” : I completely do not understand that. What is wrong with humans, I really just do not know.

    Great pictures. Great post. Thanks for taking me with you.

  6. What humans will do to each other! The thought that folk can be left amongst vipers, and left to starve… hectic! It must have been quite emotional to visit Port Blair/Viper Island.
    About books – you said it all. I don’t know how you managed. I crave reading. The best is to buy a book on Friday and read straight through the night. Or if it’s a thick book, then get into bed Friday and read straight through to late Sunday evening. What a joy!

      • Visiting these places does open our eyse to history that was not publicized. In korea I saw a dreadful prison the Japanese built during their occupation and traveling around Australia there are examples of shameful inhumanity to convicts and the Indigenous people of Australia.

  7. Your first photo is so beautiful, Sumithra, and didn’t prepare me for what you wrote later. This causes me to wonder, once again, how after thousands of years of evolution and progress, humans resort to this kind of thing. Lovely post, though. 🙂

    • Thank you, Sir!! And it really is true, what you just pointed out… I am glad you could feel the huge gap between Mother Nature’s beauty and Man’s beast there!! I was pretty shocked and moved too…

  8. Hi, I am sorry to say I couldn’t read any words (too black) but did see the pictures. Looks interesting! Love the name of your blog.

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