Magical Andamans

Ross Island – An Abandoned Penal Colony in the Indian Ocean.

We reached Port Blair quite early on a Saturday morning, landing at 7.50am, but in spite of it, our hotel in the heart of the city, settled us into a second room with a better view, on my request. They had initially suggested this room, but as it was early, I had had a choice of rooms. With the presumption that one closer up the hillside would have a better, prettier view, I had asked to be shifted.
After settling into the room I chose, and served an awesome south Indian breakfast, with an array of fruits and fresh juice, I realized I had been wrong – the room they suggested, further out, would have a better view of the hill, the sky and the sea.
So with the confidence, after two decades in several service industries, I made a polite request and the always smiling, enthusiastic Bengali housekeeping staff aptly named Saraswati, cheerfully agreed to ready the unmade room we were originally assigned to. She single handedly shifted all our luggage – which I was to learn later, as the day we returned from Havelock and Neil islands she blurted, when I was refusing to allow her to carry our baggage upstairs – “the day you came I carried all your luggage up myself”.
I now looked at her apologetically for not having taken it up ourselves but also with a new found respect at the strong feminist streak she projected, in not waiting for a male staff as is usual in our country.
This was one tough resilient woman, I thought to myself – and wasn’t I proud she was a Bengali as I am! She’s also the one who recommended the Wandoor beach, 25 kms away – it is a predominantly Bengali locality she added and the Jolly Buoy ferry commenced from a jetty just before it.

After we took a nap for a couple of hours, having taken a flight that was airborne at 5.52am from Calcutta, we decided to visit the cellular jail first. On learning that one had to buy the tickets for the light and sound show online, Bishwanath looked up the same – luckily the hotel had a robust internet connectivity which was a huge challenge outside of it – he bought two tickets for Rs. 300 each.
The young taxi driver, via the pre paid services counter, who had dropped us to the hotel by 8.30 am, after an enthusiastic exchange on the drive, learning we were also Bengali like him, agreed to pick us up by 1.30 pm and take us around town a bit and then to the cellular jail.
When we got into his cab, and mentioned the show ticket times, he asked us to show him the tickets on the phone – “its for the Ross Island show”he blurted.

Bishwanath promptly decided, the ticket was to be chucked off, the Rs. 600 wasted, as we would not be going to Ross Island that day, after the driver informed us that the last boats would have left by 1pm to return by 3pm. He now pointed to the flagpoint in the remote distance over the sea, informing us that the boats commenced from there.
But I wasn’t convinced to give up so easily – as there had to be a reason we got the wrong ticktes, I thought. Also, I didn’t like the idea of wasting the money and I said to the driver, “ I wish someone could have used the tickets on our behalf – Someone who would not spend on this but like to see it.”
Then I insisited on going up to the boats to see if we could still be taken and return by 3pm. So the driver abruptly informed us that we should take a quick look around the cellular jail and go down to the Ferry point as the last one leaves there at 4pm. And that’s what we did – we went around the cellular jail briskly, deciding to come back for a more prolonged visit to read the placards diligently, and watch the show.

At the jail, I saw an old photo of the market place at Ross Island – so I boarded the Ferry at 4pm with the vivid imagination of first buying ourselves something to eat there as we had skipped lunch. After a long wait at the port office, for at least 15 people to join us to ensure the ferry ride was cost effective – we set sail enthusiastically.

Our young driver was also on the ferry – we learned that, only on seeing him at Ross Island, that too after the show. And he admitted he’s never been here let alone see the show. So in effect I had inspired him to bring more guests here – it pleases me to note that!

It was an hour’s scenic and very comfortable large-ferry ride to Ross Island which came into view from afar like a red brick fortress. As we came up close, I vividly saw NSCB written large on it past the trees lining it, flanking the llll path leading to it.
We got off the Ferry at 5.10pm – ushered in by one of the most gorgeous sunsets I have seen. The visible facade of the island past the bridge over the sea shone gold in the setting suns sheen as the glowing ball of fire, struggled to stay out of dipping right into the sea – just like a child who is well past his bedtime, just when the guests arrive for his parent’s cocktail party. We had arrived at his house for the light and sound show party after all!
It was suggested that battery operated carts at Rs. 80 per person would take us around. And since the cafeteria had shut at 5 pm, not even drinking water was available anywhere on the island, let alone food.
However, my vivid imagination of a thriving market, from the old photo, inspite of acute thirst and hunger that I made do with elaichi mouth fresher, was more than sufficiently replenished by the sight of several deer, even rabbits lining the narrow road we took to the ghosts of the once self-sufficient town of one time British ruled India.
After a brisk ride around the island, at the opposite edge’s scenic view point, before we turned around, Bishwanath was rammed in the shins, by the horns of a baby deer who was defensive when he tried to pet it. I was so alarmed, but BG acted like it was one of his cats. After the island ride, which was so mysterious as you can see in my video in the last frame, we sat down to the light and sound show – aptly described in Bishwanath’s poem written(shared here), just after we reached the hotel at the end of the ride on an airconditioned ferry – with a capacity of about 25 persons. It had wide glass windows – to be able to get a beautiful view, had there been sunlight as on the previous ride – now in the pitch dark and rain drenched sea, with a vivid imagination of what this now ghostly island must have once looked like.
Ross Island, or Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island as it is now officially called, was once a British penal colony but today it lies abandoned. Located in the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean, the island is now part of India and it is protected by the Indian Navy.
We visitedQ on 20th August 2022.

You may listen to the sounds of the show here in this link below, and imagine it along with all the photos I’ve shared:,vid:H5Ljut2Awfk,st:0

Please read more about Ross Island here:

Please view the rest of my album on Ross Island on this Facebook link:

Visited on 20/08/2022

#magicalmoments #andamans #andamantourism #andamandiaries #naturelovers #rossisland #portblair #photography #travelphotography #travelblogger #Andamans

This poem is by Bishwanath Ghosh lolllllll

This, below, we visited on 26/08/2022. But I had written and posted before the above…

On our return from Havelock and Neil Islands, Barathang we had visited before that – I insisted on going to Corbyn’s Cove beach in Port Blair, inspite of BG’s reluctance – from having visited several beaches over a week. Its not like the water sports this beach is famous for beckoned to me.
But somehow I believe I’m usually divinely guided, and thus my instincts tend to lead me and I willingly follow. I never pre plan my steps but just go with the flow.
I will tell you very shortly – how we reached the historic Ross Island quite by fluke, the very day we landed in Andamans.
On the way to Corbyn’s Cove, on this day, much to my surprise we saw this flag point, which we had seen distinctly from across the sea near the cellular jail, the day we arrived and also visited the place. If not for a drive to Corbyn’s we would have missed this point surely. The driver later replied that he had missed to mention, we could see it so close up.
Then on the way back from the beach at dusk I decided to get off once again and stroll the promenade – I don’t know if it was the essence of Netaji that led me. But after a longish stroll, it started raining heavily. I had been carrying an umbrella the entire day – but now had left it in the car parked at a distance. We had no option, but to take shelter under the nearby temple gate’s archway.

When I turned back, we were directly in view of the hoisted flag, flying majestically in the dusk darkened, also clouded and rain drenched sky. This would be our view at least for half an hour more, as we waited for the rain to clear and walk back to the car.

I cannot help wondering if Netaji’s essence – wished for us to stay there awhile, take plenty of photos to share and remind people of his story – unlike most who just walk or drive past, forgetting the struggles that led to the Independence we enjoy and take for granted today after 75 years. This incident was of 25th August, exactly ten days after Independence Day.

Sankalp Smarak: Andaman and Nicobar Islands – please view in the twitter link below –

“This place is not just another location in the country but it witnessed an extremely important event in the Indian freedom struggle, as exactly 79 years ago, on December 30, 1943, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted the national flag for the first time on Indian soil, at Port Blair & announced the islands, as the first Indian territory to be freed from British Rule.
The Smarak is a tribute not only to the valor of the soldiers of the Indian National Army and their innumerable sacrifices but also reminds us of the values enshrined by Netaji himself, “Nishtha, Kartavya aur Balidan” or “Commitment, Duty and Sacrifice” that continue to underscore the ethos of the Indian Defence Forces and the resolve of the Indian Soldier.

Uncovering the events that happened exactly 79 years ago:
It was on this day, 30 December 1943, that a national flag was hoisted for the first time on Indian soil, at Port Blair, registering the event in golden letters in the saga of the nation’s freedom struggle.

It is important to note that, Netaji escaped British surveillance from Kolkata on 16 January 1941 and stepped back on Indian soil after nearly three years, at Port Blair Aerodrome on 29 December 1943 at 11:30 am and unfurled a National flag the next day.

He reached the islands as the Head of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind and Supreme Commander of the Indian National Army marked a symbolic fulfillment of his promise that the Indian National Army would stand on Indian soil by the end of 1943.

This historic visit also marked a declaration of Andaman and Nicobar Islands as the “first liberated territory of India”.

Please listen in on the video clip here –

I’m all sharing this song to recreate the mood…
And the all time favourite:

More of the history behind the photos of this place – which is bang opposite Ross Island across the sea, of which I will share in detail in the next post is here.

Wishing you all a very Happy Vinayak/Ganesh Chaturthi with these thoughts, especially with the last photo after the two videos of this place at the end: Bishwanath Ghosh found this Ganesh ji in stone, ten days back, on 21st August, at the Wandoor beach, 25kms from Port Blair. Today also happens to be his mother’s birthday – who passed on in 2009.
What to make of all these coincidences I don’t know – but that the universe speaks to us – we just have to listen and decipher.

PS: this post is continued here:

Please view the rest of this photo album on the link:

#indianhistory #britishindia #andamans #rossisland


2 thoughts on “Magical Andamans

  1. Pingback: A chance, spiritual meeting with my origins in Andamans | Shuvashree Chowdhury

  2. Pingback: Where History has been preserved to blend well with the Present: Andamans. | Shuvashree Chowdhury

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