At the slightest mention of Andamans these days I break into a smile. The scorching weather of Mumbai melts momentarily in the sublime memories of the island where forests enchant and beaches enthrall.
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I close my eyes and recall the warm, tingly feeling of walking on its many beaches:
From the absolutely pristine, straight out of a Hollywood movie: Radhanagar beach in Havelock island with powdery white sands and turquoise waters, to the dramatic Kalapathar beach with its endless coral graveyard and pieces of naturally carved driftwood spread across the beach.
From the warm green waters of the Bharatpur beach on Neil island with snails and crabs for company, to the surreal sunset at Chidiya Tapu beach.
I still remember the music: the roar of the waves crashing on the shores, the loud din of the woodpeckers in Chidiya Tapu, the incessant song of the cicadas in Mt. Harriett and the rustle of walking on dry leaves in the Kala Pathar forest.
The crystal clear stretches of waters changing hues at Jolly Buoy with its magnificient corals and magical marine life to the rare, delightful rendezvous with the dolphins of Wandoor, Andamans never failed to amaze.
More than the joy of snorkelling in sparkling waters or collecting shells of different sizes and shapes was the joy of leaving behind your bag anywhere on the island to find it right there whenever you were back.
It had forests too. Lush, evergreen ones with huge magnificent trees. Trees that made you crane your neck as you traced their length and tempted you to hug them with all your might.
From the fragrances of the forests of Mt.Hariett to the mesh of mangroves at Baratang island with picture-perfect canopies.
And then there were limestone caves and a long memorable journey to reach them.
There were scribblings on the sand, conversations with the waves, tireless countings of the shining stars in the clear night sky at Neil and hide and seek with the many feathered beauties of the island.
Long balmy walks to Corbyn’s cove at port Blair to the crazy shopping sessions at Sagarika emporium. The rolling and pitching of the high-speed craft Makcruzz ferrying passengers to the islands to watching the lilting of waves onboard MV Belle.
Local interactions made the journeys worthwhile: meeting the strong willed Anuradha, the guide at Ross Island whose passion for her job and the island had a ripple effect on her audience, conversations with Aziz, the sailor on MV Makruzz from Minicoy island, a place I knew nothing about and the absolutely delectable food cooked by Reshma, the girl from Ranchi who worked in a local eatery.
Miles away from the mainland, with little connectivity, it felt an alien country, but yet I was at home.
When Pobitro met every teeny weeny demand, ( from chocolate icecream to the fiercely guarded wifi password), the Cook at Ripple dished out meals like they’re cooked at home, the best ever idli Wada was found at a jaw dropping rate in the middle of a forest and Drumstick leaves pakodas were gobbled at Laxmanpur beach at Neil Island, when everyone at the island lent a helping hand and nights were spent chatting endlessly with Janhvi, who wouldn’t be at home.
I feel the sprays of sea salt and the cool sea breeze, till I hear honks of cars and the screeching of buses in this busy street.
I think I left a part of me, under the tall Mahua tree, or on the Kala Pathar beach maybe,
In this paradise called Andamans.