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Monday, May 21, 2007

Neil Island

Traveling alone, I now headed to Neil Island. The rainy weather disappeared, and it was sunny, hot and humid.

I stayed at the nondescript Pearl Park guesthouse. The jungle setting was spectacular, but the room was Spartan, with a variable-speed fan, meaning it varied randomly as per the consistency of the electrical current and supply. There was only one other cottage occupied, and I had to order meals well in advance, as they didn’t keep a large stock of provisions in the kitchen.

The place was managed by Ram, a 21 year old of Nepali stock, who had studied tourism at college in Port Blair. This was his first stab and the tourist job market. One of the neatest things about the Andamans is that it is an authentic mini-India in terms of ethnic makeup. The lingua franca is Hindi, although they speak a local variant. While the Andaman and Nicobarese natives are nearly extinct, with their dwindled numbers on protected islands in the southern part of the archipelago, settlers and their descendents hail from all parts of the subcontinent. The largest group is of Bengalis, many of who are Hindus from what was once East Pakistan, and who were resettled after the founding of Bangladesh. There are sizable numbers of Tamils, as well as North Indians, some Gujaratis, and Nepalis, among others.

The Andamans are a green paradise under a blue sky, as Ram pointed out. I was becoming accustomed to all manner of gorgeous tropical scenery that took my breath away each time anew.

I ventured out to the beach near the guesthouse. For decades, my favorite daydream, visualization, or escape mechanism, if you will, has been that of the perfect abandoned beach. After nearly two weeks in the Andamans, I was as centered as I have ever been. Still, the verdant flora, sandy expanse littered with seashells, rocks and driftwood, the coral rocks, the sound of the low waves coming ashore, all defied even my tendency towards hyperbolic superlatives. There wasn’t a soul in sight. I was master of all I surveyed. This was my personal ground zero, and I experienced what can only be described as religious ecstasy. This was the place I had always dreamed of escaping to, to be alone with my thoughts. Not the thoughts that occupy our waking hours at work or on the bus or whatever. The deeper thoughts that require time and the removal of all filters before they venture through to the conscious mind.

As I leisurely explored my surroundings, I found my thoughts wandering astray to the next leg of my trip to Bangalore, India’s hi-tech capital, where I was scheduled to give a lecture to the assembled members of the technical writers’ guild, the STC. That I should think about such a thing in those surroundings made it abundantly clear to me that my ground zero was a refuge, not a home. I could now find it and return when I wanted. There’s the benefit that I now have a real experience to visualize for posterity, rather than attempting to build a mental composite. Being in that centered state of mind, I realized that now was the time to simply savor the backdrop, paying attention to the details of the trees, waves, sand, and caves. There would be plenty of time for other endeavors. This is what is meant by living in the ‘now’.

The larger lesson learnt is to follow your dreams. Even if the end result is unattainable or unsustainable in the original form projected, the process and its culmination lead you to your true path.

I stayed only three days on Neil Island. Having made my pilgrimage to heaven, I had the answers I had sought. In addition to which, no internet, in practice no telephone, no TV, no AC and a menu, while tasty, that can only be described as basic, all contributed to a certain anticlimax. I returned to Port Blair.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It must be a beautiful island, considering its name !