This time last year by Titas Mazumdar

It now seems like ages with restricted movements within a circle, restricted friends and family visits, restricted festival celebration and just no vacation/travel since March 2020. Living with the hope that all will end soon but when will that time come, no one is certain about it. Everywhere there is a talk of second lock down, second wave which will be even more devastating. We all are scared, a sense of choking, a suffocation is slowly surrounding most of us. When will all this nightmare end?

Talking to my aging parents in Kolkata saddens me more. Regular health check-up, mandatory tests, urgent visit to clinic for regular wellness has become the biggest challenge. The only fear is that will I not be infected if I go to the regular place where I used to go to cure my infections? No right or wrong answer to it. Aging population needs health check-up and frequent medical monitoring which has become the scariest part in today’s time.  Depression is hitting all over the place, we are seeing it in aging population, couples, mood swings in kids – What next?

People like us whose major Oxygen was travelling round the year in search of unknown doesn’t know how to breathe now. Turning the Facebook albums and Instagram photos, reminiscing on old memories is what we are left with now.

Every year around Diwali we try to run away from NCR majorly due to bad air quality and smog which anyways forces the schools to keep shut and makes office travel miserable. Last year on Diwali night when the city was glittering like a newlywed wearing a white veil of smog we fled to far south to the beaches of Andaman. Unlike Goa, Andaman beaches are around tiny villages, with simple people, simple food, and clean water. Every house decorated with those terracotta oil diyas (mitti ke diye), no Chinese sparkling magic lights anywhere. It reminded me of my simple childhood Deepavali days. Those thatched roof mud houses resembled Gharonda (Doll houses) which we used to make with our tiny hands with shoe boxes plastered with mud. Far far away from the hustle and bustle of the cities these Islands are serene and pristine mostly inhabited by the families of our freedom fighters or those refuges who sought shelter after partition of Bengal. The beaches there fall asleep by sunset and wake up before the first ray of the sun to amaze tourists with their beautiful sunrise, coral mountains & water activities. The white beaches, mangroves, tropical rainforest and under water coral reefs created a mystic around me.

Southern Andaman has most tourist foot fall. Places like Port Blair, Neil Island, Havelock are the most crowded ones. Me and my husband are not much fond of touristy places but again can’t delete them from our list too being the major attraction on internet. So, we did a quick 1 day halt at each of these places and completed our to do list to head towards our main attraction- The Baratang Island – part of North and Middle Andaman. To get into the ferry to Baratang one has to cross the famous Jarawa Land. We booked a private car and crossed the Jarawa land in a convoy of cars with local police escorting us from front and rear. Guess what? Not to protect tourists but to ensure complete protection to Jarawas – the indigenous people of Andamans from us the civilized people. Yes, mostly they are harmless. They speak Hindi, English and Bangla. We were stopped thrice by them for Biscuit packets, chips, tobacco and bottled water. We were strictly instructed not to give them any processed food which we consume as processed food are poisonous for them. In the past for years coming in contact with people from outside world and eating their food had caused severe health issues and sometime leading to death in this community. Today we are left with just handful of people from this tribe who thrive mostly on fruits from the jungles and fishes caught from the seas. Photography was strictly prohibited just to protect them from the outer world. Crossing this area was thrilling no doubt and meeting them was exciting. We reached Nilambur jetty to board a local ferry along with the car which took us to Baratang Island. This Island offers Mangrove creeks, beaches, limestone cave and Mud Volcanoes.

       Trip tales are never ending…I can keep writing for pages, and especially during this time of the year when I am almost house arrested for 8 months now….But as I always say there is a good side of everything…learning to wait for some scientific miracle to happen soon which will take away all the  cuffs from our hands and legs and soon we will be on the roads driving or flying to our dream destinations to breathe in a different air again. This wait time is not bad either…

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