Unlocking Havelock

24th Aug 2019
Photo of Unlocking Havelock by Moramee Das

“It feels as a beautiful dream that I dreamt & had it my way all through….”

To classify myself, I’m a girl in her mid 20s who love to travel like everyone, who like almost everyone possesses “a bucket list”. In “my bucket list” I have written some of the thing I wanted to do in my lifetime on my own & one of those things was: Scuba Diving.

With certain desire we also get some least important (priority wise) desire fulfilled and that was what I got free with scuba –diving: to spend a vacation with myself.

I always wanted to travel alone & this time it was coming true as my pocket also gave me the green signal. I used to be a sportswoman and I usually went to play my Nationals alone with my team- mates but it is far different then travelling alone where you have no one to interfere with you wants, choices & desires. And it is far more different than travelling with your parents.

I belong to middle –class Assamese family where (even though my parents are liberal), the society I live in thinks, that it is a high time for a girl like me to get married and start a family but times changing! It’s not a big deal now for any girl to travel alone and for that thanks to globalization!!!

The hardest part was persuading my father to let me go alone and really it was a tough job, but I didn’t had to struggle that much because one days argument was enough & my father being a sportsman himself understand the freedom I always wanted, after all I was “his” daughter . I was thirsty for a break as from the last 3 months as I was continuously appearing for my exams in each Sundays. It has left me frustrated & I realized that I had stopped growing spiritually, so a break was an urgent need of the hour. It was not a planned trip even though I did little bit of research only one month before leaving. I choose Havelock Island for my vacation; it was a nearby island, a 2 and half hour journey from the great Andaman’s & Nicobar Islands in a ship and as my younger brother was pursuing his higher studies there I could have just drop & say “Hi” to him.

NB- This article is published in Seven Sister's Post on 20th Jan 2013

I got ready, my bag was packed, I took care of every little thing that I will be helpful on my travel starting from a needle to mosquito repellent, from a toothpick to a torch and etc.. My flight schedule was early in the morning, and as usual I was not able to sleep the previous night, I got only 2hrs of sleep & the next morning I got ready for my journey.Usually whenever I was about to go for my Nationals I used to be so excited from a week ago & expectations was on full swing but this time I was amazed by myself to see that I was not at all excited nor did I expected much. In one word my journey started with a very low expectation level.

From Guwahati I landed in Kolkata & three of the passengers, including me were taken to the flight to Port Blair & in this process I felt an emotional rush----“finally I’m living one of my dreams”. My brother came to receive me & the very next day I went to book my tickets for the “exotic” Havelock Island. I spend two days with my brother & his friends & finally, when the day came for me to head for Havelock, I felt a kind of sadness, I don’t know why, I literally didn’t want to go ……but I had to. I took a bus headed to Phoenix Bay jetty, at 11.30am I headed towards my ship M.V.RANGAT. The moment I climb the steps of the ship my expectations were totally “nil”. I found my seat & after that I didn’t spend 1 min inside, instead I went to the deck & enjoyed the beautiful scenic beauty outside -The blue blue sea, the green green islands nearby & the clear blue sky to compliment with .It was a reviving experience, I was just smiling……each & every moment thinking that “it is coming true”.

Finally after two and half hour of scenic beauty we reached our destination, and the contrast there was that as we are arriving, people were waiting in the jetty to go: coming & going was a everyday event there. I was happy that I have finally reached but I never thought of the moment when I will be leaving the place. As I climbed down I was surrounded by a host of auto rickshaws pullers who wanted to take me, I felt suffocated but I calm myself and selected one and asked him to take in one of the famous resorts “The Barefoot Scuba” .

Photo of Andaman and Nicobar Islands by Moramee Das
Photo of Andaman and Nicobar Islands by Moramee Das

Travelling alone comes with a lot of baggage, you got to manage everything, decide on everything, beware of con peoples, checking out for the cheapest yet comfortable place to stay. In one word it comes with lots of responsibility. But the important part here was, the island was small about 113.93 km^2s, safest place, police was everywhere, tourist are seen as “Athithi Devo Bhava” and finally the locals are very friendly .In terms of fares also they will charge you the reasonable .The place is a village, literally a village, no R.C.C buildings, one relay centre of Door-darshan, a market, internet cost about Rs.300 per hour (satellite) it is basically a tourist place where the resorts are made of beautiful palm thatched houses and luxurious upgraded huts but mostly its eco-friendly.It is essentially a tourists place , with only two main road .One route you will find all the best resorts of the place, the Elephant beach & Kalapahar and the other headed to the famous Radhanagar beach.

Keeping my luggage in the Barefoot Scuba Resort, I hired a cycle & went to check out some other resorts that suit my taste and finally “Vinnie’s Island (Dive India)” caught my heart. I shifted my luggage there, negotiated the price & finally talked with my Dive instructor .He was very welcoming & he said that my Open Water Diver Course (OWD with the maximum depth of 18 meter i.e. 60 feet) would start from tomorrow and will be followed by an examination where pass mark was 80%.He also added that I will be getting a Diving license with which I could dive anywhere in the world & pursue my course further. I was amazed. I went to my room, got fresh & thought to explore the place, just 15 second walk from my room was the beautiful beach were white sand & the variants of blue water awaited for me .

The next day our class started with the theory & video classes followed by the practical classes, on how we will assemble & dissemble our Buoyancy Control Jacket (BCD), check the air in our cylinders, test the regulators, check the time gauge etc and after that I spent some solo time in the beach reflecting, appreciating the beauty all around me .There was this blue wide sky, the sun, the white beach and in front of me the huge mass of water. The moment there can be felt like in two ways, either consider yourself as a tiny grain in front of the huge thing or as one of my friend there says “consider yourself a master because now the whole sea belongs to you”.

The next morning at 7.30 am was our first practical class, and in a motor boat we were taken to the shallow waters where we would have our 1st practical skill session. With all the BCD, cylinder, fins, masked, weight belts put on. We were given briefing on all the skills above the water & asked to descend. The first time I descended, I started to felling uneasy regarding the inhaling & exhaling of the air (here we have to inhale & exhale through our mouth not nose), salt water was stuck in my throat & I was constantly telling myself…I’m not that adventurous as I think…I was asking my instructor through hand signals to ascend but he didn’t gave me the permission. Later when we ascended he told me that its normal for a 1st time diver to panic, but we should be calm & solve our problems underwater because for a silly problem we can’t ruin a dive. It was very normal to get salt water stuck in the throat as we are in the ocean that too underwater .Now officially we were up for our 1st dive, it was nearby, there were lots of corals, fishes were swimming nearby in groups but I was not that able to concentrate on the beauty around me as a was too busy with the equipments around me, to keep myself neutrally buoyant, saving myself from hurting. But at the end of the dive I ended up with starches all over my hand and legs. But gradually I started to enjoy my dives, it was a very beautiful experience, you are in the depth of the ocean with only silence everywhere, the only sound you hear is the sound of your breadth: inhaling & exhaling. Every breathe of your counts. The life underwater has a life of its own, the varieties of fishes swim with you, there are groupers, shinning fishes, puffer fish, pipe fish, swippers, sweet lips, nemo, uncountable big & small fishes all having its own unique, it feels as if God have taken immense time to make them one by one . One just cannot express in words, it is too be felt. After my 3rd diving I was sure that I will continue diving later in my life. We had our diving from 7.30 am to 1.30 pm & usually after that my fellow diver have their lunch & go to sleep until 5pm when our instructor call us for briefing for the next day & also discuss what we did on that specific day. But I didn’t waste my time taking a noon nap, I instead take my diary & i-pod spend my time in the beach .I usually keep my tiredness for the night so that I can just lay and fall asleep. Those times I spent alone in the beach was the most treasured moments of my life .I thought before coming to the vacation that I will think about myself in the break & reflect, but nothing such happened. I instead listen to the I-pod and take long walks towards the sea, and usually at that time the tide is very low & one can walk till very far. During those walks it seemed as if it was “self-relaxing process”, all my worries were far somewhere & those “solo-time” with myself was very serene & the when is one is under the blue sky, vast ocean & the beach one’s soul is automatically elevated .I didn’t wanted to think about myself instead I wanted to just sit & feel & watch the beauty around. This place was different, a cut off place from the mainland (mostly refer to India by the locals).I haven’t seen Heaven but for me it was a “Blue Paradise”. Just last year in 2011, that I started to listen to new age music (e.g.: Karunesh, Yeha Noha etc.) & whenever I listen to it, I felt a connection but I didn’t knew where it linked to, there was kind of impatience in my soul, I had a feeling that I knew the link but I was unable to connect but the thing was that I had listen the song for the 1st time in my life, maybe was some sort of Déjà-vu??……… but sitting here after a year & a half I found the linkage. I can now relate those music to the place I was sitting and relaxing. Its feel nice to spent times with oneself. Really travelling alone makes one spiritually grow and also mentally calm.

with my dive buddies and instructor Ninad

Photo of Unlocking Havelock by Moramee Das
Photo of Unlocking Havelock by Moramee Das

I didn’t feel alone as such, but when I used to go for lunch or dinner & the period that I had to wait till my dish arrives I feel a sense of emptiness. Maybe it’s a part of travelling alone. In the night there is nothing to do, people usually have their dinner early, I too did in the 1st day but I started to delay the timing. Sometimes I would go to the market & talk to the Delhi-based girl Anita who owns a boutique and have settled there with her husband who does an import –export business, she says she misses the night-life in Delhi but now she is used to here. From her only I got to know many things about the place like during the season time there is rush here & all places gets booked & sometimes the tourists (especially the foreigner) used to spend night in the beach. This place is the favorites of the foreigners; they come here & stay till 40-50 days. In fact one of my diving friend from Israel was in his 40th day in Havelock. The place is very small so the locals get acquainted with the tourist & I had such an opportunity too where a Bengali family settle here way back before partition invited me for a dinner. And when it is raining at night I go to the resort lounge & chat or else sit in my room & study because I have an exam to appear in the end of my diving course. But I miss terribly my loved ones.

In my 4th dive I started improving & was more aware of my surrounding, I had lot of rashes in my legs & hands and whenever I go in the water it starts to itches ,but the beauty of the underwater makes me forget all those things, I started to explore more beauties around me. Whenever I m above of one of my buddies (in diving: diving partners are referred as buddies) in the deepness of the see I try to catch the bubbles that is exhaled by him, they are big and you see your images reflecting on them, but fishes hate bubbles. Our instructors instucts us to do “passive interaction” not active ,we are not allowed to touch any kind of aquatic life let it be fish or plants as we don’t know their defense mechanism & its consequences. It’s very easy to turn around in the underwater as you don’t have to turn your head but the whole body; the sun from underneath the sea looks fabulous the same that is shown on the Discovery channel .It is a kind of experience that should be experienced by all in their lifetime.

On my 5th day stay in there when I was walking in the beach, I felt a kind of sadness, a thought ran in my mind, it felt as if this would be my last beach walk “alone”, now I really wanted to travel alone in my coming days, but I also feel that travelling with a partner is also not a bad idea but I must insist that the charm of travelling alone that too in an exotic island like this is different, maybe because I had the dive course to be completed .

Photo of Unlocking Havelock by Moramee Das

My last 5th dive of the course & the last day of my stay arrived; we were taken to a location called M.V .Mars where there was a ship-wreck. At first we did a backroll & started to descend to the bottom , as we descended further we saw a “live” ship wreck, for a moment I thought I was witnessing the “Titanic”, yes… but it was smaller but it was an amazing site. Never in life I thought I will witness this kind if an image, we made round and saw different parts of the ship, from the outside the ship appears to be dead, dull and full of green mosses but as we peep inside we saw a huge amount of life swimming here and there, beautiful fishes of different colors, some big fishes like the Napoleon rush, some really ugly fishes too. As we move towards the deck of the ship, our instructor signaled us to lay our fingers in the railing of the ship & guess what! Some little red shrimps slowly came up and started to eat our dead skins from our nails, it was an experience. Actually we were previously told in the briefing that we might get lucky if we can make the shrimps to eat our dead skin in the nail part. So we didn’t panic and made the shrimps had their way.Finally the time came for us to ascend. The journey back to resort was beautiful; there was a pocket full of rain & a little sunshine. But I didn’t had much time, as I was leaving s by the 4.30 ship, I got to freshen up quick & then appear for the exams .Finally I passed the exams & was proud that I was a Certified Diver now .I came for just scuba diving here but I didn’t knew that I will ended up being a Certified Diver .Life gives us lot of unplanned moments& surprises. I finally packed my back, bid goodbye to my instructors, buddies, and the people who worked in the resort & finally to the beach, who with me have spent so many beautiful moments. And this time I was really feeling bad- “Havelock-sick”. I didn’t want to leave Havelock so early; I wanted to stay some more days. But time didn’t permitted me .A car came to pick me up & took me to the jetty. In the 5-10min route I was lost somewhere in my thoughts; I was very sad or say in “deep melancholy” as John Keats. But still I had to go. As the ship arrived I saw people climbing down and thought, this was the same scene when I came here & today I was leaving. I climbed up, found my seat & came straight away to the deck because I wanted to witness the beautiful virgin island as I left. The ship started & we were moving, little drops of rain stated to fall, and slowly slowly the sight of Havelock Island began to disappear & I stopped looking there instead I look towards the direction to were the ship was heading to. A kind of satisfaction was there in my mind as finally my scuba diving course was done & my wish of travelling alone to a place so far away from my hometown that too in an island was fulfilled.

It feel so strange that how we meet so many people in our life & make such beautiful relationship like friendship & suddenly we have to move away from them with no connection, just thinking to meet them by chance somewhere someday & on the contrary we go towards the (our loved ones) who are waiting for us. Really strange!

When our ship reached in the middle of the journey I somehow forgot the feeling I had when I was coming from Havelock, now I was starting to think about how to spend the remaining two days in Port Blair & I was happy about that. I have travelled more than half of my country but this journey to Havelock, I repeat will be one of my most treasured one, I will cherish this forever in my heart .Whenever I close my eyes & think of Havelock, I see myself sitting in the corner of the beach, looking at the serene blue ocean & somewhere in the corner of my heart I think I have spiritually grown a bit.