It has taken me over a month to post Lakshadweep pics but that's what it's like living in the love of the common people...
So after the bluest lagoon, this was our second sight of Lakshadweep as we sat in a little wooden airport building, feeling a little like apprehended drug runners in Thailand.
I had two best friends in school- Charu who became a doctor and Vidya who became an engineer. I as you know grew up and took pictures to post on a blog. But it is to be pointed out that of the three only Charu remained in a state of gainful employment. And thus it was that we found ourselves in Lakshadweep where she was on a 3 month deputation from her government hospital.
After we landed in Agatti, we had to find a way to get to the helicopter that would take us to Kavaratti, the admin. capital where Charu was stationed. However we were paralysed by the way we sat in the wooden airport and a little nervous because everything there is so permission driven and language is something of a barrier. When we made some timid forays to look for the helicopter we were greeted by hectic cries of 'anaesthesia party, anaesthesia party' (Charu is an anaesthisiologist) and whisked away. Ah, proximity to power.
For those who don't know, helicopters just suddenly rise vertically so it's a bit shocking. And they're very noisy too. So I basically sat tight until we landed where it seemed about 50 people were waiting to receive us (4 times the number of people in the helicopter) of which Charu seemed the least enthusiastic.
Turned out it was not us, but the administrator who was in our helicopter they had come to meet. I had thought he was a local land shark or tuna smuggler but Vidya had seen his picture on the website so she knew. Turns out 50 people have to come greet him everytime as if he's the local raj-ah. The island has crores given for development but you wouldn't know it looking at the litter (relatively) around Kavaratti. Our man's mug is everywhere. Ah the proximity of power to corruption.
At the dak bungalow which hadn't the remotest colonial flair - just concreted compound and a flamboyant cook whose flamboyance was most seen in his use of chillies and then in his twirly mannerisms - Vidya and Charu spent several hours cutting all the fruit Charu had mangaoed (and Vidya had bought to industrial capacity) with religious fervour while I slept a lot.
But anyway. Eventually there was the sea. The sea so blue so clear so flat it was a fantasy. I've never seen anything so wonderful. We swam and swam. We stayed two nights at the tourist centre where cottages were right on the beach - here's the view from our verandah there.
We went on a glass bottomed boat so we could see the corals. A crazy guy who would knock on our bedroom door each morning took us. He wanted to do Charu a favour- she being a dignitary. He would bring us coconuts at 6 am and we would try not to murder him with them He insisted and insisted till we agreed. He took us over the lagoon and then onto the ocean at which point Charu and I began to feel mightily sick. Then he took us back and charged us more money than the commercial guys! But, here are the corals as seen from the glass bottomed boat.
At the tourist hut we went scuba diving whereupon I promptly had a panic attack and never went at first. Later the guide took me, all the way from shore, swimming slowly. I cannot describe it. There are no pictures naturally but it's like going into a whole other world, a fantasy world of vertical shoals of fish, smaller than your little finger, little flat dashes of irridescence, moving past you diagonally as one; purple and yellow fish shimmying past, black and electric blue fish burrowing into corals that are huge, white, yellow, grey; brain corals and corals that look like rosettes and the kind with the many arms and all around you the blue-green clearn sun inflected water. So amazingly beautiful On the other island we went to I snorkelled a little and saw more of this but not the same as being there in the same fluid moment. Some of the fishes we saw are here in the poster below.
Lak is almost completely Muslim and the amount of veiling is quite startling - although on returning I was told by people that this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Although people live in these big thatched houses along the beach and inhabit the water with abandon, you don't see some of the free and easy existence you associate with seaside dwellers. Although this is a surface impression. You also don't see as many women swimming and when you do - well you have to wear pants or salwar kameez. Swimsuits are a complete no-no. And sleeveless avoidable. Charu very boldly informed me that "i've begun to wear Capri pants." Well, given it was like Bombay in May I should bloody hope so.
This is how we were normally dressed for swimming
KAVARATTI BEACH WALK
THE KAVARATTI FOOTBALL BOYS
SADDAM HUSSAIN BEACH
SUN, SAND, SEA
AND OTHER KAVARATTI SIGHTS
I did wonder about this one - was this a reference to the colour or to the state of being on an island?
Yes I am posed between the teeth of a.....
From Kavaratti Vidya and I headed for two days to Bangaram via Agatti, from where you have to take a boat on the beach.
On the way we saw sea turtles. These pictures aren't clear but it is an incredible sight.
Bangaram is among Lakshadweep's uninhabited islands - in the sense that there's no settlement here - but there's a resort. There's something particularly exciting about arriving at an island on a boat. For some time you are surrounded on all sides by a sea the colour of Chelpark ink. And then you begin to see a speck over the waves and the island appears and there's a primeval sense of discovery. You have to stop yourself from jumping (in case you fall over) and yelling Land Ahoy! (in case you look like a total git).
The resort is fantastic but we did not stay there, it being too expensive for us. Although if 16k a night for two (with food but not with recreations or drinks) is in your budget then it looks wonderful and you should. And someday if I am rich I sure will. Here's their dining room.
Instead Charu again used her exalted position to get us government positions. We managed to get it in a window - the governer of Delhi came right after us (we saw him at the airport while waiting for our flights out! I was just happy that he was going to have to use the same crappy loos as us. Or maybe there's a secret better loo somewhere). So it wasn't fancy but in the end it was the same beach - and this was the view from our verandah (man, I love verandahs).
The water was so clear you could be calf deep and still see your nailpaint. We had been told to say hullo to the cook here by the other cook and I implored that some effort be put into the food. So they gave us fish every day - caught from the sea. The main fish there is tuna, but there's also a sort of small snapper that they call "lagoon fish" which they eat. It's rather nice and if you go snorkelling you can see it swimming just under , small , silver with a black smudge.
It is hard to describe how beautiful it was. To be surrounded on all sides by water - it's a very small island - and trees. No cars, no autos. The incredible blue of the water. I've never felt so peaceful, so happy even. I read more on this island in a week than I have in 6 months. I read only for pleasure which I haven't done in years. I woke early and watched the sun rise. I went snorkeling. I lazed. It didn' t hurt that Bangaram, unlike the other islands, is the only one where liquor is available!
As you can see, sunrise does look a lot like sunset - but the colours are cooler, just a little different.
By the time we left, we were sated, but how I long to go back, sooner rather than later.
And I think I will. It's written in the sand :)