Letter from Port Blair

From Sunder’s letters:

Boat trip to the islands of Havelock and Neil, Andaman Islands, 1972.

Port Blair,
April 14, 1972

…yesterday’s trip to Havelock and Neil was memorable. The sea was absolutely calm, and I was on the deck of ‘Sagar Dulal’, a sleek touring vessel. Neil has a lovely stretch of beach, virgin and unsullied by civilization, fresh and pure, with the dense forests rising majestically on the slopes. The water is absolutely shallow, and so crystal clear that you could even spot a pin. Before we reached Neil a school of dolphins, big and small, entertained us with their antics. They have a curious habit of crowding a ship, and you suddenly find them jump out and do a most magnificent dive, with long snouts piercing the water. It is a lovely sight, and how they love to show off. Such precision and clockwork movements, as though guided by some remote mechanism. They travelled with the boat for almost ten minutes, they would come close to the port side and suddenly take a plunge, and while your heart almost missed a beat, surface gracefully astern! What a sheen and glow their bodies have! It is a marvelous sight really, it enthralls you, and at times they are so clownish. Havelock (perched up in bed I can see it stretching out in deep blue splendor on the horizon) looked more imposing with its rugged cliffs and crisscross coral reefs and shoals. We tied up at the jetty and took a dinghy out to see the famous coral beds. What colours, and what beauty—it’s a sight to dream of, really! It was an awe-inspiring sight beneath the water with a whole lot of colours and shapes. It was low tide, so we could actually get off on to the bed, although one had to tread very carefully on those fragile marvels of nature. We saw a lot of the live organisms that build those reefs and the unknowing spectator could well get his toe or finger caught in one of those gaping jaws! Imagine a shell with its two sides intact. At first you see a dark blue slimy affair spread out on the calcified rocks. The shell portion is buried inside. The minute you take a stick near it it snaps its jaws shut, and god save you if it is your toe instead of a stick! It was a most fascinating sight, something out of the pre-historic days. . . Nearby there is a whole cluster of smaller islands, Henry Lawrence, John Lawrence, Wilson Inglis etc. And from the west coast of Havelock Port Blair seems so insignificant and small though it is only 22 miles away. As we returned dusk was slowly enveloping the sky and the sunset was something to rave about. How fascinating is the world of nature and its fast-changing beauties! There was a most pleasant breeze pushing us shoreward and one by one the flickering lights of Port Blair flashed into view, including the lights on our hill, until the whole horizon became a magnificent necklace of lights. . . The serenity and silence as dusk turned to night was ennobling. You’ll love going to Havelock and Ellis I am sure, though from June through November sailing out could be a terrible experience with the stormy south-westerlies tossing and tilting the small vessels we travel in.