Apathy Wave

Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal in eastern part of India are a world apart – culturally and socially. It is distinct from the rest of the country as coconuts are from mangoes. It however shares a bond that is gradually making it similar with rest of the country. No its not Hindi films, railways, cricket, chowmein or masala dosa. It’s the increasing apathy of people like us towards place where we live.

The plane from Calcutta to the Andaman takes you over pristine blue green sea, dotted with corals every now and then. As plane flies into Andaman Islands the blue green turns green. Not just green but almost impenetrable rain forest green. Its so thick one wonders if there is space even for a pin prick. As one approaches Port Blair the capital of Andaman, the green gradually blurs and transforms into familiar brown and grey of mud and cement. Port Blair – one rightly expects it to be a tropical town breezy, open with smell of sea. Unfortunately honking cars, mismanaged market places, dirty lanes with garbage is what one finds. The sea around Port Blair is of beautiful green and blue shades – cobalt, turquoise, etc. It is also splattered at places with green, yellow, red, brown, pink, etc. Colours of plastic bags and garbage consciously thrown over board by people like us who do not care enough. Take the example of adjoining Ross Island. It has no permanent human population. It primarily has day time tourist population and few shops that sell tea and snacks. The island is divine. The swaying palms with sea waves crashing on the shore with sea all round can take you back into time. Run your imagination and you could be transported to era of sea farers like Vasco de Gama, Columbus and Magellan. But No! Along comes a Pepsi bottle with smiling face of Kareena Kapoor to gently remind you – wake up man this is 21st century – sea faring is dead. Chill out! The place has become a mini waste dump with packaging thrown by a caring visitor. Caring enough to travel light and not bothering to carry the burden back. Andaman and Nicobar Islands have one of the greatest diversity of corals in the world with Wondoor National Park being an important site. Corals are extremely sensitive organisms and any disturbance in their physical environment can affect them adversely. Besides being beautiful they support a large number of fish species in their midst and play a major role in preventing sea shore erosion. The scene at Wondoor National Park presented a familiar site. Beautiful environs with magnificently coloured corals carpeting the sea bed and that equally magnificent apathetic people like us. The motor boats that bring them leave a thin film of oil on the sea all ultimately permeating to the corals below. Adding to this mess is our passion for dispossession. We dispossess all plastic bottles, chips packets, aluminum foil hoping that they be absorbed by the sea and transformed into beautiful corals. Port Blair is just an example what is happening around us. The place represents one of the most diverse and beautiful places in the world. It is becoming increasingly uniform with other parts of the country in terms of apathy, chaos, gradual disappearance of indigenous styles and most importantly apathy of people like us who have little sense of belonging, ownership or connectivity. Uniformity is great – it might give resemblance of order and ease of functioning with familiar things all around but can it ever replace diversity that is so strongly rooted in a country like India. Let us care more. Please!

Published in: on 14 October , 2007 at 5:19 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. We are initiating this email discussion group that is going to be devoted exclusively to the issues of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. As you are probably aware, there are many developments taking place in the islands that are having an adverse impact on the environment and indigenous peoples in the islands like the Onge and the Jarawa. This group will seek to provide regular information updates on the latest developments in the islands, with the hope of generating interest and awareness and also a critical body of opinion that can influence decisions that impact the islands.

    Pankaj Sekhsaria
    Email: psekhsaria@gmail.com
    Member, Kalpavriksh
    Author, Troubled Islands – Writings on the indigenous peoples and environment of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands

  2. A nice post from an environmentally concerned netizen!

    Port Blair is the place I stayed between 1995-1998 and reading your snippet I feel a pristine place like the Andamans should not be handled so mindlessly.

    I’ve written a whole book of fiction set in the archipelago. With a heart-warming foreword from Mr Ruskin Bond, my book “The Remix of Orchid” has been doing well. More about the book at http://remixoforchid.blogspot.com


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