By Ashish Kothari, Batch of 2016
‘Beautiful blue waves washing on the shore, the crabs engrossed in their journey across sands, coconut water being sold to quench the thirst. Bliss, pure bliss’.
I visited Andamans in 2010 for a two week long vacation. The vacation proved to be an introspective journey coupled with an inner enlightenment and taught me that survival is possible even against all odds. The Andamans had been ravaged by the Tsunami which crippled the entire conglomeration of islands in the Indian Ocean.
The places I visited showed the indomitable spirit of human survival. The survival was majorly aided by the Tourism activities prevalent in the area. The tourism is associated with globalization which had a
negative perception associated amongst the native population. In India, the places of worship, places of historical significance and other heritage sites have lost their pristine form due to tourism. To see tourism being used to promote development in this ecologically fragile area was heartening.
The Andamans is a group of islands, and each island has something to offer on its own. The experiences ranged from water sports, jungle trails, cuisine tourism, rural tourism and historical guided tours. The residents prided themselves with the natural bounty bestowed on them. The government and the community were involved in cooperative model of governance. Both the parties recognize the need for a controlled and organized approach towards tourism. They are aware that by disturbing the balance will have disastrous effects.
The people have stories to tell. Their eyes reflect the struggle they went through and the lips play a smile which tell that the things are good. The Tsunami not only destroyed houses but crushed the spirit of living. Tourism painted a canvas with hope for the people. The community with their rich history and bountiful nature have stories to tell. And tourism gave them a chance to tell these stories, welcome people into their erstwhile barren lives and a chance at life. The people are welcoming and warm. They have hosted both the domestic and international traffic with élan. The Indian ideology of ‘Athiti Devo Bhava’ has been ingrained and acted upon.
My travel to Andamans was eventful as I interacted with lot of native population. My museum tour guide belonged to an ethnic group which was completely eliminated. He was 22 yeard old with the responsibility of keeping alive his traditions and culture. With the help of local NGOs’, he organized rural tours to share his stories with people. I also met an officer who was involved in the light-sound show at Cellular Jail. He belonged to the family of freedom-fighters and this was an emotional engagement for him.
Andamans is the perfect harmony of tourism and community participation. Here, people have utilized the power of tourism to spread the joy of learning about cultures and popular folk. The tourism also served as an instrument to pick up their lives after the devastation.
My experience made me re-evaluate life and salute the spirit of survival and appreciate the marvels of tourism.