WARNING: All characters and incidences written below are real. The following content has an intense depiction of bad weather and severe complain on the weather Gods.
What plans for your birthday? Where is the party? Where are you treating us? Who are all invited? Between all what’s and where’s, I started pondering how I actually wanted to celebrate my birthday. Will it be another night of going out to dinner or throwing a party to my friends and a show or just a simple family get together? Most of my birthdays have been in one of the above categories. That’s all good and done, but I was craving to go out of my comfort zone and do the thing I love most, travelling. And to an island in the middle of nowhere (yeah I know, I could have settled for Goa or Pondicherry for a beach destination but the travel junkie in me wanted to push it a little further)
That Exotic Birthday
I planned the trip, packed my bags for that exotic island destination, and told the whole world that I am hitting the beach for my birthday. Exactly a week before the trip, the weather forecast was cautioning us of an upcoming storm and bad weather. Most of my friends warned me to cancel the tickets and stay home. Inspite of all the warnings, bad weather and continuous downpour, yes, I still boarded the flight to the freaking island. (What can I say! I followed my heart). The day I landed in Andaman, it was bright and sunny day, and my heart did a little somersault as everything fell into its place. I could still picturize the clear skies, blue seas and the dense forests around; I was more than just happy. May be the weather Gods were winking at me which I dint realise at that point.
The main land was mostly crowded by mehendi clad, red bangled women posing for selfies with their husband. I guess the place was more of an ideal choice for couples and honeymooners. I was sure not a right fit to the place. Next day, when I boarded the cruise to a nearby island, I was hoping to find fellow travellers and resolved to befriend them. But things never work the way we want. With couples and families surrounded on both sides and all hope lost, I finally found my seat on the cruise.
As I was soaking in the stunning visual in front of me, I heard a voice asking me whether he could occupy the vacant seat next to me. He was tall, broad shouldered guy with a mop of dark hair and scythe shaped eyebrows that were offset by a boyish grin. He was sporting a Ryan Gosling beard that had a tinge of salt and pepper style. To top it all he had a husky voice. He must be in late thirties, and he looked handsome AF. I swear men when they age, they tend to become smarter and dapper. The initial courtesy exchanges were the conversation starters, after which topics easily flowed between us when we found out we liked some of the same books. We talked about movies, politics and most importantly travel. He worked with a major travel giant in UK and had travelled to some 30 countries and he was planning to stay in the island for good 3 months. My travel aspirations grew higher hearing his stories. The 3 hours cruise ride flew in a jiffy or that’s what it felt like. Finally I bid bye to him and took a rick to my resort. It struck to me then that neither of us asked names nor exchanged numbers.
With the entire day in hand, I started exploring the island. It was remote, scenic and exotic making it the prefect destination for my birthday. As the day passed by, the stormy weather from Chennai had followed me all the way to Andaman. Clearly the weather Gods couldn’t believe that I was finally enjoying the day so they had decided to put on a show. Which started as mild rainfall transformed into a never-ending downpour, armed with strong winds and heavy tides (Perks of having your birthday in December).
Hoping the rains would recede and weather would get back to normal I went to bed, only to be woken up for a more terrific day. All the cautionary flags have been raised throughout the island and all the ships that ply in and out had been cancelled (meaning the cruise that I had to board that day to get to the main land was also cancelled). Leave internet, there was no network in the first place, no cable TV, no newspaper to even know what’s going on in the world outside the island. What more can I expect from an island that runs on a power generator! Yes, you read it right. The entire island functions on a generator for which fuel comes in the cargo ship every day. With all the ships cancelled, I could only be thankful for what I had in hand, a little bit of food and fuel to last a couple of days at the resort. Maximum I could do was to walk 50 meters to the sea and stare at the never ending line of the ocean. In all aspects, I was shut from the outside world.
With nothing much to do, I took walks in the rain, interacted with the locals and figured out what to do for the rest of the day (was also secretly hoping to meet the stranger that I met in the cruise). For me, getting stranded in an island wasn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. I liked the sense of being totally cut off from the predictable world of my everyday life, immersed in the strangeness of the new.
As days passed by the fuel ran out and the food stock was coming to an alarming end. By then the Indian Navy decided to rescue the people stranded in the island. They had launched their operation of evacuating the people from the island. Panic ran all over the place. I could see helicopter coming in to carry people to the main land and people rushing to the harbour to somehow secure a seat in the ship. Packing my bags I rushed to the harbour only to see five hundred odd people standing in the queue ahead of me. I waited the whole day in rain and wind, hoping to get into the ship. Alas! By evening the navy came back saying the sea was very choppy and dangerous to take people forward.
A tremor of fear went through me, sending a chill up my spine. For the first time in the whole trip, I thought I would be stranded in the island forever and never get back home. On my way back to the hotel, I bumped into the same guy I met on the cruise(I had been stranded in the island for 6 solid days, at some point I knew this would happen but of all the times, I had to bump into him when I was teary eyed and broken, why God why!). Seeing my panic stricken face, he calmly reassured me saying, “It’s okay. Not everything goes by the plan, especially when you travel so tell your heart to never lose hope, miracles do dwell in the invisible.” All I could do was manage to smile back at him.
Lessons for life
Next morning, the scorching sun was piercing the heavy clouds and the rays hit my face reassuring and rebuilding the lost hope in me (By now, I had begged all weather Gods to be merciful on me). Finally I boarded the ship and when it started to leave, I saw the same guy standing in the dock waving and smiling at me. My happiness knew no bounds and curiosity grew leaps and bounds, I waved back at him as I shouted in the air asking for his name. I could see him respond, he was doing some animated actions, which was kind of cute, (that’s exactly why I missed to decipher his actions, damn) just that I couldn’t hear him say it as the ship started sailing away in the ocean. I came back home safe and sound with heap loads of memories and a story that will last in my memory for the rest of my life.
Travel gives us a delicious sense of disorientation that Alice-in-Wonderland feeling that even the smallest, most mundane details of life has been switched around. I think that’s what travel is all about. We’ll meet strangers who will inspire us just by being who they are and doing what they feel they are called to do. They will sometimes be the angels in disguise who will help us avoid trouble, ease away the inconvenience and reassure faith in us and then promptly disappear from our sight and our life.
To one of those strangers who inspired me, who reassured me, I will always #Swiperighttotravel.