A Mukherjee World View



We set sail around 12 noon on Wednesday, and the next morning, we were rudely awakened by the loudspeaker telling us we were at Kavaratti. We were to get to breakfast by 7.30 and to disembark by 7.45. I looked lazily at my watch, saw that it was already 7 and leapt out of bed. It was a mad rush, but we made it to the disembarkation door by about 8, and then had to wait for 20 minutes before we got on to a boat to take us to shore.

At Kavaratti, our beach was adjacent to the jetty, and was littered with small boats. The beach was pure white sand, amazingly clean, and the water was light green and almost transparent. After a welcome drink of tender coconut, which the kids guzzled lustily, we shed all our clothes (barring swimsuits: no nude beaches here!). At last, we could get in to the sea!

All four of us went in, though the kids were quite wary at first. The water was warm and shallow and completely quiet. Tara found that she could even walk in it quite easily.

After only a few minutes, a boat drew up to take us hordes on a boat-ride to the deeper areas where the coral was worth seeing. It was a glass-bottomed boat and the coral was really very nice in places. We saw a sea anemone, and lots of pretty fishes, which had the kids enthralled. We found out later that we didn't even get to see the best parts, because the sea was too rough, but whatever we did see was quite pleasing enough.

After the boat ride, Amit and I queued up in turns for the scuba diving session. We were each given a 5 minute introductory session with the gear. The instructor was very nice, very patient and good-humoured and explained what to do. Whatever we saw of scuba-diving (very little, I'd say) was easy. The goggles completely cover the nose, forcing you to breathe through the mouth, which has a tube sticking into it (everyone sharing the same tube, highly unsanitary). If you don't panic at not being able to breathe the nose, it's easy.

After a bit, a boat came to take us out to where the diving would happen. The kids came with us, as the instructor had suggested. All of us were deposited into another boat farther out and here's where the fun started. Turn by turn we got into the water, were strapped into the gear and taken down by a guide. The goggles really let you see everything that's going on under water, and I have to say there's a lot to see.

I can't say that the coral itself was very pretty - I've seen more colourful and exciting coral on TV and in photographs (admittedly in National Geographic magazine); but the fish! Wow! They were all right there, clinging to the coral, swarming around, coming in to take a nibble of your fist (yikes! I didn't like that!)... The colours, the conglomerations, it was wonderful, way better than it looks on TV. When it comes to coral, I'm keeping an open mind till I find something more spectacular, but when it comes to scuba diving, I'm hooked. Just those goggles dramatically change the way things look under the surface. I don't think I can think of the sea as just a body of salt water any more, I'll always think of those colourful little fishes swimming around just under the surface.

The entire diving experience occupied a couple of hours, and by the time we got back, it was time for lunch. Lunch was followed by a folk dance by a group of men, which we didn't watch (I've always found fold dances boring). There were 3 cottages reserved for the use of our group (about 150 people), so we retired to one of these. The girls spent the afternoon playing with sand and with a blue kayak they found on the beach. Some kind of sightseeing was on offer (a hosiery factory), which we skipped.

Tea was served and consumed. Then we went inland for a little stroll. Everything was very rustic (rural, and poor might be better words) and there were no obvious tourist spots like shops, restaurants, or even streetside vendors. There must have been a town or village somewhere, but right there around the beach there was nothing to attract the tourist. Five minutes from the beach, I felt that walking around in shorts was not really appropriate.

It was past 5.30 when we got back to the beach and I was getting eager to get back to the ship. Amit and I had bathed during the afternoon, but the girls were indescribably filthy and soon would be hungry and tired too.

By the time the ship finally appeared on the horizon, it was past 8.30. The girls had had a slow meltdown, first Mrini, then Tara. After feeding them a couple of packets of biscuits, we scrounged some food off the organisers, who managed to scrape together some leftovers from lunch. It was a lousy dinner, but the kids were past caring. By 8, both were asleep in our laps as we sat on the beach watching the other tourists enjoy the unexpected gift of an evening on the sand. (Usually, and on the other days of this cruise as well, everyone is back on the ship by 5.30 p.m.)

After the ship had been sighted, it took a long time to get everybody on to boats and ferry them out to the ship. As it happened, we were on the last boat to reach. The journey seemed endless, the sea was quite rough, the girls were unable to sleep properly, and we were completely exhausted by the time we reached our cabin. And then, dinner was served. We were almost too tired to eat, but we managed a few mouthfuls each, by turn, as usual, and then collapsed.

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