This afternoon as I was clipping my nails, I noticed that there was still some of that indelible ink on one of them. I couldn’t help but think of the surfeit of ‘inked-finger selfies’ and how questions of what it meant to be an “Indian” were raised,right through the overcharged coverage of the recent elections and the debates that followed in our living rooms and on our social media feeds.
Eventually, my train of thought brought me to the Andaman islands and how I had to travel without any papers on me.
This was back in 2009, I had just graduated from my management course and had sometime before I took up my first job. My friend Vikram and I decided to head to Andaman before we moved to the concrete jungles of Bombay.
I met up with him in Calcutta and after couple of days of Calcutta rolls, drinking and general tomfoolery, we took off from Dum Dum or Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose airport as it is now called. It was only after we collected our baggage at Port Blair that I realised that I had lost my wallet.
Initially I was worried about how I would now feed myself, it slowly dawned on me that I had no papers of identity on me. I could get out of the airport now, but how would I enter it on my way back? Some of the places we planned to visit were national parks, protected areas and such,we required permits to enter them, we need to book ourselves on ferries. How would we get hotel rooms? We were thousands of miles away from mainland India, how would I get back home?
It was scary for a while, but I remember feeling liberated as well. No “baggage”.
Thankfully, I managed to get scanned copies of my passport emailed to me and the rest of the trip went on without a hitch. It actually is one of my favourite journeys, I had a lot of fun. Seafood, scuba diving, lounging in lagoons, mini gigs by the beach.
These islands are truly amazing, the biodiversity and untainted natural beauty is breathtaking. For a visitor, it’s nothing short of a tropical paradise but being in such remote places must be hard on the locals, they rely on supply ships for even the most basic of their needs, they don’t seem to complain much though.
When I look back now,I realise that even while I was having the time of my life, I kept thinking about what the future holds in store for me. I was full of hope and with all the naivety of someone in their early 20’s was looking forward to joining work. Sort of like, how the average Indian is hopeful about his new government, let’s see how that pans out.
Travel Tip: Now with smartphones and google drives and services like dropbox, it shouldn’t be too hard to keep track of your documents and tickets. Always save multiple copies of various id proofs, tickets and other reservations , having a few hard copies wouldn’t hurt either especially if travelling alone or to remote locations.