The day was a sunny winter morning. The boats were lined up. The crowds were thick and increasing by the minute. Sunday mornings witness the local crowds as well as tourists from across the nation and the world.
Things at the Gateway haven’t changed much. There is a memorial to the dead. The crowds have an additional item to view. The tourist guides relive the tragedy every day, every hour.
The police finally rush to put up the blockades. Security desk is set up and bags are being checked. But, hey! Three quarters of the crowd were already on the other side of the barrier, including me and we got past without the police check. Some members of the group even had telescopic cameras and inflammable material. We were going to the islands for a trip, passing from very close to the defense areas.
Well, we shrugged and boarded the boat, with a ticket for ten rupees. There were foreign citizens with us. The boat sailed and the cameras started whirring. The boat ushers warned us to keep them away – we were in a high security area. The cameras disappeared only to be fished out again after a few minutes – sea gulls being a reason – nice shoot, these birds. Birds are always shot the best with telescopic lenses, as every photo buff will tell you.
Surely, telescopic zoom lenses are enough even at long distances to click the docks? Carriers 450 and 105 were fully docked – naval forces or crews perhaps, were on the docks, in a platoon, on the daily drill, with their backs to the boats carrying hordes.
We reached the jetty of the island. Tourist trade abounded along the jetty and the narrow approach way to the main square. Paths diverted, as we head out towards the wooded trail and the tourists go to the tourist spot. A little village lay at the end of the trail. Signs of an illegal brewery were strewn around.
Beautiful cement houses at the tip of the village. Painted by an expert – straight from the color guides…color combinations with taal mel; happy colors; all together in the few homes, which lay scattered there. Signs of a wealthy village were evident. A closer look behind revealed a narrow alleyway on a hillock with houses on both sides – much like the urban slums. A mongrel chased hotly by a collared white pomeranian, intent on sucking on its milk…hmnn…not an everyday scene. A healthier, well-groomed Alsatian appeared on the scene, eyeing the pomeranian hungrily. Another dog barked in distance, drawing an immediate response from the pomeranian – who ran off wildly, barking back. Wish I could understand doggie!
An old lady in a pretty ‘navwari’ walked past decked in heavy gold, with ear lobes down to her neck – grumbling, at our stares. A couple of youngsters walked past, with Bluetooth and the latest mobiles. A couple of them had headphones in their ears. An older man carried a loud transistor with him. Changing face of India’s rural yuppies… a few yards later, there was a bhoot bangla and another jetty. Tiny curves and caves, many places for hiding boats by the night – the kind that fuel drug trade or smuggle foreign silk from Pakistan and China – imported goods to be sold on gray markets – goods, which have hidden recesses for drugs…I wonder what the source of hidden wealth is – what the trees of forests hid amongst them – or was it just the tourist trade – the exciting colorful stalls with knick-knacks that were twice the rate on mainland – feeding mercilessly on the foreigners hunt for the bargain? The tired old couples were among the tourists, striding daintily in heels and peeling red in the sun – avoiding the numerous food stalls, which lined the public path.
One wonders whether we really care that we were attacked by terrorists not so long ago. Lots of prying eyes in the milieu – plenty of could be spies or maybe fugitives. Collecting data and storing it in their heads. Enough places to hide; to stay unnoticed for days on end….the chilling truth is that we just don’t give a damn – until the terrorists strike again, that is!