My Contemplative Travel Diaries: Cellular Jail, Port Blair
When you look at the picture above, what comes to your mind?
Let me help you find the words. It is beautiful, surrounded by nature and breathtaking. One can stand here admiring the vast ocean and feel the free, refreshing air cleanse the tired soul. You can see a steamer in the distance surrounded by the blue ocean. You stand there contemplating the depth of the ocean surrounding you. You are cut off from the world that is running at the speed of light. Free from the stress, the crowd, the routine. You must be wondering what place is it. This is the view from the famous “Cellular Jail” (Kala Pani).
The Cellular Jail
For those who have been living under a rock, and do not know what Kala Pani is, let me help you. The Cellular Jail, also known as Kala Pani, is situated in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This is the place where, so many freedom fighters spent a good part of their youth, fighting each day all for their motherland. This colonial prison was built by the British for exiling the political prisoners. The purpose was isolating them on this island. For the people in those days traveling away from their land used to be taboo which risked them to be exiled from their society. Political prisoners were imprisoned here and went through a great deal of suffering. No writer would be able to pen down that enormity of that suffering.
More About The Cellular Jail
It's construction started in 1896 and got completed in 1906. It was originally meant to be prepared in three years. But it got built in ten long years. This place has seven wings with an intersection in the middle. The intersection was the area from where guards used to keep an eye on the inmates. There are three stories in each wing.
The cells were meant for one inmate sentenced to solitary confinement. No inmate could talk to the other. There was just one ventilation point inside the cell. You get goosebumps on entering these cells. No person could dream about spending a more than a minute inside. Whereas, the freedom fighters spend a large part of their lives in those cells. All the freedom fighters who were imprisoned here were a from a rare breed, a breed of bravehearts.
Model of the "Cellular Jail"
We all complain that we do not have big houses or expensive things. But if we walk into the Cellular Jail, all your concerns seem so small. All those freedom activists, young or old, happily spent their life in that prison. We cannot live without the security of the little worlds we have created, but they sacrificed it all. And did that with no grudges in their hearts.
What meaning do we attach to the word freedom?
Maybe it’s going out partying, maybe it’s being able to study, or it's related to the clothes you wear and list can go on. We look at the word freedom with our own perspective. There can be a million meaning we can attach to that word. But we sometimes forget how hard it was to earn that freedom. The life the inmates lived, in this small dingy cell, surrounded by dark was freedom to them in a way. The freedom they were fighting for.
The Punishment Dress
The above picture is of the "punishment dress" the inmates wore when the authorities decided to torture them. There is a "light and sound show" that describes the harsh and animalistic behavior they all went through but kept on fighting. Trust me, visiting "Cellular Jail" is a must do activity when in Port Blair.
Can you ever imagine what it must have felt like?
Walking through those halls all I could think about was how difficult their lives must have been. How could someone be so passionate about something that they sacrificed all comforts, happiness, even their families? So many of them lost their lives trying to fight the battle of freedom. Whilst admiring the beauty if the Cellular Jail from the roof top, all I could think was that those inmates would have disagreed. That view would not have been a rejuvenating or freeing for them. They must have felt trapped, thrown away to suffer just because they cared to raise voice for freedom. But they believed in the bigger cause they were fighting for and took all the sufferings with a smile.
Statue of Veer Savarkar
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar or Veer Savarkar, as people call him, was a political prisoner in the Cellular Jail. He wrote poems on patriotism whilst being imprisoned. He did not need a paper and a pen. He used thorns and nails to engrave the walls of the jail with his poems. They aren't on the walls anymore but were a proof that the dingy cells did not break him. He lighted them up with his verses that showed his patriotic and brave spirit.
The names of the bravehearts
Towards the intersection, there were names engraved on the walls. Those names were of all the freedom fighters who were ever imprisoned in the Cellular Jail. While I was going through the names, there were many thoughts running in my mind. We all visit places, talk about it for a while and then blend back into our lives. But, do we do something about it? No.
What can we do?
I won’t say that we need to do something extraordinary or even try to be great. We can respect the life we have though. Think about it, if the biggest problem of our lives is that we do not have expensive phones, then we are leading a pretty good life. There are people who do not know if we are going to live another day. People fought for the freedom we have today, sacrificed their lives. We owe it to those sacrifices to live and cherish the life we are gifted.
Waking through these halls, I decided to live my life to the fullest. I have decided to live a content life and put the gift of freedom that I have to better use.
Would love to hear your views.
© 2018 Vishakha Khajuria