A sojourn to the nether world
It happened to be the most consequential tour of my life when I visited Port Blair, the capital town of Andaman & Nicobar Islands of India. Situated at the juncture of Bay of Bengal and Andaman sea, the islands are the major tourist hub. The place which actually acted as a change agent for me was Cellular jail in Port Blair. Something inside me was drastically changed on returning from Port Blair. Visuals and the enlivening atmosphere of the place where our freedom fighters received hell of the tortures galvanised me to be more courageous.
Reaching there in the afternoon, I opted to take rest for two hours that rejuvenated the spirits and in evening as advised by my trip planner, I visited the famous cellular jail. The light and sound show described the history of Cellular jail in brief. This monument is a symbol of indestructible spirit of the great freedom fighters. It is a mute witness to the barbaric actions of the authorities of that time which were borne by the prisoners, who were mostly freedom fighters of Indian origin. I was deeply touched by history of that place which speaks volumes about the sacrifices made to attain freedom.
Next day, even though I had a plan to visit other islands but my heart & soul got entangled in the jail. I changed the plan and visited the cellular jail again in the morning. The Jail, completed in the year 1906 justified its name, ‘cellular’ because it is entirely made up of individual cells for the hermitical confinement of the prisoners. A massive three-storeyed structure has three wings connected to a central watchtower. This was a facility where 698 prisoners could be kept at a time. The Jail, now a place of pilgrimage for all freedom loving people, has been declared a National Memorial. The patriots who raised their voice against the British Raj were sent to this Jail, where many perished. The thing that disturbed me the most was the diminutive jail cells which were quite suffocating. Between every two wings, there were working areas where freedom fighters were given tasks like oil extraction. Even after working like animal, the set targets were impossible for anyone to complete. When they failed to do so (which happened everyday), punishments were inevitable. They were given just enough food to survive and were not even allowed to attend the nature’s call except for specific times. People who rebelled and went to hunger strike were fed forcefully which filled their lungs with liquids and some even died while protesting. Even then they continued the protest and set an example of utmost courage for our country. Living in isolation inside the miniature cells they used to sing patriotic songs to convey their messages and get other’s attention.
Many models are displayed which are exact replica of the kind of work the inmates did. A trip to the gallows is something of an unnerving experience. The gallows are preserved with three nooses recreating the atmosphere of an actual hanging. Adding to it is the underground place where the bodies fell after the hanging. A feeling of jolt runs down the spine merely by the very thought that one human being can treat to other human in that way.
Thinking about the sacrifices gone in the foundation of my country, I was ashamed of myself and my friends who are always in search of the comforts of life. Promising for not doing a bit of an action which degrades the image of the great country, I took an oath to make the country free from evil practices. The need of the hour is not the struggle for freedom from slavery but freedom from corruption, freedom from unemployment and freedom from poverty. One shall not shy away from the responsibilities but shall stand for the things which are right for the country, as many souls have paid a hefty cost in getting the freedom for us.
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