Lakshadweep Part 1: The Ship

December 23, 2008

Wow. Lakshadweep is beautiful, just beautiful. Words can’t express it and photographs can’t convey it. You have to be there.

We boarded an overnight train to Kochi on Monday afternoon, which, happily, arrived a couple of hours late, so that we had a good night’s sleep and got up only around 6 a.m. Our hotel, Bharath Tourist Home, was only a short distance from the South Station. After baths and breakfast, we found our way to the SPORTS office in Kochi on Tuesday, and got our tickets and boarding passes made, a painless but excruciatingly slow process.

The next day, we reached the harbour, close to the SPORTS office on Wellingdon Island, by 9.30 a.m., and despite a long queue at the entry point, we were in our cabin before 10.30.

MV Kavaratti

The ship? Well, it was quite small, I think, as ships go, but quite pleasant on the whole. We were on the top deck, the fifth. Our cabin was small, but nice. We had two bunks, a desk, two chairs, two small cupboards, and of course, an attached bathroom, which was tiny but complete. And a speaker, which sprang to life in an alarming fashion from time to time, and which there was no escaping; every nook and cranny of the vessel had one.

There was a swimming pool on the deck a few doors away from our cabin, but it had no water. The bridge, just above and beyond the swimming pool deck, was out of bounds to passengers, but we managed a short stroll around it before the ship was completely loaded. It was lovely up there. There was a large, bare deck at the back which served as a helipad, and a noisy one in between where a lot of big red barrels were kept.

Ship to Lakshadweep

MV Kavaratti: Ship to Lakshadweep

The dining room was one deck below ours, and had long tables in rows like a canteen. There was a recreation room that had a couple of TVs and lots of chairs arranged in rows, a shop and a kiosk (which were both closed when I passed them), and a doctor’s office, which, thankfully, we didn’t have the occasion to visit. There were not, of course, any tennis courts, gyms, saunas, beauty saloons, bars or other such luxuries that I could find.

The other passengers on the ship were almost all Indians, and consisted partly of locals commuting between mainland and various islands, and partly of the tourist crowd, which included a disproportionate number of school children, a bunch of 40 teenagers from a school in Hyderabad. The twins shamelessly set about wooing the passengers and crew and had won themselves a number of admirers and a good deal of notoriety by the end of the trip. So much so, that they – and, occasionally, we also – had to pose for innumerable photo sessions before we finally left the ship.

Apart from our First Class 2-berth cabins, there were 4-berth cabins and dorms. The locals, who must be paying a much lower fare, got to travel sitting down, got their meals earlier, and mostly embarked and disembarked before the tourists.

A funny thing about the ship was that cabins could not be locked. You kept your valuables in the drawers and cupboards, which you locked, and left the room unlocked even when you left the ship for the entire day. I never got used to getting back to our room and not having to fish out a key and unlock the door, but nothing went missing.

I have only ever been on a proper ship once before in my entire life. That time, we went from Brindisi to Patras (Italy to Greece) and back, traveling deck class. Literally. We slept on the deck. And, man, was it cold! And so windy that at night, our flimsy cotton sheet almost flew off and landed in the sea. Well, this cruise was definitely a step up with the first class cabin and all… but with the air-conditioning that couldn’t be turned down or turned off, guess what? It was just as cold!

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Lakshadweep, here we come

December 16, 2008

All this time I’ve been thinking of Lakshadweep in terms of islands and beaches; what I’ve only just begun to realise is that it is not just islands and beaches, it is also a cruise.

Of course, when I say cruise, I immediately think of the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Now that was a cruise. This? I don’t know. We get to spend four nights on the ship, so it’s a floating home to us, but I don’t know whether it’s so hot in terms of luxuries, or, for that matter, facilities. I don’t expect a swimming pool, tennis courts, ballroom and stuff like that, but a large double bed, attached luxury bath with fancy-schmanzy shower attachment, and a private sundeck wouldn’t be asking too much, would it?

After all, we are going Diamond class. Ooooooooooooh my, that sounds so luxurious.

The reality, no doubt will be quite mundane. So far, my understanding is only that you get a 2-berth cabin instead of 4-berth (which you’d have to share) or dorm. Put like that, it doesn’t sound very luxurious at all. It’ll probably be a tight squeeze with the four of us and all our luggage. As long as I don’t have to sleep with my feet in the bathroom, I suppose it’ll be ok.

Meanwhile, we left home on Monday afternoon and caught a train to Kochi. This train doesn’t have AC First, so we had to slum it in AC 2-tier. We didn’t realise that you don’t get any food at all on this train, not even vendors and hawkers passing by. Luckily I had packed masala dosa (!!) for the kids and we all wolfed them along with a packet of biscuits and called it dinner.

The masala dosa was a first, by the way. Homemade, I mean. I’ve been practising my idli and dosa making skills diligently ever since our neighbour-friends invited us for dinner-cum-demo-cum-crash-course. My dosas have improved by leaps and bounds (they were at a level where they could hardly get any worse), but my idlis are unpredictable, which is surprising because I always thought they’d be the easier of the two. Anyway, I’m becoming a mish-mash South Indian, much to my amusement; I’ll be making bisi bele bath next. And inviting people home for idli-dosa breakfasts. Oh wait, I already tried that on my sister.

Anyway, I said fond farewells to the Christmas cake, which was looking rather lonely as we left. The last time I left home leaving behind uneaten cake was after our wedding, when, apart from bidding goodbye to my parents, sister, dogs, cats etc, I also bade a tearful farewell to a wedding cake in my honour that I had hardly tasted. Oh, I hate sweet goodbyes.

And now we’re in Cochin, eating appams and stew for breakfast and wondering what’s with the steamed bananas. There’s constant banging going on around here (literally, I mean; I don’t know about the other kind) so we’re wondering if it’s a belated celebration for our test match victory, or another Taj-Mumbai like situation. I’ll keep you posted, whenever Internet access is available.


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