In the serene island of Andaman, surrounded by a beautiful beach and lovely blue ocean water, there lies an architectural marvel. It is a historic building that had seven wings, radiating from the central tower in straight lines. It has only three existing wing structures now. It is still a beautiful building from the outside. If you go to the top of the central tower, you get to see the lovely sight of blue water and feel the fresh ocean breeze. The backyard of the building is beaming with coconut and mango trees.
Just for these beautiful surroundings and earthy looking building, anyone would have loved to have a holiday home in such a place and enjoy the serenity. Alas! How it looks and the history it holds are 180 degrees apart. Every brick of the building has stories to tell about the colonial rulers who looked after this building, the so-called cellular jail!
As we enter this building, there is a long passage and the prison cells attached to it. These small cells housed Indian freedom fighters in the last century. This building has tiny cells for inmates arranged systematically, called cellular jail. Those small barracks are equipped with heavy iron doors and small openings near the roof for air inside. These so-called windows could allow only the entry/exit of air and ensured that prisoners could not see outside through it. Those small openings are nearer to the roof so that one cannot have any outside view. Cleverly installed latches and locks that could not be seen or touched by the inmates. Empty haunting cells and the stories of unsung heroes of Indian history send shivers to your spine. A peek into the gallows where they could hang three at a time with one single lever could jolt any person.
Everything is built with immaculate perfection, makes you marvel at the architecture of the building while the irony of the history melts your heart.
Kindly excuse me for not having the words and courage to write about the punishments and the pathetic conditions of the prisoners.
There are plenty of boards, infographics, photos, and structural pieces of evidence to understand history. But the Sound & Light Show that happens at the jail premises every evening is the final arrow that could break any heart.
There is a grand old Peepal Tree in the yard that has seen the construction of this jail, stayed throughout all the atrocities on the freedom fighters. This tree was toppled during the Tsunami of 2004 but restored in the same location. It narrates the story of its life and the scenes from the history in that Sound & Light Show. As the tree and the walls of the prison take turns in telling the stories that they have witnessed, it is difficult to hold the tears or the choked throat.
At that moment, the question that came to my mind was, Is there any limit to human cruelty?
Frequently we come across the comparisons on cruelty and criminal behavior of people to animal instincts. Is that comparison justified? I won’t think so. Except for humans, all other animals do fight/injure or kill others for their survival. Either to eat the prey as food or to save themselves from the enemies.
But what about human beings? What are the uses of intelligence, sophisticated technology, a highly evolved brain that gives the ability to think, distinguish between an act or react, allows us to introspect, inspect and adapt, and so on…
With all the education and knowledge we have, are we incapable of understanding and implementing the simple formula for life, Live and let others live?
Why is it difficult for us to follow the old saying, Do good to others if possible, otherwise ensure that you are not harming them?
When do we get to see that era of peace and calmness where people would trust, empathize, and respect each other. Do we ever realize that we need to treat others as we want to be treated?
It is difficult to hold these kinds of questions and think about individual helplessness.