Prisons and bays
06 February 2013 | Neil Island
Michael and Jackie
Following a glorious sail round Rutland Island we had to bang back up wind to Port Blair where we stopped for a day. We topped up our fuel and beer supplies and then went to see the jail.
The cellular prison is a remarkable building, a "monument to the brutality of the British" it says at the entrance, and I'm afraid it is. The building is based on Jeremy Bentham's idea of a panoptic prison with just one jailor. They had more than one jailor but the design is similar. The prisoners were kept in seven long buildings arranged as spokes of a wheel with the observation area at the centre. The jailors could watch all seven wings simultaneously. Three of the wings remain, restored as a monument. Long lists of freedom fighters are now engraved in the central observation centre, and outside there are statues to famous political prisoners held there, mostly during the first half of the 20th century.
By all accounts the conditions were appalling the political prisoners were given impossible tasks of grinding nuts to make oil, enforced by a regime of whipping, solitary confinement and executions. What is perhaps most striking is the sheer size of the building. So many people interred in Britain's own gulag. It continued operation unreformed until 1936 but then continued with a slightly more lenient regime until independence.
After that Ravi, our taxi driver and local expert took us to the excellent market and then to a restaurant for some excellent curry and beer. The combination is unusual. Here you had to drink outside and eat inside.
We are now anchored off Neil Island, yet another pristine bay and Storyteller and Lady Kay have it all to themselves, even better. Low cliffs with remarkable sea arches enclose the bay. The sea is crystal clear and the sky at night deep black except for the numerous stars and the milky way.
Quite a place.