Friday, April 13, 2007

WORLD CUP DIARY: Barbados in a submarine

Barbados has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, and is easily the most beautiful island in the Caribbean. I obviously haven't been to all the Caribbean islands, but some of my colleagues have and they assure me that no place is as beautiful and complete as a tourist destination as Barbados is. I say 'aye' to that from my scattered experience.

To start with, as always, the people here are the most fantastic. I don't know how much of it has to do with their orientation towards tourists and how much of it is genuine. But going by my experience around the West Indies, I would wager that it is genuine. Almost everyone goes out of their way to be nice and friendly, and it's almost like the experiences some of my friends had in Pakistan back in 2005. The people are, of course, almost as crazy as the Jamaicans and for sure, have that old bug in their brains. But where Jamaica is scary in bits, Barbados is not. Even in the night. Alone. On the road. Maybe, again, it's the orientation towards tourists and the knowledge that 90 per cent of the country's money comes from tourism.

And why not? All of Barbados is inches away from the Atlantic Ocean. The sea is a blue, blue, blue that almost looks like paint, it's so blue. You know, when you stand near the water, you feel as though the water itself is blue and if a few drops come and hit you, these drops will also be blue. It's not of course, but I'm not sure of that.

Then comes the food. Fish of so many shapes, sizes and preparations that I'm not sure Bengalis have a case when it comes to competing against the Bajans. We had an unfortunate experience with the fish though...

We had been told that you get crocodile flesh/meat in Barbados and David's is the place to go for it. So we went to David's last night, where we were told that South Sea Restaurant is actually the place. So on to South Sea we went, where we were told that the Crocs have become rather unfashionable and have been off the menu for the past six months or so. But they do have 'ostrich' in case we were interested. We were, but David's also had 'rabbit' and 'dolphin' on their menu, so we trekked back there. 'Rabbit' wasn't happening at the moment, but 'dolphin' was. Good enough. Did we want it baked or battered or darkened or grilled or abracadabraed? One darkened and one grilled will do, we said, thinking Solomon and Nefertiti had been conquered. No such luck though, because apparently dolphin is a fish called dolphin and dolphins are called flippers around these parts. So we went and chomped unhappily at the unfortunate darkened and grilled dolphins.

Life Aquatic with Shamya Dasgupta
That was yesterday. This is today. And today was the day when we were taken on a trip in a submarine about 100 feet down the Atlantic Ocean. We reached the pier and got on a small ferry that obviously ferried us across to the white submarine, which actually came out of the water in front of our eyes.

That was kind of thrilling, and so was getting into the submarine and getting lowered (or 'diving') towards the bottom of the ocean. Truth be told, the view was a bit hazy because of the sun choosing to play hide-and-seek and therefore there not being a lot of light down below. But it was still clear enough to see an ancient shipwreck that has yards of corals growing all over it. Apparently in another 40-odd years not an inch of the ship will be visible. The water was also clear enough to spot various eel-like creatures as well as many blue Nemo-fish, yellow and black tiger-like fish, a lot of silvery hilsa-like fish and one Hawksbill Turtle, an endangered thingy that is rather scared of everything, but happened to get stranded right outside out window. No harm was done to it though. Of course, a lot of corals were also seen, along with myriad Discovery and Nat Geo-like flora that seemed to be floating at the bottom of the ocean.

It was a really memorable experience even if no sharks and whales and dolphins and octopii happened on our path.

More legend-spotting
Yes, Charlie Griffith was met with. Head was titled upwards in trying to look at his face, which hovered many inches above mine. Photograph was taken with beeeg smile on face and huge hands were shaken. Some time was also spent with Reverend Wesley Hall and Joel Garner at a Barbados Tourism do the other night.

Now I had interviewed both of them in Delhi sometime back, so some of the charm was missing. But Reverend Hall being Reverend Hall and there being quite a lot of alcohol at the do, long chats were had with the venerable gentleman. Apart from that, there have been Cammie Smith and Vasbert Drakes, so there's been no real plateau. It's been peak (Hall & Griffith) to nadir (Drakes and Smith). Which makes me wonder: Was Cammie Smith ever even a player or was he just a bad match referee? Will check cricinfo.