(Nature eating buildings : photo courtesy – www.galenfrysinger.com)
The setting is the Asian theatre of war where the Allies are pushed up against the Axis powers and against Japan in particular. The time is the second world war. The British war HQ in Asia is set in a little island among the Andaman group of islands in the Bay of Bengal, halfway between the Indian mainland and Thailand. The hectic social life of the British army officers garrisoned there is under threat. The Japanese are close.
Ross Island finally falls to the Japanese and once the Japanese too leave, is left to mother nature. And what a takeover she has done. Massive trees grow across every building built by the armies. Huge vines strangulate erstwhile offices and churches in a brutal, slow-motion tableau. It is one of the most vivid testimonies to the power of nature that we so often under-estimate.
The day I visited Ross Island, mother nature was at her ferocious best. After I had done the island for a couple of hours, I got back to the tiny shed that was the boat jetty. While waiting for the boat, I saw a very black line that extended from the sky to the sea moving towards the island. And in the next 10 minutes hit the island. The craziest, weirdest and the most powerful tropical storm I had ever experienced broke with a banshee screech over the little island and howled and roared for the next 30 minutes. I was born & brought up in Kerala, so I know rain. But this was something else. Even at its height, the monsoon rain that reaches the coast of Kerala does not have anything resembling the malevolence of this storm. Perched in a tiny shed, on a little island, in the vast reaches of the Bay of Bengal, I understood why the seafolk in Kerala worship ‘kadalamma‘, the goddess of the sea. Nature is divine in its fury and I was privileged to glimpse it on Ross Island.
Go there if you can. You might get to see God.