Lingering devastation of the tsunami

Dead, bleached trees are the most visible legacy of the tsunami

Dead, bleached trees are the most visible legacy of the tsunami

Hut Bay, Little Andaman, which was struck by a 30-meter wall of water five years ago, still carries a few scars: now-empty beaches where homes once stood. But photographing that dramatically is a bit akin to taking pictures of something that isn’t there.

The most stark reminder: sun-bleached trees along the forest line (above) that were stripped of their leaves by the force of nature.

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The sea is a lovely, cruel mistress

A fetish to the sea goddess

A fetish to the sea goddess

On December 26, 2004, a tsunami wiped out a swath of fishermen’s homes on the beach near Hut Bay on Little Andaman island.

Five years later, I went there to see what, if anything, was left.

The fishermen and their familes have moved inland, afraid of the sea. The beach is scattered with garbage and little else.

A small temple was rebuilt near the beach, and fishermen worship there and at fetishes along the sandy spit for good luck as they head for their daily catch. Hanging from the fetish: bangles, earrings, hair and a comb.

The sea goddess is still worshipped because they know no other way. She is wonderful and terrible all at once, one fishermen said.

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Who needs baseball?

If I start a cricket team, the mascot will be the Cubs

If I start a cricket team, the mascot will be the Cubs

Indian men play cricket everywhere. Here, they’re doing six-a-side on the uneven ground once home to a fishing shantytown  on Little Andaman that was wiped out by the 2004 tsunami.

Locals haven’t rebuilt there; they say it’s unlucky; they say they’re afraid of the ocean.

But men will play cricket there, no problem.

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Drop a line in the water

Roots make a neat ledge for for string fishing

Roots make a neat ledge for for string fishing

One reason I came to the Andamans was to pursue a story about the legacy of the 2004 tsunami. That unfortunately fell through for a number of reasons: language barriers, logistics, me being sick in the middle of nowhere. But I did manage this photo.

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Of beaches and elephants

Since I read about the Andaman and Nicobar Islands almost eight years ago during my first backpacking trip in India, they’ve been third from the top on my list of destinations. I knocked off No. 1 (Cuba, and specifically Havana) and No. 2 (Madagascar) this year, so I’m going for the hat trick.

I leave next Tuesday via overnight train to Calcutta. From Calcutta, I fly to Port Blair, once home to the prison used by the British for undesirables during the heady years leading up to Independence.

I’ll be there for almost four weeks roaming about; I plan to return to the mainland by ship, a three- to four-day journey.

I’ve got a full list of story ideas to pursue, some of which will almost certainly be jettisoned once I feel the siren call of island life.

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