Friendly-natured people in Antigua leave a lasting impression

Antigua (PC: Debasis Sen)

Ishaan Shahane and Debasis Sen in the West Indies

The World Cup has entered its thrilling Super 8 stage, and with the Indian team scheduled to play its matches in the Caribbean over the next 10 days, cricket fans can anticipate action-packed matches ahead.

Tonight, India face Bangladesh at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua. Antigua has captivated the yours truly in numerous ways since the writer’s arrival a couple of days ago. It stands out for its simplicity, which can be both a blessing and a curse. While it offers a serene and content life for its residents, visitors may find the experience somewhat challenging.

Upon landing at V.C. Bird International Airport, Debasis and I easily found a taxi to take us to our accommodation. However, settling in revealed the stark reality of being disconnected from the world. With a weak cellular network, we relied on WiFi, and even a simple task like finding a supermarket became daunting. Residing on the outskirts of Antigua, the closest supermarket we located was a lengthy 40-minute drive away in the city area. Fortunately, the owner of our Airbnb kindly dropped us off, but our challenges persisted after finishing our grocery shopping.

With Uber services unavailable, finding a taxi became increasingly challenging, especially during the evening when wait times stretched, leaving us stranded for an hour. After persistent efforts with Waitrose’s customer service team, we finally managed to arrange a taxi. It was a tumultuous start to our journey since arriving, but our taxi driver, Ernest, made all the difference.

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Antigua Recreation Ground
Antigua Recreation Ground (PC: Debasis Sen)

Cricket runs deep in Caribbean culture, and the people of Antigua exhibit an unparalleled passion for the sport, particularly evident in their excitement about hosting the World Cup. As we navigated the streets of Antigua, this fervor was palpable. Ernest, our driver, shared his thoughts on West Indies cricket, recalling his favorite players from the past. He was particularly awestruck when my senior, Debasis, showed him photos on his phone with the legendary Sir Vivian Richards. In typical Caribbean style, Ernest exclaimed, “Oh man, that’s just amazing.”

Just when we thought our challenges in Antigua were behind us, we both faced another setback when he realised upon returning to our accommodation that his phone was missing. Stressed and anxious, we quickly deduced that the phone might have been left in Ernest’s car while we were showing him photos earlier. Despite our efforts to contact Ernest that night, we received no response, and hope of retrieving the phone seemed bleak.

Deciding to rest and strategize in the morning, we found ourselves in a similar predicament during the early hours, until around 7am when loud honking outside our accommodation startled us awake. Debasis hurried out to investigate, only to find a displeased-looking Ernest holding up the missing phone. “Is this your phone, man? I had to come all the way here,” he grumbled, requesting $20 for his trouble. Overwhelmed with relief and joy, Debasis couldn’t believe his luck.

Even though Antigua may lack some of the conveniences typically expected by tourists, it’s the warmth and kindness of its people that truly define the experience. Whether it was the owner of our accommodation who generously provided us with rides, the helpful customer service team at Waitrose, or Ernest going out of his way to return Debasis’s phone, these interactions reinforced the belief that it’s not just the location but the people who leave a lasting impression on you.

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