In the loud madness that defines life in the present times there are few destinations left that offer tranquillity to the soul. The tiny island of Diu that stands out like a pearl off the coast of Saurashtra can be defined as a poetic destination. It is a place where poetry greets the visitor at each turn.

In Diu one can just relax and do nothing, or if one chooses to explore there is lots on offer. Many define the island as Goa minus the commercialisation, as both are former Portuguese territories.

The must visit place is Fortaleza de Diu, or the Fortress of Diu, built by the Portuguese. As you steps inside you will be reminded instantly of the great lines by Robert Browning in his work ‘Love Among the Ruins’ where he describes the past glory of a fort and says:

Now the single little turret that remains

On the plains,

By the caper over rooted, by the gourd

Over scored,

While the patching houseleek's head of blossom winks

Through the chinks

Marks the basement whence a tower in ancient time

Sprang sublime,

And a burning ring, all round, the chariots traced

As they raced,

And the monarch and his minions and his dames

Viewed the games.”

This Fortress of Diu is a formidable and imposing structure on the extreme south east tip of the island. Originally constructed under Nuno-da-Cunha in 1535 AD, it was rebuilt by Viceroy Joao-de-Castro after 1546 AD.

The citadel is protected by the sea on three sides, and on the land side by a deep moat cut through solid rock, and was defended by several cannons placed on the bastions. It had facilities for storage of all kinds of arms and ammunition, ration and water to withstand a siege of long duration.

Many underground escape channels were also provided. It is considered among one of the most important Portuguese forts in Asia.

As one roams around the fort, there are cannons, turrets and lighthouses to be seen, apart from a glimpse of Portuguese architecture. It surely leaves an impact on the visitor. During one of the visits several years ago, a Western tourist who was into filmmaking had remarked to me as she stood facing the blue sea, “If ever I was to make ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ again I would make it here.”

The fort overlooks Pani Kotha or Fortim-do-Mar, a small fortress that also served as a prison under the Portuguese. Built in the shape of a ship to mislead invaders, at the mouth of a creek with sea water all around, this fortress has cells, barracks and a chapel. It is a delightful boat ride from the jetty to visit this stone fort.

This small island also has a must visit I.N.S Khukri war memorial in the memory of 18 officers and 176 sailors that were on the frigate sunk by three torpedoes fired by a Pakistani submarine in the 1971 War. It is the only Indian Navy ship lost in combat.

The incident took place on December 9, 1971 at a distance of 40 nautical miles off the coast of Diu. Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla, Mahavir Chakra (Posthumous) awardee was the Commanding Officer of the ship.

The memorial stands at the hillock on Chakratirth beach and is a replica of the frigate. A visit to the place around sunset makes one imagine the valour of the naval officers in that war. The last lines from the poem ‘The Sinking Ship’ by Dora Sigerson Shorter come floating back:

The ship is sinking, parting in a smile,

The sunset waters mark the last sad mile

In dimpling play and in a little while

The waters close, Death and his angels cry,

‘Stand by’!"

The I.N.S Khukri’s reincarnation as decommissioned first indigenous missile corvette of the Indian Navy is yet another museum on offer since the last year for a visitor. It was transferred to the Diu administration on January 26, 2022 after 32 years of service to the nation and the Navy to be converted into a ship museum. This reincarnation of INS Khukri was commissioned into the Navy in 1989 and served with distinction till it was decommissioned in December 2021.

Diu is a place where walking around empty streets during the day is a pleasurable experience. One can indulge in this exercise after a visit to the ancient Church or the Diu museum.

This again is a poetic experience that stands amply reflected in the lines penned by a poet writing under the name of Shreya Inks that read:

“I walk the empty streets gazing at the moon;

with hands in my pocket I kick the street pebbles,

its awesome to feel the silence tune;

away from the city crowd and its babbles.

I donno where it leads but it’s wonderful;

I stand by a lamp post with my hands crossed,

staring at the running city from the river side;

and the beautiful high towers lighted and glossed.”

Diu offers everything that a small coastal town has to offer. Long clean beaches and walking trails are luxuries to be enjoyed here. A visitor can still experience the now lost charm of watching a movie in a single screen movie theatre. The place is still saved from the monstrous shopping malls and visiting the local market is a delight. Right from fishing lines and nets to souvenirs to be taken home, the market has many tiny delights to offer.

The best part of this town is that no one pesters a visitor to purchase anything. The visitors can move around in all anonymity through the day in any corner of the island. The place is safe and boasts of almost nil reportage of heinous crime. Add to this the pleasure of not having any loud noise around. There is very little traffic to cope with and almost no honking. It is actually a delight to walk on the roads.

Such places have a close knit society where people care about each other and help in times of adversity. While a lot of youth continues to move out to metros and abroad in search of greener pastures, there is also a sizable population that prefers to stay put, or return to come back here in the fading years.

Being located right next to dry Gujarat, this small island becomes a tipplers’ destination for Kathiawadis on weekends and festive vacations. This is the only time when there is a rush here.

For the rest of the year, it remains a quaint town offering the bliss of solitude and anonymity. It offers space and time to anyone who wants to revisit themselves.