Aruba boasts an interesting mix of cultures. You will find Spaniards, Venezuelans, Africans and even 10,000-odd Indians on this small island, located off the coast of Venezuela in South America. The local language, Papiamento, is also a mélange of tongues. The story goes that locals created the language during the Spanish reign in the 1800s, when most of them were employed as slaves. The Spaniards left an indelible imprint on the place, and that’s what makes it so special.
(Director) Raju Hirani, (actor) R Madhavan and I went there for a special screening of 3 Idiots at the Aruba Film Festival recently. We spent two evenings at the auditorium and roamed around during the day.
Aruba is the quintessential Caribbean beach city with quiet sea shores, cool waters and friendly locals. At the Palm Island, which is a hotspot for snorkelling, the water is unusually calm. I tried windsurfing and deep sea walking at the beach by our hotel, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
For a small island that is just about 40 km wide, Aruba has a whole lot of casinos that stay open all night. We usually hung out there when we felt like a three-card poker game or roulette. We had a good time at the South Beach building, the entire ground floor of which has theme bars, all with a different ambience and music playlist. That’s where I tasted Balashi, the local beer. It’s pretty good, a stronger version of Kingfisher.
Unfortunately, they don’t have much of a street food culture, but the continental dishes are delectable. We went to a restaurant called Pinchos, where a country musician entertained us with his tunes all evening. Since carnivals are such an important part of their culture, the organisers of the film festival chose to have one for us at the Renaissance Island.
Some of the local Indians moved there during Partition. It’s quite surprising why they chose this of all places. Some told us that they were heading to North America, but changed their mind when they heard that Aruba’s economy would boom in the 1950s. Sitting at home on a regular day I might have wondered why they chose Aruba, but after having spent four days here, I think I know what held them back!
As told to Aalap Deboor