Monday, 17 October 2016

A Date With Jarawas - The Adivasis of Andaman

I first met Jarawas through the Hindu Newspaper while I was preparing for the civil services exam. I don't know why, but tribal is one such topic that grabs my attention instantly. Jarawas are one such tribal species that belong to the Negrito origins and came to India from Africa around 60,000 years ago. So, practically, they form one of the most ancient groups of our human race.


So, I read about the atrocities that people used to mete on them while trespassing through their corridor that is NH4 or the Great Andaman Trunk Road. Foreign and Indian tourists alike used to lure them with food and ask them to perform or sing in return. That was pathetic, I know. Although, Supreme Court ordered to block the road for a while, but thankfully it was open when we planned this trip. Since, with global warming and tsunami, they are hapless today and short of natural resources with which they once fed their families. So, they did do the things that were asked by the tourists.




So, coming back to the story! I knew it then and there that one day in my life, I would surely see them live. That day finally came and it was our last day of the trip as in like Travelling as the next day we had to board our flight back to Delhi.

We both are passionate travelers (Thank God! Sachin too has the zest to travel), so, we got ready early in the morning at 0300 AM. Our driver Ashish was right on time and we reached Jirkatang around 0520 AM. Along the route, we trespassed, Cattlegunj, Tsunami affected region, and dense fog had engulfed the area (since it was early morning).

These Two Were Tsunami Affected Regions Which I Captured On Our Way Back To Port Blair

As I am writing this, I can recall each and every moment that went so well. We got the opportunity to see the rising sun. One of the most beautiful sunrises to encounter in life. There was a small Shiv Temple and cattle were grazing in the fields in front of us. We had our breakfast at the spot which was a hot, sumptuous and lip-smacking idli sambhar.

Shiv Temple @ Jirkatang

It was a heavily militarized area. We need to fill up forms and ask for permission to travel across the road. Ashish had kept everything already in place so we just needed to comply what he had told us. So, our journey started sharp at 0600 AM and hardly after moving 500 meters, I was thankful as I got to see two groups of Jarawas. Can this be the view I had waited all my life till now? Probably YES! It was one of a kind feeling and seriously man, I cannot describe in words. I wish I could get a photograph clicked. :(

Anyways, one of the two groups comprised of a mother with three children who were painted white over their faces and another was a group of three women probably basking in the sunshine or simply viewing the vehicles trespassing. The group of women was sitting under a tree. The road stretch is of 50 kilometers post which you will land up at Baratang. Along the route, you will be greeted by tree-lined across the boulevard and if you are lucky lots and lots of Jarawas holding ax, blades, and sickle in their hands. Though they will not harm you unless you won't say anything to them. But, now there is no chance of talking to them because laws are quite stringent. Tribal Officers wearing plain clothes could be seen around with the groups of Jarawas and even if you try to take a snap, they will catch you and cancel the driver's license or even worse, the taxi service license.

Along the 50km route, I could see fumes coming out of that dense forest at one point whereas rays of the sun were straining through the leaves in the other. And an echo of something that wasn't seeming creepy. Don't know if it really was or not? :P

Approximately 19 kilometers before reaching Baratang Island, creek came in our way where eagle made an eye contact and we encountered drop-dead gorgeous and colorful butterflies. As far as my eyes could stretch, I saw a kuccha dwelling, probably of a Jarawa which was giving impressions of being tribal in nature as they were made of bamboo. Ashish told us that they had the knowledge way back in 2004 when Tsunami terribly hit them that something ominous is about to come. He told us that they had relocated at upper stretches of the land even before the Tsunami came and that's how they were able to survive the fierce power of nature.

Finally, we reached the Middle Strait at Jarawa Check Post, where we were to boat a government jetty that would take us farther away to Gandhi Ghat at 23 kilometers.

Our next destination was Limestone Cave followed by a visit to the Barren Island, the only confirmed active volcano in South Asia. For more information about the same, refer to this WikiTravel Page.

So, the speed boat at Baratang took around 20 minutes and transported us to the Limestone Cave. We had to walk around 1.5 kilometers to reach inside the cave and we were given a guide who would led us inside it. There were panoramic vistas and white blocks of stone all around us. On our return, a little bit of rain poured over and I presumed to see a crocodile which is completely refuted by my husband. But, as the saying goes, "Wife is always right", I did confirm the same with boat operator and he did tell us that crocodiles do exist in those mushy - marshy waters of the mangroves.

Inside the Limestone Cave

The 1.5km stretch might haunt the weak-hearted

On reaching the Baratang, our taxi waited who took us to the Barren Island and yes, smoke did came out from the vents. It was a sheer delight to see something like this in our life. True, travel did give you some countless experiences and it is these moments, memories and experiences that you'll remember FOREVER.

@ Barren Island

So, we traverse the same route back to Port Blair and en-route we were lucky enough to see a Jarawa couple holding arrows and sickle and a family at different spots. These are the moments that are hard to come by.

On an additional note, Ashish told us that primarily six primitive tribes inhabit the entire Andaman & Nicobar area namely Onges, Jarawas, Great Andamanese, Nicobarese, Shompen, Sentinel. No one is allowed to enter Nicobar as only tribes live there and are dangerous. The Nicobarese, Shompen, and Sentinel tribes haven't allowed intermingling of cultures and are still at the hunting-gathering stage. Particularly, it is the Sentinel tribe that is highly dangerous and doesn't allow anyone to come near to them. They will instantly attack you with their bow and arrows.

So, if you are in Andamans, enjoy your ride with nature, mangroves and crocodiles. :P

Happy Journey!

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