Don’t ask me where we were going.. Coz, I too don’t know our destination 😀 . What all I know was that we need to start early (around 5 am) from Port Blair; it’s going to be a long drive and the roads might not be that good; and my aunt as well as Kiron aunt is also going to join us on this drive 🙂 .
We will be going in a Chevrolet Tavera as the group grew big 😉 . Uncle and Shivangi’s father bid a bye to us when we started our journey from the School lane. Padmaja, Swati, Mounica and I occupied the rear seats while the front was occupied by Sahil and Shivangi, middle by both my aunts and Harsha. After few minutes the destination was revealed. It’s Baratang which is 100 kms away from Port Blair.
Our first halt is Jirkatang, almost 40 kms from Port Blair. Here, we encountered a forest check post as well as a long queue of vehicles, the ones who arrived earlier than us. There are 8 convoys throughout the day (first one at 6.30 am and last one at 2.30 pm) from this check post and we were late by few minutes to catch up the earlier one. We don’t have any other choice rather than to wait!
As we got down and looking around the surroundings, something drew my attention.. A board of instructions, mainly about the things which we should not do during the journey on this stretch. I couldn’t understand for a moment what I was looking at and it was then I understood that we are entering a buffer zone, the zone of Jarawas. This stretch is of around 50 kms.
Jarawas, considered one of the most isolated people on earth, they are a hunter-gatherer tribe that has lived in the dense forests of Andaman Islands completely cut off from the outside world for thousands of years. Today, approximately 400 members of the nomadic Jarawa tribe live in groups of 40-50 people in chaddhas – as they call their homes. They hunt pig and turtle and fish with bow and arrows in the coral-fringed reefs for crabs and fish. They also gather fruits, wild roots, tubers and honey.
Soon, the gates were up and we were as excited as we could see some members of the most primitive tribal group on this earth. A forest official led our convoy through this reserve forest and there was another one at the rear end. The instructions were clear that this is a no-overtake zone and we should not halt anywhere. We were watching our surroundings keenly so that we won’t miss a chance of getting a glimpse of the Jarawas. For the first few minutes, we couldn’t see any of them except few watch-over sheds kind of things. They were simple, just 4 poles and a top which is covered with straw and dry leaves. We learnt from our driver that they sometimes sit there and watch the movements on the road.
Another few minutes passed away and there they were. A child and a mother, dark skinned, red-eyed, curly haired, the child has some sort of paste or mud applied onto his face, the mother covering her lower part with some red color strings, might be roots of some trees, I donno.. But that was one stunning moment for us. How one could be so primitive while the universe is running behind super-computers and probing living chances on some other planets?? It was a billion dollar question for me….
The other end of this Jarawa forest reserve is the Middle Strait. We have to take a vehicle ferry from here to Baratang which is like 15 mins ride.
P.S – We strictly adhered to the rules here and hence didn’t click any photographs through out the Jarawa belt. We just don’t want to create any inconvenience to those most beautiful lives on this earth. It sometimes makes me feel sad when I hear the news about the atrocities the Jarawas face from the civilized people who just care nothing but their fun factor 😦