Return From Time
Return From Time14 mins 25.8K 14 mins 25.8K
I opened my right eye with an unbearable pain, could not open the left. “Where am I”? I tried to lift my head but could not succeed, by shifting the focal length I could find a beam of light from the top. Sudden chirping diverted my concentration; it was the break of dawn. I smelt an odor, I was not familiar with. I tried to lift my legs my hands. Could not sense them, I did not know whether they exist or not! I did not feel the existence of my body. “Am I alive, which is the place? Or is it my soul”?
Again I immersed in deep thought and gradually drowned deeper into a well of darkness. After a long pause, I assumed to be floated with stirring! Some mysterious words flickered all around me with giggling of children. I opened the right eye and left too with a lot of struggle. I was laid inside a hut; it might be late in the morning. A cool breeze with moderate humidity and glimpses of light accentuated me to feel my presence with soul. I had no corporal movement or feeling the existence. One dark face mask with awesome white lines paint envisaged to me. The mask uttered Ni Tomoho (Are you well)?
“Am I in hell, is this a demon rather messenger for death”? But, no it was an innocent query with the smile. Another mask from right inquired Ni Uleda (Are you sick)? Another from left Unpatta Nadem (Don’t be afraid)? More mask more quires and comments. Suddenly a husk but somewhat rhythmical commanding voice echoed Echele Eyana Nadem (Oh child don’t laugh). In a fraction all the masks vanished, they were a group of children. An aged dark person appeared as a convener of Yama. He leaned almost on my face and inquired Ni Tomoho (Are you well)? I realized,” I am not in hell and these people are not the representative of Yama”. The vernacular was Greek to me, neither I could understand him nor in a position to utter a single word. I sensed an unusual odor and felt sinking again into the dark.
“How long I slept, what it the time now, where am I”? I opened my eyes once again with some of these questions. I suddenly felt my head in the lap of someone and some amount of fluid had fallen in my mouth, I felt thirsty and hungry, it seemed I was alive my body and soul are asking the input for energy. Little more fluid; might be some fruit juice I tried to quench my throat, it was sweet might be honey. I tried to recollect, “Who am I why I am at the mercy of these dark people”? My brain was getting jammed with the bewildering enigma.
My nurturing was continued by a dark aged old lady, at least thrice a day. I started considering her my Okaye (mother). She treated me like an incompetent innocent child. My wounded hand and broken limbs were treated with herbal medicine banded with leaves by Kuho(The priest) daily at least twice. At times I used to cry to pacify my pain and amnesia. It continued long. Each moment used to be hours for a jobless lame man's lingered day. The memory search for me become almost like exploring a big pink pearl in a fathomless deep sea.
It was Okaye’s love, herbal medicine by Kuho and supplements like fruit, honey, and meat which accelerated my recovery. Within few days I could sit straight. Edbuccs (Okaye’s eldest son) helped me a lot to come out from the hut and respond to my natural calls. Billar (young daughter of Kuho) daily used to peep with curiosity, later came nearby and tried to become a sympathizer. I had no job or engagement, it became a routine for me to watch their daily activity and learn their language.
I used to wake up late in the morning when the beam of sunlight flooded the courtyard. Talu, Tangana, Tahilo and Ugo start playing. After taking breakfast, all were hurriedly preparing for hunting, fishing, collecting honey and procuring fruits. Late in the morning women, unmarried girls used to go for fruit collection or for searching tortoise eggs. Widows and aged ladies used to keep watch on the children and new-born babies. Women used to come back before afternoon then prepare food and fed the children. I was surprised how they lit the fire with two pieces of stone for cooking and lightning torch. Other male members and young men used to come back before the sunset with the hunted animals, birds or jungle potato. Every evening there was a community dinner with a bonfire where everybody shared the adventure of the day, followed by a tight sleep in individual tong-hut.
These uncivilized people used to maintain the dignity and rules of the community with full respect; any indiscipline was handled with rigorous action or punishment. Widows and unmarried young girls are separated from other huts. Men are not permitted to go there or make relationship unless being cleared by the community and leader. One morning I heard all men will go to Pongnung Chadda or devil’s hut to place the dead-body of a new-born delivered by a widow. Complete villagers gathered in the morning. The mourning mother performed the last rites by breastfeeding her child; other mothers who were capable to feed also fed the new-born. Then the child was handed over to the leader for killing and placing at devil’s hut.
Strongest person of the community Ohame got injured by the attack of a crocodile while fishing in the bay of the nearby island. Kuho meticulous endeavor with herbal medicine and Ohame’s lust for life cold, not sync. Ohame struggled about twenty days, till his death and his widow’s remarriage with an unmarried man, community fed couple with their two children by the direction of the leader.
From hunting to constructing a new hut it is a community work for all. Children were taught the rules and regulation of the community since early age starting from bow and arrow making, hunting, honey collection. Being naked stone-age people how do they have spear, arrow or knife made out of metal? I could discover the metals are collected from the wreckage of broken ship or boat floated and embarked nearby shore. I could learn how meticulously they use tree bark, herbs, cane and bamboo to make pot basket, the toy for children their safety gear and protection from nature. Most interesting part to set fire with two stone pieces or bark of the tree, despite repeated attempt, I proved to be a bad learner, even children used to laugh by observing my novice exertion.
Since morning it was raining cats and dogs with an overwhelming whirlwind, my hut was dangling like a swing. I was at unrest with an unbearable headache and natures hobnob, as if some omen might happen any point of time. Random memories were peeping in my mind and vanishing like a bubble. Edbuccs and other males discontented with storm and rain, it was the consecutive third day that their hunting was disrupted. Children were restless and confined within Chadda (hut). There were a lot of dissonances synchronized with lighting and wind-whistle symbolizing the premonition. Suddenly a devastating noise surrounded me and I lost my conscious and immersed into the darkness.
When I opened my eyes, it was with surprise; “where am I? Is it a hut? Where are Swapan and
Bablu? What happened to those Jarawa children? Where are my painted canvases, and my painting accessories?” …a lot of questions without answer. One black naked aged lady rushed to me and inquired, “How are you feeling now?” “Who is she? Where am I?” I did not understand the language and gesture of this Stone-age naked Negro people. There was curious milieu all around me.
I sat on the bamboo floor; the old lady offered me a banana, honey, and Latkafal. I was thirsty and hungry; I ate all the food hurriedly and I asked for water. Despite having an injury in hand an aged man came and took me out from the hut and showed a crashed hut due to the falling of massive trunk of a Padok tree, other huts beside were also damaged. He explained to me by gesture; how I was smashed and buried under the hut and tree. I was lucky enough to survive. I could synchronize my memories and realize I was under temporary oblivion after the accident and aligned all the incidents chronologically to unveil the labyrinth of mystery. “Now I am alive because of aged man Owamume (Father) and aged women Okaye (Mother). I am walking again with the treatment of primitive herbal medicine. I regained the memory again to distinguish myself with the naked, stone-aged jungle people. “I become passionate with tear by remembering my parents, specifically my mother to whom I was genuinely missing. “How she would be, how much she is missing me?” Now I recollect….
Our Maruti 800 was running top of its speed to cover, 30 kms jungle area before 4 pm as per local rule to reach Uttara jetty. I was not comfortable in the front seat with roller coaster ride, yet could not control dozing in due course of tiredness after the unprecedented incident and hectic journey.
I was not interested to cover the journey in a single go, rather wanted to take a night stay at Rangat. However, due to Swapan’s insistence, we decided to cover the path to allow him for communication with his fiance.
It is almost 300 km from Diglipore to Port Blair. It was a steady ride with the picturesque natural landscape, the horizon of seascape and panoramic hillside. We covered more than 100 kms within two and half hours. Our dreamland visit was interrupted by an unusual noise followed by a huge rubbing noise from the front right tyre of our car. It became an imposed break.
I took the advantage of situation took some photograph with my camera by limiting the number of shots as reels were exhausting. Our Driver Bablu smartly changed the tyre with stepney, but we lost some precious time. The stepney condition was not reliable; Bablu confirmed that he will get it repaired in Kadamtala. After lunch we left Rangat near Santanu he proposed, “We can continue our journey otherwise we may miss the convoy, rather would strike for the night.” We crossed Santanu as expected and became the last vehicle of the cavalcade. Bablu was cautious; his driving speed also reduced perhaps foreseeing any uncomfortable situation. I don’t know how long I was drowsing; a sudden break and enormous tyre rubbing, I could find two Jarawa children just in front of our car. Bablu tried to control and stop the car, however, his efforts went into vain, our car ran into a huge boulder that busted the front left tyre. At the instance, everything becomes blank and black for me, our car overturned I recollected my mother and gradually I sank into a fathomless trench.
Next morning all were busy to rebuild the status quo of their Chadda. I am not invited or asked to take part, as a mercy? No, because I am unwanted. It was surprising being Tahapad (Leader) Owamume was not there to lead. I moved to his hut, he was laid down on the dry-leaf bed and controlling his unequivocal restlessness. I touched him, his body was burning hot with high fever, and he glanced at me and closed the eyes. Same night Owamume died; might be due to infection, malaria or pneumonia. The night I could not sleep, I was surrounded by awesome phantoms and the insignificant existence of fearful characters of children books. A high pitch cacophony and bright sun woke me up; Okaye was crying; others were consoling her. Owamume’s body was laid in the courtyard; all were busy to arrange last rites. Late in morning, Owamume was carried on a bamboo stretcher to Pongnung Chadd; another small island to dump his body underneath of a big Padok tree between two roots and cover with logs, stones, and Leafs.
I do not know how long I was in the virgin forest with beautiful human beings, their unparalleled hospitality, untainted affection, adorable lifestyle. After Owamume’s death Okaye became timid, she was rarely coming out from Chadda. By virtue and community decision, Kuho took over as Tahapad, not as a senior most person, but as an intelligent and strong person. Kuho’s reorientation revealed with strict adherence to inheritance rules and directives. Out of which I was considered to be the first imp to be desolated. As a move to ratification, Kuho called a mass with a bonfire and society dinner, I was not a part of it, my dinner served in Chadda, mother was absent.
Most of the time Kuho was speaking, others were the listeners, all aged man and women spoke with their turn, there were no arguments. Late in the evening, it was unanimously decided, I shall be dropped day-after to-morrow on the same spot where from I was brought here, as I was in the position to support myself and join my community. I could not sleep throughout the night; frames of incidents were shifting fast and contradicting my plight with existence. Early morning I felt mother’s presence in my hut, she was looking at me for long; standing at the entry. At the break of dawn, her Silhouette image could not accentuate her impression and adoration on her face. However, a pain twisted my heart, perhaps her too with psychological harmonization.
Next morning it was father’s bone collection for Edbucess. It is the ritual among Jarawas, collect the bone (preferably Femur, Humerus, and ribs) of near-relation people from the open-grave and resize it to wear as an ornament to deflect the devils or demons shadow and influence. I requested him to accompany after initial denounced, Kuho agreed with mother’s intervention. Other three companions were chosen by Khuo. We all were painted differently with white lime dust and leaf juice and natural glue as ritual and put turmeric leaves as head gear, all took their respective bow, arrow and spear.
We sailed thru the bay with a bamboo stretcher within half an hour reached a nearby virgin island. Mangrove roots and plants were obstructing our way, it was another fifteen minutes’ walk thru dense vegetation and big trees, and finally, we reached to Pongnung Chadd. An unusual odor dominated the surrounding; Khuo performed some ritual before Edbucess remove the logs and stones to pick the bones. Owamume’s corpses reduced to a skeleton Edbucess selective picked some bones and wrapped with turmeric and Sal leaves. Khuo instructed all to follow him without looking at the back. Same evening obituary was organized with a community dinner.
On the scheduled morning, I was ready to respect the verdict. The previous night was almost sleepless; dissimulated with joy and woe. The greatest joy was I would meet my mother and woe; again I ought to evaluate me to balance in my society. Mother came to my hut and handed over some stuff for my further journey. Kuho led the group of six people including the mother. It was a heart- breaking moment for me to abide by antecedent versus descendant. All community people gathered to ratify their untainted gesture. I exchanged goodwill with all male, female and children with accustomed traditional posture by touching each other’s head. Could not find Billar, she was standing behind a tree looking at me with infinite tender beyond affection. I felt an uncontrolled passion and pain for this lot of Homo Sapience. I hugged Edbucess and realized the warmth of fraternity and tranquility. Mother was crying silently, she touched my head, I felt the shower of blessing. Time was running out; Khuo looked on Sun and asked us to follow him.
I hobbled almost 4 kms with uneven joint of a broken ankle and a fibula, supported by a stick and Edbucess to reach Andaman Trunk Road. The point is about 6 kms from Kadamtala; where from I was picked. Our ravaged burnt car was visible about 40 meters below the road. The road and vegetation appeared as it were with the green point of perspective both direction. While bidding an adieu, Okaye was crying, by holding my brother Edbucess’s hands, she was looking behind at me till the glimpses vanished with the nature in the deep forest. I was standing like a statue, being half naked, partially burnt; wearing only a torn-shorts by holding a bamboo made pot with honey in right hand and a cane basket with roasted pork, tortoise eggs and Latkafal in left; mother had gifted me. I was blank and stunned for a while, suddenly exploded with a groaning cry to reinvent self between the ‘Road and jungle’. My cry was echoing in the jungle and hillocks, “Mother…mother..mother…”
I returned with the mask, into the so-called civilized world. I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop.
Jarawas are Stone-age Negritos aborigine live in deep rain-forest of Andamans (middle and South) Islands. They might have migrated or departed from their African forefather 50, 000 years ago. Some kitchen middens show they are an about 2200-years old settler. However, eighteenth-century British inversion to these islands started the contradiction and conflict with so-called civilized culture, it continued during construction of Andaman Trunk Road and refugee settlement. In 1996 a young Jarawa boy Enmei has redefined the relationship with the civilized world. They are limited to 400 people, Govt. and Tribal welfare units are engaged to rescue them from extinction. Time shall decide how much we are civilized!
Some Jarawas Dialects:
Padok- Beautiful colour and fibered one of the world’s costliest wood
Pongnung Chadda-Devil’s hut
Latkafal- Keya herb’s delicious fruit
Bibliography: The Jarawas of the Andamans by Dr. Ratan Kar