As of today, there is no difference between an ordinary city dweller and a Great Andamanese person. Their way of life and aspirations are just like ours. They are trying their best to amalgamate with our society and prefer to live in cities with all modern gadgets and facilities. It is an interesting combinatorial life they lead now. When they are in the city of Port Blair they want to watch movies, ride in cars, send their children to local schools, run washing machines and look for job opportunities with the government. When they are in the Strait Island, they want to hunt turtle, fish, crabs, deers and do away with minimum of clothes. They love to own a boat so that hunting expedition can be far away from the Strait Island. Given a choice they say they want to be in the jungles. However, their love and fascination for city glitter keep them confused and most of the Great Andamanese keep shuttling back and forth from the jungles to the city.
Ways of cremation
Nao Jr. gave us information [25.12.06] that there are four different kinds of cremation followed in the community.
When a person dies of a natural death or illness s/he is buried in the earth boa-phong 'earth hole'.
When a person dies in hunting/killing then s/he is put on a platform made on a tree (Hindi: machaan) and burnt.
When a person dies because of choking on a fish bone he is taken to a particular place near Mayabandar and left for vultures to eat. The dead body is left on a tree for a month to be eaten by vultures. Bones are collected after a month.
Children are not buried for a few days and are then cremated.
Boa Sr. always maintained that Andamanese with their dark skin looked more beautiful than fair skin people of the mainland India or western foreigners. She lamented at the fact that Andamanese girls wanted to marry locals, the non Andamanese. I asked her why she thought that the dark skin was beautiful. As usual she laughed first and said that fair skin looked like a skinned animal without any color. When I saw a skinned deer the next day in the jungle which was hunted for consumption I realized how correct she was! When I told her that a billion rupees industry is thriving in the mainland India selling a cream which guarantees to make people ‘fair and lovely’, she was amused and amazed and commented that “someone should launch a cream to make people look dark and beautiful”.
It had always been a mystery whether the Andamanese community was cannibals. There is and was a total denial about this fact by the community members. However, a couple of folk tales collected during the project reveals that cannibalism was practiced by some people. There are enough references of head-hunters. However, they are mentioned as if the tendency resided with super natural beings that were not part of the common society.
When we met the Great Andamanese people in 2001 December there were only 36 members in the community with nine or ten members speaking the language at varying competency-level. There were no accounts of each of the members available with any government or private body. When we visited the community again in 2005 it was felt that we first must take note of each member of the community. The bio-data was collected and Dr Alok Das was entrusted the job of writing about his impressions of each of the Great Andamanese folks that he communicated with. Subsequently, we had to add on some material when any member left this world and deprived us of their company and friendship. By 2006 the community had enlarged and there were 50 members, mostly children. As you roll down the page you will see the Generalia prepared by Alok Das of the community members in 2006. Also, see the Current situation.