When we met the Great Andamanese people in 2000 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 we 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 Current situation.
Great Andamanese Community
Boa Sr. F Obituary
Age: 80 years.
Relation to other members of the tribe: She is the only living member of her family with her husband and children all dead.
Boa Sr. is the eldest member of the Great Andamanese tribe. She is about 80 years old and looks rather fit for her age. Otherwise, how else could she have managed to climb a hill when tsunami hit Strait Island? She is also the only member in the tribe who does not have anybody in her family surviving. Her mother, To, was a Bo, and father, Renge, was a Jeru. She was married to Nao Sr., a Jeru, at an early age. Her parents’, as well as her own marriage only testifies further a point made by her that in earlier times marriages used to take place between different language communities, i.e. different tribes. A preference for the same could easily be seen in most of the earlier matrimonial alliances. For example, out of six most senior members of the tribe, which we have recognized as having four different family lineages, four have had mixed parents.
Although she claims Jeru to be her mother tongue, which might well be the case, her language has quite an evident and strong influence of Bo. Nonetheless, she is the most proficient of the surviving Great Andamanese speakers and still retains a vast repertoire of songs and narratives. Many of her songs have such strong influence of Bo that most of the other speakers of Great Andamanese today are unable to derive any much meaning from them. Little wonder then that Boa Sr., like most of the other Great Andamanese, insists that there is no similarity between Sare, Bo, Khora and Jeru.
She is presumably the richest surviving member of the Great Andamanese tribe in terms of linguistic-reservoir. Her love for life is quite evident when she says that she would love to stay in Port Blair. For a society which was not acquainted even with a barter system, it is interesting to observe that she understands the value of modern currency. Among the things she would often ask for are scissors, blades, and different biscuits (pickies). It is a treat to watch her when she bursts into laughter upon things she would herself say. Our predecessors would have very much been like her!
Boro F Obituary
Age: 74 years.
Relation to other members of the tribe: She is the step-mother of Peje. She has three sons – Golat, Loka and Sulu, and one daughter – Boa Jr., all married. Her husband is no more.
Boro, female, 74 years, is the second oldest member of the tribe. Frail in health and introvert by nature, she rarely hesitates in showing her displeasure at anything and everything. Deep within, she is very soft and passionate and one needs to really get close to her to extract any information from her. You have to fine-tune her like an old Radio-set. Her frank and uninhibited gestures are a treat to follow. Her typically feminine negation reminds us that femininity is as old as human civilization.
Age: 60 years.
Relation to other members of the tribe: He is married to Noe with seven children – four sons (Jo, Irep, Phoro and Lephei) and three daughters (Tong, Kaba and Ilec).
Peje is now the second eldest male member of the tribe. His father Ilfe was a Jeru, whereas his mother Muku was a Khora. He is also the stepson of Boro who had later married Ilfe. Born from mixed parents, Peje is linguistically most different from the rest of the tribe. He is the one who possesses a labialized [l] in his speech, which is not present in the speeches of anybody else in the tribe.
Peje is married to Noe with seven children, four sons and three daughters. Two of their children are married. Peje is one of those who still spend most of his time hunting and gathering in the scant but virgin jungles of Strait Island.
Age: 45 years.
Relation to other members of the tribe: He is the eldest son of Boro and is married to Lico. He has five children: two daughters – Kobo and Lephe and three sons – Moroko, Buli and Berebe.
One of the most introvert and submissive of the Great Andamanese men, Golat has physical features surprisingly closer to the mongoloid type than to the Negritos. He is very fond of fishing and would often go for the same even while in Port Blair. He along with his family no more wants to live in Strait Island and already lives in a rented house in Port Blair. It’s been a task almost impossible to get him to speak his mother tongue – Jeru. He speaks Andamani Hindi.
Nao Jr. Obituary
Age: 58 years.
Relation to other members of the tribe: He is the younger brother of the recently deceased King Jirake. He is married to Boa Jr. and has only one son – Bea.
He is the eldest male member of the tribe and a true heir to his brother the former king, Jirake. He is by far the best specimen of the vanishing language. He knows three of the four languages which have come together to form what we call today the Great Andamanese. He is very intelligent and interacts well with the outsiders, so much so that he often displayed a remarkable understanding of the linguistic nuances hidden in our relentless queries. He too is unrelenting in giving. He is employed as a paramedic at the medical dispensary in Strait Island , which he is very negligent with. He breathed his last on 22nd February 2009.
Relation to other members of the tribe: She is the younger sister of Queen Surmai. She is married to Peje with seven children – four sons (Jo, Irep, Phoro and Lephei) and three daughters (Tong, Kaba and Ilec). Look is her younger brother.
Very stylish, elegant, outspoken and smart is this lady, who is very fond of modern cosmetics. No wonder her attractive looks defy her age. She prefers Port Blair to Strait Island, despite her husband’s liking for the latter. In absence of the former King Jirake, she is the one who represents the community in their deliberations with the administration as well as for anything else. She is still one of the best speakers of the Great Andamanese language.
Age: 48 years.
Relation to other members of the tribe: She is the widow of King Jirake with ten children: six sons (Ilphe, Meo, Nyaramo, Kanmo, Baluba and Dec) and four daughters (Renge, Buro, Tango and Reya). She has one brother – Look and a sister – Noe.
Surmai is the wife of the recently deceased king of the Great Andamanese tribe, Jirake. She is 48 years old and one of those senior ladies of the tribe, who are tipped to become the head of the tribe in absence of the king and also of any legitimate male contender for the same. Both her parents were from Jeru tribe and her mother tongue is also Jeru only. She has ten children; six sons and four daughters. Besides, she also has a step daughter in Lico, who is from Jirake’s earlier marriage. Only two of her children are married. One of her daughters, namely, Reya, has an unmarried male child. She does not want to disclose the name of the father and this is quietly accepted by the community. In absence of sufficient eligible bachelors in the tribe, most of Surmai’s children have little option but to marry outside the tribe. This is not easy given the fact that Government approval is required before they could do so, and government policy, not surprisingly, is against this. But one of her daughter Renge, who works with the Archaeological Survey of India, married outside her tribe.
Relation to other members of the tribe: She is the first child of King Jirake from his first wife. She is married to Golat and has five children: two daughters – Kobo and Lephe and three sons – Moroko, Buli and Berebe.
Lico is the first child of Jirake from his first wife, Loka, who was from ‘now-extinct’ Pucikwar (Pujukar) tribe. It is important here to note that she was brought up by her foster maternal grand parents; grand father being a Pucikwar and grand mother a Jeru. Her biological grand parents were both Khora. Her mother Loka had died just after she gave birth to Lico. She is married to Golat with five children; three sons and two daughters. Only one of her children is married.
Lico presently works with Education department of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and she is one of the smart women of the tribe.