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Off the coast of mainland India, a rare Indian tribe became our friends

Off the coast of mainland India, a rare Indian tribe became our friends
My sister and I with children from the Ongee tribe. Union Territory of Andaman & Nicobar. Circa 1960

My sister and I with children from the Onge tribe. Union Territory of Andaman & Nicobar. Circa 1960 Image and Narrative contributed by Late. Anand Halve, Mumbai India is more varied and diverse than reflected in the languages on Indian currency notes or in the number of states and Union Territories on our map. This is a piece about a group of ‘Indians’ that will probably vanish before most Indians ever even hear of them. The Ongee or Onge tribe, are one of the indigenous Andamanese tribes. A negrito tribe of the Andaman Islands. Petite and superficially 'African' in appearance, dark skinned and peppercorn hair, they are still genetically different from most modern African people. Until the late 1940s, the Onges were the only permanent occupants of Little Andaman, the southernmost island in the Andaman group of 324 islands. The Non-Onges began to settle on Little Andaman in large numbers in the early 1950s. Among the earliest visitors - in the early 1960s - was a seven year-old boy (me) and his six year-old sister Jyoti. My father, Bhaskar Halve was posted as the Deputy Commissioner of the administration of the Union Territory of Andaman & Nicobar. His job took him to study various islands in the Andaman & Nicobar group, and we were only too happy to tag along. The Onges are a traditionally nomadic hunting and gathering tribe. I recall stories told to us by the sailors who visited the islands where the Onges lived. The Onges were masters of the bow - I recall watching an Onge spear a fish through the refracted sea-water with his arrow. I recall stories of a strange plant whose leaves…

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