Thursday, June 02, 2005


I have been flirting with the Andaman and Nicobar islands for about two years now. I thought the chemistry would never die and that I'd always leave the islands longing for more. But the affair has ended. The romance is over. The islands are drowning in a morass of corruption
and red-tapism of a particularly depressing kind. And this corruption unfortunately spells disaster for the Nicobari tribals - the indigenous, mongoloid natives of the southern group of islands.

The Nicobarese today are a traumatised people. All their plantation land has been destroyed and half their community wiped out by the tsunami. But instead of nurturing whats left , the government is further tearing apart their social fabric. For instance, the Nicobarese have for centuries lived in large, extended joint families called 'tuhet'. But the government, in its mainland wisdom, has built nuclear units for them. A majority of them have not yet been given tools. A Nicobari without tools is like a programmer without a computer. So with so much time on hand and absolutely nothing to do, the Nicobarese, natural lovers of drink, are boozing themselves silly. Their coconut plantations are not going to regenerate for the next 6 years atleast. The government will try to teach them something new, but it might be as futile as teaching an old dog new tricks. The next few years will test the resilience and survival instincts of the Nicobarese. If we let them make their own choices, they might survive, but if the administration continues its intrusion into whats left of their way of life, we'll probably end up destroying a centuries old tribe, forever.