I don’t have words to express my happiness: Andamans' Padma awardee

NewsDrum Desk
26 Jan 2023

By Sujit Nath Port Blair, Jan 26 (PTI) A call by health officials of the Union Territory administration to Dr Ratan Chandra Kar in 1998 for treating people of the reclusive Jarawa tribe from an outbreak of diseases, like measles, in a remote island of Andaman and Nicobar had given anxious moments to his family members.

Responding to the call, Dr Kar, the then the medical officer, monitored the health of the people of the indigenous group at Kadamtala village and Lakhralungta, treated the Jarawas and eventually became friendly with them.

Armed with poisonous bows and arrows, Jarawas are known for their ferocity and they do not like outsiders venturing into their territory which is accessible through difficult terrain via land, jungle and sea routes.

The physician, chosen for the Padma Shri from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on the eve of the Republic Day, told PTI “I don’t have words to express my happiness. I would like to thank all for helping me in achieving the recognition”.

Dr Kar’s wife, Anjali, had urged her husband to accept the challenge to treat the Jarawas and save them from extinction. Sons Tanumoy and Anumoy started worrying about their father’s life due to the risks involved in venturing into the area inhabited by the Jarawas.

After pondering over it, Dr Kar took upon this challenge realising that he would never get such an opportunity in his life. He had the experience to handle such a situation because of his brief service among the Konyak tribe in Nagaland.

“That was the turning point in my life as I left for Kadamtala in Middle Andaman, which is nearly 120 km from Port Blair. While travelling to Kadamtala, I was a bit nervous thinking about the possible reaction of the Jarawas. Will they accept me or will they attack me? I was going through a mixed reaction but much-needed medical attention was required to save them from measles, conjunctivitis etc,” Dr Kar told PTI.

After more than five hours of journey, Dr Kar and his team reached Kadamtala jetty and took a 45-minute dinghy ride to Lakhralungta, one of the territories inhabited by the Jarawa tribe.

“I was carrying coconuts and bananas as gifts for the Jarawas. I saw a group of them standing at the beach and looking at us. Some of them, armed with bows and arrows, swam and came close to the dinghy. I got down from the dinghy and slowly started walking towards them. “I was scared, anxious, excited...I saw a thatched hut and smoke billowing out from it. As I was walking slowly towards the hut, the rest of the Jarawas started following me. I entered one of the huts and saw a wounded jarawa. He suffered the injury while hunting a wild boar. I applied some medicine and did the dressing and left the place and came to Kadamtala,” Dr Kar said.

The next day when he went to Lakhralungta he noticed changes in their behaviour. "They were in a welcoming mood as the wounded Jarawa responded well to the medicine. The children hugged me too,” he recalled.

Since then the Jarawas started considering him and his four other team members as ‘mita jiley’ (friend in their language).

“We shifted serious Jarawa patients to Kadamtala health centres, while the rest of them were treated at Lakhralungta,” he said.

Over the months, Dr Kar worked hard under such a challenging situation and he is credited with bringing them back from the brink of extinction during a measles epidemic in 1998-99.

He grew friendly with the Jarawas and became accustomed to their unique traditional customs and habits.

The physician also recalled an incident when a Jarawa boy, looking up at the sky told him ‘mai ukai pangnang chaddha humo’ (my mother is there, sleeping in heaven), as if "pleading with me to bring her back". PTI SN MM MM

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