National Geographic : 1975 Jul
are not selfish and greedy like us," he told me. "They want so little-only to live in harmony with their natural environment. It's the set tlers-hunting, fishing, cutting trees in Jarawa territory-who have provoked them to hostility. We who have made them hostile must restore peace without harming them." Bakhtawar's efforts brought encouraging signs. One time the Jarawas left a fish, another time a suckling pig in return for gifts Bakhta war had left. I saw one place where the Jar awas had suspended strips of bark, a shell, a coconut husk, and an old rubber slipper from canes lashed between trees. Bakhtawar in terpreted this bizarre display as a request for more gifts. One day while we camped on the beach 200 yards from a cache of gifts, the red cloth tied to a tree at the jungle's edge suddenly van ished. We took to our boat, Bakhtawar waving a red cloth above his head to indicate that more gifts were available. But the Jarawas did not show themselves. Then, in April 1974, came a breakthrough. Moving farther north, Bakhtawar caught sight of brown thatch in a jungle clearing be hind a fringe of trees. Seeing no one about, he went ashore. Below a hillock, perhaps used as an observation post, stood two large round huts and a small lean-to. In the huts he found some of the gifts he had left down the coast. He placed new gifts on the beach and an chored nearby. At dawn a few Negritos swam out-un armed. Bakhtawar had achieved friendly contact with the Jarawas! Meeting Pervaded by Party Mood I joined him on his return to that camp ten days later. As the police motor launch came to anchor 300 yards offshore, we saw aJarawa on the beach, his legs spread, waving his arms. Over the surf we could not hear what he shouted. Other Jarawas appeared. None carried bows and arrows. After watching us for a moment, they leaped into the surf and breast stroked toward us, heads bobbing. They climbed aboard, grinning from ear to ear, bodies dripping, chocolate skin glistening in the morning sun. Bakhtawar hugged them like long-lost brothers. More Jarawas swam out. There were about 30 now, all over the launch: men muscular and lean; women with pert breasts and fine figures; children, some boisterous, some shy. Shouting, flashing smiles, jumping up and down, chattering excitedly, they played with the wheel, inspected the wireless earphones, tugged at the anchor cable. Metal More Valued Than Matches Bakhtawar brought out gifts: handsaws, necklaces and ribbons, some umbrellas. The Jarawas took them eagerly, breaking into a chant that sounded something like, alay, oday, olay, otalay, laday, alay, laylay, yamolay, alay, ahday, waday, ahday, dahday, olo, ahtay, olo, alay. The men tucked the handsaws into the bark bands, laced in back, that sheathed their torsos and comprised their only clothing. The women, clad only in tasseled belts of bark or strips of red cloth from one of Bakhtawar's earlier gift drops, gleefully tied the ribbons around their heads and wrapped the neck laces around each other's arms. One boy, fi nally managing to open an umbrella, beamed at his achievement. Among the gifts were matches, flashlights, and candles; the Jarawas presumably do not know how to make fire, since they keep one burning constantly and carry a brand when they change camp. But before Bakhtawar could show them how to use the matches, flashlights, or candles, these were whisked away. So were a variety of items not intended for gifts: spoons, forks, the deputy com missioner's razor, door hooks and bolts that were pried loose to be used as metal for arrow tips. An isolated people, the Jara was have had little reason to learn respect for the private property of outsiders. In the early years of settlement this was a cause of several bloody incidents. But the atmosphere on our launch was per missive. Jarawas patted Bakhtawar's bulging paunch and burst into childlike laughter. He gave them plastic whistles and blew one as a sample. Quickly the air rang with the shrill ing of whistles. Exuberance in motion, a Jarawa woman dances during an explosion of merriment that lasted for several hours after expedition members went ashore. "I've never seen people so happy before," said author Singh. But for other groups of Jarawas, distrust of stran gers endures. Settlers who trespass on their forest domain may be attacked and killed.