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A BOY NAMED ONO | A folktale from Andaman & Nicobar

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Andaman and Nicobar Islands have a small population of aboriginal tribes. One such tribe is the Onge tribe. This story is of that tribe.

On the pristine islands amidst Indian Ocean lived a 12-year-old boy named, Ono. He was smart and an acute observer- observer of nature, people and of things around him. One pleasant day, he was playing on the beach with his friends. They all were lost in the fun and game time, running around the beach but then suddenly Ono realized something. He saw that the ocean had receded from the beach, as if it remembered about some work it had to do and decided to leave. With ocean withdrawn, the beach size had increased. Kids were delighted to see wider beach. “Yaay, we have got a bigger space to play and build sandcastle,” they screeched as they pranced across the velvety beach with bare feet.

However, Ono did not share this enthusiasm. “Something is amiss,” he thought. As he kept examining the receding ocean, a memory from his early childhood came to him. This was the memory of his grandfather telling him a story- story about the erratic behaviour of the ocean. Ono now remembered what his grandfather had said then. “When the ocean retreats suddenly, it means a tsunami is going to arrive,” the grandfather’s words rang in Ono’s ears.

Ono, now in a state of panic, tried to warn the other kids of the impending doom, asking them to stop playing. But they ignored his warning, busy admiring at what lied in front of them- the seas shells that they were seeing for the very first time.

“The Tsunami will hit any moment, and I have to take them to the mountains before that,” Ono’s mind was working fast. However, despite his best efforts, Ono could not convince his friends to move away from the ocean. Ono rushed to tell the elders who were in the nearby area, but they did not pay any heed to Ono as well. In fact, one elderly man with facial tattoo grunted, “Ono, you must give rest to your overactive imagination and let everyone enjoy this rare occurrence.”

Now, Ono was panicking, he knew he had very little time on hand, and he had to do something drastic to make sure that people move away from the beach region.

Gathering dried grass from nearby area, Ono made up a torch and then lit it up. With that burning torch, Ono sprinted towards the mountain.

“Why are you running with the burning torch?” some onlookers asked.

“I will set fire to the trees in that mountain,” Ono shouted.

Everyone was horrified to hear this, “Are you crazy? Why would you set forest on fire?”

Ono did not stop to reply, he kept running, as if he was determined to set the fire. He knew that he was getting everyone upset at the moment, but as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures!

By now, more people saw, Ono running towards the trees to set them on fire. Everyone started chasing Ono, shouting after him to stop. “That is enough Ono, stop and come back,” voices of people chasing Ono echoed on the mountain trail.

But would Ono stop? No way. He saw children, men, women of his tribe following him. He was happy that they were moving away from the ocean. Oblivious to Ono’s plan, the tribe people were livid with Ono, calling him horrible names. Unaffected, Ono kept running, away and away, to higher and higher plains, till he was much away from the ocean.

By the time, people caught up with him, he was at the edge of the mountain. When he turned back to look at the villagers, all he saw were angry gazes, glaring at him.

“Why do you want to burn these trees and plants which are like our parents?” The angry villagers questioned him.

Before Ono could say anything, from the vantage point of the mountain, one of the villagers noticed something unusual about the ocean. A great wall of water had risen and fell hard on the beach, running towards their main land. Right in front of their eyes, they saw that their houses and farms were engulfed in the ocean water. The shore and their entire village had been destroyed.

Everyone realized the danger that they were in. Nothing or no one would have survived. The villagers turned towards Ono. The gazes which were glaring at Ono a while back, now looked at him with gratefulness. They embraced him and thanked him for saving their lives.

Note: Ono’s story and many such stories had been passed down for many generations in the Onge tribe. These stories were not just for entertainment, but proved to useful during the 2004 tsunami. The Onge tribe was aware about the danger they were about to face when they saw the ocean retreating. They saved countless lives that day as they were able to get on a higher plane before the tsunami hit. And this is how folklores have proved to be useful in real life.



Ulka Mayur


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Jan 03
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

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