In the world, hundreds of languages are spoken. Old languages die and new ones evolve. Bo is on the list of 10 Andamanese languages. According to experts, Bo was spoken back in the pre-Neolithic era, the era when the earliest men and women left Africa. Luckily, we had a woman belonging to one of the Andaman islands named Boa Sr.
Boa was the last member of one of the tribes on the Andaman Islands. She was a fluent speaker of Bo. In 2013, Boa Sr took her last breath at the age of 85. With her demise, the Bo language also died. Experts say that the tribe was about 65,000 years old.
Boa belonged to a the first descendants of people who left Africa approximately 70,000 years back for these Islands. Other groups reached and settled in Australia and Indonesia.
She went through the hardships of Asian Tsunami of 2004.She said, “We were all there when the earthquake came” in a statement. While giving this statement, lost in her past, she was looking at the sky.
Prof. Anvita Abbi used to see Boa often. The linguist said that Boa’s eyesight was getting weaker and she was not able to talk to anyone in Bo. She had no kids and her husband passed away many years back.
Being the only speaker of the ancient language, she felt loneliness because she had nobody to talk to, said Abbi in an interview with the Times.
She had a good sense of humor too. Abbi talked to her in Hind and Bo, which a mix of the 10 tribal languages. The professor said that they had a strange but intense relationship. She further said that they had spent a lot of time together in the forest, and Boa was a very proud of being the last speaker of Bo.
Boa opened her eyes in the forest of the north Andamans and raised in the traditional society. Their parents used to collect wild potatoes and go out in the jungle to hunt for fish, turtles and pigs.
It was 1970 when the Indian government decided to move the tribes to the Strait Island close to Port Blair. She was provided with a tin hut, food and a pension of around Rs 500/- (about $8) per month.
Tribesman of Sentineles who disallowed any interaction with outsiders get ready to shoot arrows at a Coast Guard heli of India. Abbi further said that she always wanted to return to her birth place.
The one big problem that was killing them gradually was alcohol, said Abbi.
The Bo, according to experts, have lived on these great islands for about 65,000 hours. This puts them on the list of the oldest human cultures that survived a long period of time. 65,000 is, without any doubt, a long period of time. And the language is definitely older than that.
In 2005, the king of that great tribe passed away, leaving a few aged members who left the world in the next few years. There was a time when there were over 5,000 member of Andamanese. They were divided in over 10 different groups with each group speaking their own language.
Now-a-days, however, after about 150 years of communication with colonizers, they are 52 in number.
No tribe is intact except the Sentinelese, and the members of this tribe don’t like to get in touch with outsiders. In 2004 tsunami, photos of the members of that tribe were captured when they were shooting arrows at a helicopter.
Boa was envious of the fact that both Sentinelese and Jarawa had somehow avoided any interaction with outsiders. Boa said that jungle was the right place for them.
Survival International is a group campaigning to protect the rights of indigenous people, and the director of this group named Stephen Corry requested the Indian government not to take any step for the rehabilitation of any of the tribes.
After the demise of Boa Sr, the Bo language is gone and has become part of history. For us, Boa’s loss is a reminder that steps should be taken to protect other tribes of the great Andaman Islands.
People die every day, but not languages. Languages last for hundreds of thousands of years, but when they die, they life forever in the books of history. Bo is now alive but in books, so do the last speaker of it. Rest in peace!