To get through my ambitious endeavor, I reached out to ANET (Andaman and Nicobar Environmental Team) based in Wandoor in the islands. ANET has aided many researchers in the past who were interested in the islands and has extensively worked alongside the Karen community as well. Through them, I was lucky enough to meet Saw John – the base manager of ANET and my host as well. He offers researchers subsidized accommodation and food at his house in Webi Village in Middle Andaman. Since Webi Village was the site of my main interest, I jumped at the opportunity of living within the Karen basti at a subsidized cost. ANET also helped me in arranging local transport and connecting me to other students working in similar conditions.
I spent my first two nights and my last night at ANET’s base itself. It was a nice transition into the island lifestyle. Although I have lived in India all my life, I still faced challenges as trivial as mosquitos and as scary as snakes. The monsoon season played its own part – delaying travels, inviting more insects and power cuts were common. I had to adjust to a slow island lifestyle as well as get used to the wilderness and the monsoon fury. At first, the task seemed impossible but soon I started savoring the solitude in nature and enjoying the slow island lifestyle.
From ANET base, my next stop was John’s house in Webi so after a 10 hour bus ride and two short ferry rides, I finally reached Webi and met my host family – Saw john, his wife Doris and his two kids Elton (12yo) and Futupe (14yo). They were such a warm and welcoming family that I felt I was at home. It was really nice to interact with the family since they lived in the heart of the village and had a lot to share with me about their community. Their house is two-storied wooden house right amidst paddy fields and since it was cultivating time for them, everyone was busy all day long in their fields. Within the first week John arranged meetings with the pradhan of the community (local government head) and also the pastors and Reverends who played an influential role among the Karen. Talking to them was very informative and helped me design my questions for the interviews to come..