‘You have come? Really? Good, I did not believe that you would come. You are very brave and very smart. You are the first Indian woman to visit our village’, said Longsha, helping me out of the car. I peered at him suspiciously. Was this fellow joking? What did he mean by saying that he did not believe I would come? Of course I would, I had made that very clear over all the phone conversations for the past three months.
My entire body was aching, we had been driving non-stop from 7am to 9.40pm. Over the last four hours the speedometer had rarely climbed beyond 20kmph. The roads were bad and it was pitch dark. I placed one aching foot in front of the other as gingerly as possible and took Longsha’s hand as he guided me to his house. Squinting in the darkness, I saw five to six men accompanying us, but I was too tired to bother. Striding over a massive wooden threshold as high as my calves, I stepped into Longsha’s home in Nagaland’s Lungwa village in Mon District.
My host led me to the centre of the long mud-floored house where a host of people and animals were seated around a sunken fire smouldering in the middle of the floor. Longsha introduced me to his parents, wife, brothers, sisters, numerous cousins and neighbours who all smiled and shook my hand. Everyone was sitting on very small wicker stools, or, lacking that, on their haunches. Snot-nosed children eyed me shyly. Two fat brown puppies and a grey cat snoozed on the edge of the fire pit. I couldn’t make out a word of the Nagamese which was being spoken but nevertheless I smiled and handed over the sweets and cakes that I had brought for the children to Longsha’s father. The old man said something in a serious voice, and Longsha translated. “My father says thank you.” Apparently, it was the first time any Indian had brought something for the family. Foreigners who came to their home always gave gifts, but according to him, Indians were stingy and never brought anything. I wondered at this “Indian” business but was too tired to dig further so I let it slide, instead peering at the rest of the room, taking it in.
A single naked light bulb hanging from a red wire on the wall did little to dispel the darkness, but combined with the dim light from the fire, it revealed aluminium utensils, dried vegetables, several unknown roots and tubers, corn cobs and large wicker baskets hanging on the walls. Inside the room itself, there were no windows, or walls (save the four walls of the house itself). The entire house was a long span of space that was broken up selectively by woven bamboo partitions. My hosts indicated a small cemented space area I could wash my face; it was also used for cleaning utensils. There was a solitary electric point in the whole house, in the room with the fire, where I plugged in my phone to charge after the fourteen-hour journey had drained it.
Longsha’s mother offered me a cup of strong black tea from a kettle that seemed to be perpetually brewing on the fire. A little later, we all shared a simple dinner of rice and boiled pork and leafy vegetables, after which I retired for the night. My room was set apart from the main house, a small cemented structure without electricity. Holding out the candle before my face I saw the narrow cot against one wall, and the bathroom door at the other end. It was the month of January. Though it was windy, I was quite warm in the heap of blankets I was given. Everything around me was absolutely still and silent. Here I was, on my very first solo trip, in the easternmost corner of India, here in the candlelit dark, on my squeaky cot; I felt the first flush of jubilation set in. I’d done it, I was really here. I fell into the blissful sleep of the truly exhausted.
The previous day I’d reached Kohima, Nagaland’s capital city, and hired a car from India Trail to take me to Lungwa village in Mon District, 45 kilometres from Mon town. My driver was a sweet natured 22 year old young man, named Arun. Though we were travelling from one part of Nagaland to another, we had to drive through Assam because of the terrible road network in the interior parts of Nagaland. I would have taken a bus from Kohima, which would have been cheaper, but after learning that it was an overnight bus whose arrival time couldn’t be trusted, I decided in favour of hiring a car – Mon town isn’t exactly a tourist destination. Yet the reason I was making for Lungwa village, which had the unique distinction of straddling two countries, Myanmar and India, was because it was a village of erstwhile head-hunters. It was very remote and primitive. I had located a Mr. Longsha from Lungwa village who hosted tourists, but as a fifty-plus woman with arthritic knees, I needed certain material comforts out of necessity (no matter my enthusiasm) and over sporadic telephone conversations that spanned three months, he insisted – “You come. No problem. You will like so much you not go back.”
(Please note- All photographs taken next day.)
- My journey dates:18.01.2016-21.1.20169 (Lungwa village)
- Kohima- Mon Town. Through Assam highways, Jorhat-Sibsagar-Sonari-Mon town 368 kms. Lungwa is another 45 kms from Mon town.
People I am grateful to and without whose help, this trip would not have been possible-
- India Trail- Rohan K Abraham and David Angami +918132917798; http://www.indiatrail.org/
- Vincent Belho +919436001368 Great guy who referred India Trail to me.
- Ms Lisapila Anar PRO Nagaland House, New Delhi helped me with recommending places to stay on a budget and obtaining the Inner Line Permit
- Address-Nagaland House
29, Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi, 110011 | Tel No: 011 23012296
- Mr Zoliana Chhakchhuak – Omega Travels,Mizoram (+919612951288) who I always go to in times of need regarding travel to the NE of India.
TO BE CONTINUED