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REMOTE REPUBLIC!

Three days after we celebrated our 57th Republic Day, we are settling down to normalcy.

National flags dismounted and songs that infuse the sense of patriotism in us are dying out.

We are readying ourselves for our day-to-day struggles.
I will be able to steal a little time out of my schedule to complete the post, before there is another scam or another controversy breaks out and we get busy in digging them out. (I started writing this on 22nd of January, with the idea of publishing on 26th, the RD Day but failed to do so...Better late than never!)

26th of January, 2004. I spent the day at a remote village in the "remote North East Indian State of Nagaland". It happende to be the only Republic Day so far I have spent without once hearing the National Anthem and seeing single National Flag waving on the sky. Yet, it’s a day I’ll recall on every Republic day I celebrate.

Distance between the district head quarter of Zunheboto and the state capital Kohima is about 150 kilometers. A Jeep running at a speed of 50 to 60 km/h should not take more than two and half-hours to cover that. Thanks to the bumpy roads spiraling around the hills you can hardly think of covering that distance in less than five hours.

After spending three days at the district headquarters, cameraperson Priyadarshan (PD) and I set out for the Akhakhu Village, some twenty-five kilometers from the HQ. Our mission was to produce a video report about rural life of Nagas.

The village schoolteacher whom we met at District Collector’s office volunteered to be our guide. But our communications were minimal. "Might be he is not comfortable talking in English or might be reluctant to speak," I thought.

Travelling on the bumpy road for three hours we reached the village at about 8:30 in the morning. Our guide led us to the school ground," We will find the people there."

We were delighted to see the crowd male and female, children and the old; all in their traditional attire. A group of boys and girls dancing on drum beats at the centre.

"Republic Day celebrations?"

Our guide Tulume, choose not to answer my question to keep me wondering.

In a few moments we found ourselves at the center of all the activities. Villagers gathered around the vehicle and gave us a grand welcome. Having no idea of what to do, we decided follow what ever takes place there.

Luckily after some moments of confusion the village-head approached us and I was relieved that his command over English was good enough to express his feelings and understand me.

We were surprised to know that all the arrangements in the field were to just to welcome us.
"Nothing to do with the RD," the village head asserted.
"How do you know that we are coming?"
"After you discussed your trip with Tulume yesterday, he sent his friend to inform us. Please do not mind if we miss something in serving you." It was time for me to be mesmerized by simplicity and warmth of hospitality.

Excitement of the villagers reached the peak when I explained objective of our visit. Youths resumed their dance and the villagers started joining them on by one. PD got busy in capturing these moments.

I continued my discussion with the village-head. When asked him about Republic Day Celebrations, he turned to me with a blank look (just as Tulume did).

"That is not a part of our tradition. What difference does becoming a republic make to us? Can’t you see how "remotes" we are from the republic you are talking about? You are the first media team to visit this village ask us about our lives, our problems."

"I am really grateful that you are here to know about us. Yes, we have problems and we are needy. We do not have single concrete building in our village. But please do not go back with the idea that we are poor or downtrodden."

I tried to speak something to fill up the long silence after this. But failed to generate a sequence of words.

"But don’t think these people are cheering up at your arrival because you are from media. That makes no difference to them. There’s only one television set in the village, which is also defective. Newspapers hardly reach here. Most of the people hardly have any idea of media. We welcome each and every visitor in this way only."

"We are happy here. We know how to tackle the problems of our lives. We have learnt how to live with all the limitations..."

"You must be hungry. Lets have something."

Drums stopped beating. We were led inside the school where about twenty traditional Naga dishes were waiting for us. Chicken, Mutton, Pork and Beef, all kind of non-vegetarian dishes cooked in Naga way.

Problem occurred when we found all the preprations, starting from Chicken to Beef, were being served with the same wooden spoon.

I choose to ignore this fact but PD was dead against having anything beyond Chicken.

And there were some hundred and fifty villagers waiting for us to have our first byte. Villagers will take food only after their guests start…do not ask how we managed things...

The Sun was moving fast towards the west horizon. As per the instructions of the District Collector we were supposed to reach the district Head quarters before it was dark. So it was time to say bye. Most of the village walked with us till the boundary of the village.

Just before saying us a final bye the villagers offered prayer to their deity "to ensure a safe back journey for you."

We saw them standing at the same spot till we were out of view.


Comments

Oh wow! This is serious documentary stuff. I'm so amazed at the simplicity and hospitality of the people.
jac said…
A rael story written by somebody, who knows his job.
Very well presented.
Kudos.
Dotm said…
Very interesting reading and learning more about other countries and some of their customs.
Good write up.
I came across your reply on Jac`s blog and came to read some of your posts.

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