It was time to head back to base camp. Bhim and I tottered our way back slowly. We were very clear we didn’t want to walk among loud people or going click crazy. Maybe it works for some but not for us. When you are in midst of nature, enjoy the moment first, breathe in, sense everything around you before you start snapping away. This culture of constantly showing ‘ I have been here’ was seriously damaging.
Roko trekked with us sharing his experiences. I came to know more about Nagaland thanks to him. In the North East, 99% of the population were converted into Christianity. There were different denominations of Christianity,
Baptiste, Baptiste Revival, Catholicism and Pentacost. Roko was Baptiste Revival. I asked him about gospel rock concerts. They were hugely popular in villages in Meghalaya. He mentioned that Church organisations regularly held get togethers like choir sessions, music concerts, village fairs so that the youth didn’t stray away from religion. They would be united doing this.
And yes most of them felt Nagaland required a separate status, not to be associated like the rest of mainstream India. It was interesting. The concept of a separate nation.
So I asked Roko if hypothetically, they were granted a separate country, China would be waiting in the wings to capture Nagaland just like Tibet, destroy their culture and make it into one communist whole. What were his thoughts? Being with China? He said yes that was a reality and that would happen if ever they went separate and I guess the younger generation was looking at a special status for their land, as part of India. I didn’t see any bitterness, angst in any of the locals. They stated as it is.
On a lighter note, we discussed the food of the Nagas and I remember Roko’s classic statement, ‘ We will eat anything with four legs except a table and chair, we will eat anything with wings except a plane’ 😁😁 Bhim and I burst out laughing! He had trained to be a veterinarian and he said it coolly, I realised I didn’t have a career in that area.
Nagas, if they noticed that their pet dog was not eating for 2-3 days they would kill it and eat it. But not if it was a sick dog or a dog dying of old age, they buried them but in the above scenario, they would do just that so he laughed and said I would have nothing to do if I continued that career! 😁
He also made a joke about a kid crying and a person asks him what happened, the kid explains that he lost his pet dog and he is searching for him. Then the guy asks is your neighbour a Naga? And the boy nods then the man says, Boy, your dog is gone! The way Roko explained it we were laughing out loud. He really had a sense of humour! He also spoke about snake meat and how delicious it was. He mentioned a particular local variety of snake that was a delicacy.
I also got to know the various tribes so if one said Angami, it was not that simple. Again there was Southern Angami, Western, Eastern Angami and one more I can’t remember now. First there was the language Nagamese, that was a mix of Naga, Assamese and ready for this? a phonetic sound of Tamil! Yes am not kidding! He said that people from Tamil Nadu could understand when he spoke in Nagamese. Then each tribe had their own language and each sub tribe within that had their language and dialect.
We asked Roko to slowly talk to us in Nagamese and if we could understand what he was saying. Surprisingly enough we could. Then Bhim said Oh! This is the language you use among yourselves when you make fun of us tourists? Roko smiled and said No, we have our tribe language so we use that.😊
Roko introduced us to one of his friends, he was a guide and he was taking a traveller to Dzukou. This young man was a guitarist and a singer and was going to perform in Dimapur soon. Such talent. Music was in their blood.
Now when I look back, I realise what all we learnt and experienced about the land and it’s people. Nagas were fearless, they had a history of headhunting that was banned just 50 years ago. They had pride in their culture and heritage and if one were to experience their hospitality, it would be unlike anything else. They would give their heart and soul. Roko shared so much about his land, his life, his people, if that’s not caring and sharing, what is it then?
We finally reached the View Point. From here was a steep descent. We rested up a bit and Bhim showed the slow motion video he took the previous day to a few others waiting at the view point. I also remember us cheering and greeting other Trekkers going towards Dzukou. It’s a camaraderie. The hardest part, the ascent was over for them and we would start our descent.
Roko was waiting for the others so Bhim and I started our descent down as we kept chatting. The descent is the one that is the hardest on your knees as the whole body weight is on it, but this was really ok compared to what we endured in our previous treks. We kept talking as we made our way down. Once we reached the base camp, we waited for the others and finally made our way back to the homestay.
Bhim thanked Roko for giving us his company and we promised to stay in touch through WhatsApp. It always was good to be connected with a guy like Roko.
It was past 2.30 pm and in one hour it would get dark. Amidst scrambling for a bucket of hot water and finally getting that hot bath with some late lunch, we were set to go to Hornbill again. This was our last day here.
Tomorrow we would be off to Khonoma, a village with a rich history and considered the ‘first green village in Asia’. It was dark so we got a cab and reached the festival venue. None of the people in the group had the energy to get out of the homestay. Bhim and I are crazy that way, we push our bodies to an insane level and then wonder later.
We bought some stuff from the open markets and right then we heard Rock Music! Yes Rock Music in the music arena! We dropped everything and rushed there. It was five minutes and the band finished their set. No worries, we knew there would be more.
So we shopped, looked around the market and then we heard the most unique sound. There was a performance by a Hungarian group singing and dancing to their traditional folk music. It was so surreal to see Hungarian music that too in Nagaland! The woman’s voice was haunting, I could close my eyes and feel her voice from the mountains, the village she came from, singing songs of yore, I just can’t explain what I felt that time. And their dancing was infectious as the crowd cheered them on!
And then came onto the stage, this rock band from Nagaland. Boy did they rock! The band was phenomenal.The guitar riffs and the singer’s voice? OMG! Each one of them was mind blowing. From the band’s original songs to Police’s Roxanne, Europe’s Carrie, Journey’s Don’t stop believin’, Whitesnake’s Here I go again and more, how they rocked!
Our tiredness went away just like that. We were in the crowd, we jumped, head banged and danced for more than an hour. It was a surge of high pulsating energy! Guys if you want to know Rock, it’s North East. No one can beat these guys. No one! And yup Rock music Rules. 🤟🏾
We had our dinner at the Ao tribe hut( Morang) We ordered Rice Beers. While Bhim had rice, a very spicy chilli pickle with greens and beans Chutney. I had delicious Amsou – it’s a rice gruel with boiled chicken parts and very hot! Chilli hot! It was beautiful that night, us sitting among the locals, drinking and chatting away. We were so content just being. Yes, we were dead tired but it was all worth it.
We came back to the home stay and hung out with a couple of backpackers from Italy sharing smokes with them. They were in Nepal and Afghanistan for months and now were planning around North East. Their next stop was Meghalaya so I gave them a list of places to visit there. It was biting cold so we huddled around the hot coals in the living room for some time. Ratan said he would see us in Khonoma. This guy was a delight to be with. It was time to call it a night.
Tomorrow would be Kigwema, Khonoma and yes lots of gyan about life between Ratan, Bhim and me. To be continued 😊