It was a bright sunny morning and I woke up with the voices of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga crooning the song ‘Shallow’ from the kitchen. The ladies were busy cooking and singing along. 😊
After sometime, Bhim and I basked in the sun in the balcony with the homestay’s cat. The little one was rolling and playing with us, purring her way into my heart by using my leg as a pillar to sharpen her claws and cuddle in my lap. It was perfect.
Piyush took us for a brief visit to Kigwema village before we set off to Khonoma village later. In the meanwhile I was keeping in touch with Mungsang, a dear friend and college mate of my partner Srini. He lived in Dimapur and I was excited to meet up with him on our way back.
Srini told me so much about his Pune college days, his friends and the fun they had.He credits his exposure, his way of thinking, his knowledge of music to these guys. If not for them, as he puts it, ‘ I would keep listening to soppy pop songs and not Queen or AC/DC’. 😁
I updated Mungsang about our travel schedule and we would see him soon in a couple of days. He suggested me to have local rice beer in Khonoma, he said it was one of the best. I kept that in mind!
I would like to pause here and change the traction a bit. There are certain important things that stay in your mind. We were taken to Kigwema, it had a historic importance.
This was the place the Japanese first landed during World War II. It was in 1944, it was an invasion, there was not much violence. There is a house that commemorates this, that very spot when they first came there. The guide told us that until recently there were a few Japanese living in the village.
The houses had animal skulls in full display at the entrance. Their history of hunting was visible, the more number of skulls, the greater the honour. An interesting thing was that dear departed ones were buried in the backyard of their homes. Yes, no separate allotment for graves.
And right next to it was a beautiful garden bursting with vegetables. Even the grave was simple. Just a cross commemorating the departed one. After sometime the ground was used to sow and plant again. It was an interesting mix of traditional norms with Christian way of life.
We saw how the people lived, the shawls they weaved, the sweet heady fragrance of the local rice pounding to make flour and all but only one thing comes to my mind, or more like one person, Rubir.
Rubir was part of our group. He is a Vlogger and he has a YouTube travel channel ‘ Chal Le Oye’ ( Check him out!) Unlike most travellers he would respectfully ask for permission before filming anything or anyone. If anyone said No, he would say Thank you, smile and leave. This was a rarity. Bhim and I told him how much we appreciated that. He was an unassuming friendly guy always respectful about the surroundings. Then out came stories of his life.
He was a doctor, a former army man, a devastating accident during the Kedarnath floods turned his life upside down. 7 slipped discs and multiple fractures. His superior gave him an order that should not have been given as per protocol, considering the conditions. He had no back up. It was a highly risky almost fatal mission. In dense weather, he set out with his radio operator and fell into a crevasse. He luckily had a rope around him and his operator could pull him up but the damage was done. With his injuries, he walked back to the camp.
And after the accident when they had to file the report, his superior denied giving him that order and denied medical expenses. He fought for his right, it disillusioned him yet he hung on. Finally with witnesses, trial hearings, he was given full medical reimbursement and compensation. It took him years to recover mentally and physically to get to where he was. He couldn’t practice medicine anymore. He left the army. When he wondered how would he get along in life, he learnt multimedia, cinematography, worked on productions and here he was. He limps slightly when he walks.
If anyone saw him, they would have no clue about his life.When I asked him, Was he disillusioned with the army? He smiled and said, How can I be? It was that one person, not the entire army. I have pride in it, that I could defend and protect my country.
What do you say to this? When arm benchers sitting in the comfy of their living rooms have an opinion and point flaws about every aspect of our country, what do you say about men like Rubir, who loves his country, loves what he does and moved on with a lot of positivity? For me, that’s what I take from Kigwema. That time, that day when he spoke about his life. My respect for him went up tenfold.
It was time to head to Khonoma. With our backpacks in the vehicle, saying our Thank You’s to the lady who runs the homestay we got ready for the rough bumpy ride to Khonoma.
Very dusty throughout the ride and us bobbing up and down in the seats, we reached Khonoma village. I realised we were in the midst of complete silence. No din of the festival, not many people either. Very quiet and serene, just 30 kms away and it was a different world altogether. And right at that junction we saw a smiling young guy – Victor.
To be continued… 😊