I woke up to a crisp cold morning. There were sounds, people were up and about quietly getting on with their daily chores. Roosters and chickens clucking, the pigs in the stye, the mist and that awesome smell of firewood. A village is the same anywhere in a India. It took me back to my childhood memories.
I sat on the steps of the verandah taking it all in. It was really cold so after some time I went back to the warm bed with blankets and closed my eyes reflecting on the journey. It was a week already. Where did the time go? It was almost the end of 2019, just days away before ushering in a new year, a new era maybe?
This year had been eventful for me. It gave me a kind of clarity I didn’t have before. After some time Mona woke up. Bhim wanted to sleep for some more time so Mona and I went to the kitchen for Chai. It was warm and nice and there were kittens nonchalantly relaxing by the fire making their own space. My heart went out to a tiny scrawny one with one eye. She looked fragile but she was not. Fighting her way, she held onto her own space.
As we were having Chai, Mona’s friends came by. They were all going to Hornbill festival along with Abhishek. We had the same late night train to Guwahati. After some time, Bhim woke up. Mona and the others were ready to go, Avantika was going back to Kohima so she was with them. The Gujarati couple booked a vehicle to go to Imphal, Manipur. We were the only ones left.
Ratan was going back to Dimapur so we would tag along with him. By the time our man woke up and got ready, it was past 10.30 am. I had messaged Mungsang that we would be there by afternoon thinking we would start at 7.30 am, no chance were we gonna be there in Dimapur before 4 pm.
Ratan also got a gift, a big stack of fresh weed as a Christmas gift from Vhizo. See the pic where I posed holding that stack with a goofy smile! 😁 Saying goodbye to Vhizo we started off with Ratan on the wheel. He was a pleasant driver, cautious and very good, keeping his eye on the bad dusty roads, he spoke about his childhood, his life and why he started this offbeat tours. We would take intermittent breaks for a smoke and then drive again. After some time, Bhim took over and drove till we reached Dimapur.
Bhim and I were terribly hungry as we both had one slice of bread each. It would take some time to get to the city. The only one food stop was a lady selling pineapples. Juicy and sweet. We had one slice. Ratan picked up a couple of pineapples. He was off to Siliguri for a family function which he was dreading. His next big tour was happening in Jan- 50 people and a customised one. Abhishek would take care of Meghalaya tours this month.
Once I got connectivity I messaged Mungsang and updated him about our status. He booked us a guesthouse room even though I told him we were leaving the same night. He paid for it and he wouldn’t listen to my plea of asking the rate so I could pay back. Generosity is rare and when you get that, you accept it with respect.
Mungsang messaged saying he would pick us up once we were in the city and take us to the guesthouse. Ratan had a train at 4 pm at Dimapur and once he got the location of the guesthouse, he dropped us very near to the location. We just had to take an auto. It was 3.34 pm, he still had to drop his car at his home and take the train and he was chatting with us! We told him to rush! Giving a big hug to him we made our way to the guesthouse.
The owners were already informed so we got a room right away. And in a few minutes Mungsang arrived. There he was, Srini’s friend. I had seen all his pictures and Srini always told me he resembled Hugh Grant in his younger days. He greeted us warmly. Since we were really hungry he took us to a nearby cafe. His home was just a stone’s throw away.
He had a busy evening. He and his siblings would be catching up for a prayer meeting followed by dinner starting at 6 pm. They did that once every month and he was organising it. Inspite of it, he took time off to meet up and that’s very precious to me. Time, just giving your time is the most priceless thing than anything else.
We had a couple of snacks in the cafe as we chatted about our trip. Mungsang worked in the government sector and he was posted in Longleng, 200 kms from Dimapur. He would visit his family every other week. Blessed with three daughters, I could see the pride and joy he had about his family. Family is everything and family is what you make.
After that we went to his beautiful house surrounded by lush plants and greenery and was introduced to his wife. Very poised and elegant. We spoke about various things. Munsang was surprised that I didn’t want kids, didn’t want a conventional life, being part of domesticity, a life that was mundane. At that time I couldn’t tell him, it took me years of struggle, pain, to beat the odds, to get to a space where I knew what I wanted in life. This is it and I needn’t ask more. Bhim too believed in similar stuff, I guess that’s why we were such good friends.
Mungsang spoke about his Ao tribe, the Christian denomination, the need for a special status of Nagaland. It was really interesting to know his view, from someone who worked with the government. He has a fabulous sense of humour btw! I reminded him of Srini’s ‘MonAmi’ pen and he burst out laughing! Well this was a pen that became a saviour to Srini during his exams. Maybe one day I will write about it when the need arises!
He spoke about his father-in-law who was in the Indian Army and was awarded the prestigious Ashoka Chakra. I asked him if there was a conflict in him, the fact that his father-in-law was loyal to Indian Army and the government considering their conflict with Naga Secessionists. He simply said My father-in-law never was at war with the Nagas so that’s ok. 😊
Mungsang told us he would see us around 9 pm once the dinner meeting was over and drop us to the station. The train was at 11.25 pm and we insisted he need not. It was too late. We could take an auto, the guesthouse guys would call for one but nope he said he would come back.
Bhim and I went back to the room, and crashed on our beds. We were so tired by now with the whole day road ride. God bless Mungsang for he had the foresight to book us a room. We had no patience to hang out anywhere else. After dozing for an hour, we had a delicious dinner and later I went for a shower. While I was getting ready, around 9.30 pm, Mungsang was back. I could hear Bhim talking to him on the terrace.
I joined them. We spoke about music, how rock bands were still relevant, John Lennon’s Imagine and it still held true. I told him about my mixed heritage and he said something very beautiful. ‘It really doesn’t matter which religion one follows, it’s about having a clean heart’.
We laughed about Bhim’s height! Seeing me with Bhim he thought I was short and he realised only when I was standing that I was tall too. He was like I didn’t notice because of Bhim, he is really tall!! He also told Bhim he will fix him with a beautiful Naga lady, he will finally agree to marry then! Bhim was like yeah, imagine if our kid gets my height and her strength!! 😁
We were set to go. Mungsang gave us a car ride around the neighbourhood lit up for Christmas. Almost every lane was decked up. This was not by the officials, but by people who took the initiative to decorate the area. He had also given me a heavy bag of home made smoked pork for Srini. It’s so delicious! And Mungsang if you are reading this, your friend polished off that entire package in 6 days!
Dropping us off at the station, and spending some time with us, Munsang left. I was filled with joy. These were old friends, in today’s times when people don’t value anything, they were in touch through the years and he took time to spend with someone like me he didn’t even know. You know how priceless that is, right?
Time to go back to Guwahati… To be continued..