Tuesday, April 24, 2012

North East Chronicles 12 : Nagaland - Joie de vivre!

Nagaland - the land of Nagas.  The first time I read about Nagaland was at my school.   There was this 'Tamil' traveller who had seen those yester-year horizons.   This guy, Sadhuvan, was a trader.

Sadhuvan discovered the
hospitality of Nagas, washed ashore
It seems that he was sailing towards the South Eastern Nations, mostly towards, Thailand, and his sail were blown to smithereens by an unkind tempest.  All lost and unconscious, Sadhuvan washed up on the shores - somewhere near today's Bangladesh.  He was recovered and helped to recuperate by people who were seen with a 'Naga' emblem.  Later, he recounts, the way he learnt the language and was able to connect with the 'Nagas'.  Just as I discovered, this is part of  Tamil Legend called 'Manimekalai'.   This Sadhuvan seemed to have wallowed in

This among many legends including the Chinese travelers have talked about the influence of Buddhism and other external religions into the Naga culture.   The culture has survived multiple onslaughts thus and has survived.

History of Nagaland:

The early part of Nagaland is the story of Naga tribes.  Most of these Naga tribes are mountainous and were at constant war with the neighboring clans.  The artifacts show that there was a brief interlude of the Kachari Kingdom here.   The word 'Nagas' mean literally clothless.   

The Burmese occupied Nagaland in the early 1800's.   As British occupied Assam in 1826, Nagaland became part of Assam.  Under the influence of the Christian Missionaries, many tribals got converted to Christianity, which is now the main religion in these parts.   
The battle of the Tennis Court -
present day look!

Imperial Japan, an Axis power during the World War II, had captured Burma from the British-India.   After lot of difficulties in getting approvals from his HQ, the Japanese commander of the region, decided to attack India especially occupy the Brahmaputra valley.   Having a friendly government in the form of Indian National Army, led by Subhash Chandra Bose was an exciting idea. 

The battle of Tennis court - Kohima
the war days!
The battle of Kohima, in which the forces of British India defeated the Japanese Imperial Army in a 3 month stand-off, including the battle of the Tennis court, a 22 day battle fought in close quarters - was the largest defeat of the Japanese army.  This battle is called the 'Stalingrad of the east'.   The results of the battle, defeated the efforts of the Indian National Army ( INA) led by Subhash Chandra Bose to built an independent India by force.   Technically the battle could have forced an early British exit, if history had turned left! 

Post India's freedom, Nagaland was part of the state of Assam.  There was lot of efforts from Nagaland tribes to move out of the Indian Federation.  Post multiple discussions between the tribal representatives and the Indian Government, Nagaland became a state in 1962.   Even after that, there was struggle by indigenous groups to gain independence - especially around by the NSCN.  In the 1990's, a ceasefire brought a much-needed calm.   Still there are still inter-tribe clashes between Nagas and Kukis- that, I understood is the basic issue around Nagaland and Manipur.  

The people, language and culture:

The people of Naga, belong to the Mongoloid race.  The cultural kaleidoscope, that is Nagaland is famous considering that there are 16 tribes.  Some of the prominent tribes are Chakhesang, Angami, Zeliang, Ao, Sangtam, Yimchunger, Chang, Sema, Lotha, Khemungan, Rengma, Konyak, Pochury and Phom.

Essentially from the Tibeto-Burmese sect,  a language called Nagamese unites them which is like a potpourri of Assamese and the basic Naga tribal dialects.  Christianity is the main religion ( about 90% of populace is Christian) and is seen as the major leveling factor among the Nagas.

The Naga used to practice 'head hunting' -a widespread tribal practice that spans across the globe.   A head counter cuts off and preserves the head of the vanquished as a symbol of victory, slavery and manhood.

Marriage practices in Nagaland are strange and vary from tribe to tribe. Some of the tribes are exogamous.  In some tribes, they are polygamous - the man marries up to 6 girls.   In some tribes, there is more liberalization on this subject.  The girl can reject a man if she senses non-feasibility, infidelity or in-auspiciousness.   In another tribe, the girl and the boy embark on a 3 week journey, and the result of the journey determines the marriage.   Such exciting are the different marital practices of these colorful peoples.
Hornbill festival - drums and dance!

The famous 'hornbill' festival is celebrated for a week in December around the concept of Hornbill the common bird that unites and represents all the tribes of Nagaland.  In 2000, the government of Nagaland started sponsoring this event.  Other festivals have very unique rituals.  The Rengma Ngadah, Moatsu festivals for their rice beer ( *slurp*), the musical Nazu festival,  are celebrated in all happiness and harmony, and known for their gaiety and grandeur.

The Hornbill dance!
Nagaland is mountainous in nature. The Naga range starts from the Brahmaputra valley and merges in the Patkai range of Burma.  The intersection is the tallest peak in Nagaland - Saramati.   The rivers Doyang, Diphu flow through the state.

The Blyths Tragopan - the state bird
The state, with 20% of rich tropical forest land, is a host to a wide variety of flora and fauna.  The  Great Indian Hornbill is a famous bird here.   The Blyths Tragopan, a vulnerable pheasant is the State Bird of Nagaland.   The wide-horned bull, called Mithun is the State Animal of Nagaland. 

Tourism Nagaland:

Nagaland is a place of adventures - trekking, climbing, camping and exploration are some of the key tourist interests.   

The Kachari Ruins - Dimapur
Dimapur - means the large city by the river was the capital of the Kachari Kingdom.   The most significant tourist spot in Dimapur is the medieval ruins of this famous kingdom - a combination of embankments, temples ( mostly Hindu, but non-Aryan) and baths.

Kohima - was the battleground of the Indo-British and Japanese forces.  Around 45000 Japanese soldiers died and 17500 Indo-British soldiers died.   The battle of Kohima was one of the most bitter and longest battles in the history of World War II - Asia Pacific Theater.   Some battles lasted as long as three months.  The Cemetery here is one of the largest in these parts - in memorium, the British quoted '“When you go home, tell them of us, and say: ‘For your tomorrow, we gave our today.’
The Kohima Cathedral 

The Kohima Cathedral is the largest in Asia.  It served as the political bedrock of political agreements and the state's destiny.  The Cathedral has a capacity to seat 3,000 seats in the main citadel and can accommodate 20,000 in all.  The Japanese contributed towards the completion of this church's construction. A marvelous piece of architectural specimen, it is a place to visit.
Mt. Saramati, the largest non-
Himalayan peak
The Saramati peak, which is more than 3841 m, is the tallest non-Himalayan peak of India.   It is covered with snow between December and January.   This is ideal for trekking and scaling during the non-winter seasons.  The second and third tallest peaks are the Vedh and Mt. Pauna. 

Mt. Pfutsero or Glory peak
Another interesting peak is the Pfutsero or the Glory peak.   This houses the coldest town in Nagaland - Pfutsero.  From the echelons of this peak, one can see Mt. Everest in the west and Mt. Saramati in the East.

There is a salt river, a hot air blowing tunnel, wild-life sanctuary etc., in the Kiphire district. 

The Dzokhu valley is a trekker's paradise. Such is the intoxicating cocktail of flora and fauna is a place where nature itself seeks refuge.  This valley, with its adaptive name as Bingle valley has been immortalized by Vikram Seth in the poem entitled “The Elephant and the Tragopan”

There are various interesting tribal villages across the state.  Such is the diversity among the customs, legends and myths, it will take a life time to visit and assimilate what we see, hear and taste.

  1. Diezephe Craft Village houses expert weavers and craftsmen, deft in the arts of woodcarving, bamboo and cane works.  A place to watch. 
  2. The Khonoma village is the place for eco-tourism - a model village, because of its eco-friendly garbage disposal practices and rich flora and fauna.  This also is the place of Naga's last stand against British in 1879.
  3. Kohima village was established by a man called Whinuo hence Kewhira, the original name. Legend has it that he heard the sound of life - children and death - morning in this place.  He believed the sound of life to be a good omen and settled down.  This is also called the 'Bara Basti'  ( large settlement), and is indeed one of the largest villages in Asia.  It is said that the village has seven gateways adorn by bull horns.
  4. The Ungma village is a living artifect of the Ao tribe and the second largest village of Nagaland.  
  5. The Longwa village, in the Mon district, falls on either side of the Myanmar-India border.  The Anghs - chiefs and the villagers enjoy dual citizenship!
  6. The Shangnyu village, part of the Mon district, has artifects that reflect the connection of the Ahom and the Shangnyu tribes.    
  7. Mt Pauna - tourist village has been specially designed for eco-tourism - with natural monoliths, warm water springs etc., 
  8. The Changsangmongko village is considered to the origin of earth by the Chang tribe.  There was a hole on the earth in which all earthlings came out.  They did not have bones in their body, were innocent and could not separate good and evil.  After few eons, this place became the decision making place for all disputes.   
  9. In August 1978, Chilise was the last place in India where head-hunting was discovered.  In 1962, some thirty heads of this village were hunted down by others out of suspicion that there of their heads been hunted by this village. 

Display of hunted skulls!

A head hunting tribe of Nagaland

Life in Nagaland is one long festival. The tribes, the villages, the flora and fauna are part of it - times of  Nature has blessed these people with little needs and loads of happiness.   Viva la joie, joie de vivre a la Nagaland!  

( This is a very basic attempt to kindle the reader's interest in Nagaland - it is worth a travel, again and again.    It is a little unnerving to find out such rich peoples have been discarded - historically, and otherwise).  

- The One 

 ( Pics Courtesy Internet)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mumbai Mumbles: In a tea cup, part of a storm!

Again, one of those queer coincidences!   How many of them?   And the last one was a big news item.

Some of those innocuous events one is part of, or associated with, become news items or publicized events.   It is a funny feeling to be part of such events.   Especially, for one, like 'The One', with a sense of history.   It only makes life more interesting and colorful, and helps beat the monotonous and the mundane.

Fire in the annual Kolkata book fair
- too coincidental to be true?
Some of the incidents are too coincidental to be true.   In 1996, I visited the annual Kolkata book fair - popular event among the literary buffs of Kolkata.  After shopping for more than three hours, where I bought my first world war II book ( this is one of my secret passions) and left the book stalls reluctantly, we made a passing remark on the single fire engine standing outside - that it would be a pity if something were to happen.

That night,  there was a huge fire, and the entire book fair was gutted.  Millions worth of property and intellectual wealth of infinite value was lost.   And it was the front page item of the next day's newspaper.   That day, I felt that I was part of an incident that made headlines.   Was it mere coincidence?  Or it was a simple observation of the obvious, and that the probability kicked in.

Another incident, again involving fire,  happened in the same vicinity.   The place was the State Bank of India dealing room, and I was in charge of the dealing infrastructure.   There was an upgrade of the fire extinguisher, and I remember making a remark about its impending use.

Just a week afterwards, a small fire happened, lot of chaos followed - and the subject was in action, and a newspaper item, as it never worked.   The feeling was not great, but was interesting.

And the recent spate of such incidents. These incidents were seemingly disparate, but connected if analyzed.   At first, it would sound like an contrived effort to build a story - but am sure that the entire humanity would have similar stories to tell.   And the conviction only increased when the below story happened.

When I moved to Mumbai - a tsunami called 'Thane' hit Chennai.  When I moved to 'Thane', a tsunami was to hit Chennai.  Should I move to tsunami then?  Below was a facebook comment on my profile:

When I moved to Mumbai - Cyclone 'Thane' hits Chennai!
When I move to Thane, ie today, tsunami hits to Chennai!
Should I move to tsunami, next?

Then - one of these mornings, I hitched a ride from Thane to Powai.   We typically take a Nira-break ( a drink made of sweet-palm) near the Mulund Naka.   Another customer of this Nira-wali told that there was some serious traffic expected to build up on the Mumbai roads - considering the fact that there seemed to be a fire and traffic signal failure.

I had never traveled in a Mumbai local in my life, so I vaguely dismissed the news.  One of those many news items that would not affect the safe and secure life of this author.  There were taxis, ricks and colleagues's cars.  So why should I  have really bothered?

The hot summer day wore along.  The meetings and the customer calls.   Life swung between the hot, dusty streets and the nice, cool air-conditioned confines of the customers' receptions and conference halls.   The small tit-bit was forgotten in the deluge of myriad thoughts.

The last of the evening meetings was done. Post this meeting in the Bandra- Kurla complex, I was clueless of how to come back to Thane.   The distance was great - and my car was cooling its tyres ( heels?) in the cool confines of my parking lot.   The sun was going down against the western Mumbai sky.  My colleague suggested, why not take the sub-urban?  30 minutes, will all it would take, suggested, he.
Approach to Kurla station -
the right turn threw me into a

I looked at my watch - it was 5:35.  I called another colleague who lived in Thane for a possible hitch.  He said he was in another part of this world called Mumbai.  With no options, I checked my google maps - application in my blackberry.   It suggested a distance of about a kilometer to the Kurla station.   So after couple of toss-ups, I decided to take the plunge.

I walked the distance of this 1 km - amidst traffic.  This was like wading through a human stream.  Barkha-clad women shopping in hordes, and the hawkers of the flea market on the station road trying to woo them.   A large Innova moved in like an elephant in a narrow temple street, unconcerned about the disgruntled stares of the pedestrians who owned the street - kerb to kerb.  
Burkha clad women wooed by
shop keepers along the station road, Kurla

Some gossiping cops and road blocks later, I reached the ticket counter.  Only few people were milling about the station - unusual sight?  Where was the legendary Mumbai crowd?   Was it a myth?

I took a first class ticket to Thane ( first timer's foolishness?) for Rs 80.  I walked to Platform 5 and inquired with a cop on a train that had just halted.  He said that it was indeed going to Thane.  Elated but confused - as I moved towards the train, the train burst out a hoot and started moving out of the station.   The train had some foot-boarders, and one of them suggested I should take the following train.

The following train arrived in under 5 minutes.  The crowd was ok. I had seen more in the Chennai suburbans ( which I rarely took).   As I entered the train, I saw two things.
The crowd in the Ambernath local

First, men and women had separate compartments - relatively clean by the standards you typically see.   It looked a good idea as it would help avoid harassment and the likes.   Secondly, the passengers wore the back-packs to the front, like the portable cribs that the mom's wear to carry their kids.   Nice idea, I thought.   Both hands free to hold a bar or a railing and can keep the eye on the backpacks.

So the journey started - Kurla, Vidya Vihar, Ghodbunder, Vikhroli, Bhandup, Nagar, Mulund, Thane - in that order.   Each time, people would rush in and out, jostling for entry and exit in the respective direction, the train would then move, people settling down - listening to music from their ear phones or chatting up with their co-passengers, some lost in thoughts, and some like me - fiddling with their phones.  The PA system would announce the next station and the display system - would put up the visual equivalent.

The Ambernath local, leaving Thane
The tea cup?
As we passed through the Nahur station,  I was amused by a loud outburst of laughter from a group of boys - who were foot-boarding.   Foot boarding is a major threat - young boys hanging their body and limbs out of the train - purely for fun or because of the testosterone effect.  And that was a passing cloud.

Finally, I reached Thane, got off the train.  As the train passed by, I felt that my entire train ride, my FIRST IN A MUMBAI LOCAL, was rather eventless.   I clicked a pic of the train, nevertheless.  Getting into a bus towards my home, I felt that the public transport system was rather robust in Mumbai.

Well there was another feeling - I had travelled second class, after buying a first class ticket!   I was indeed bordering stupidity! Except that, there was no queer feeling.
The bus from Thane station to home -
expecting a storm?

That was till I saw the news scrolls on TV that night and till I read the papers next day.

My feeling only grew stronger.   The mundane was replaced with a sense of mystery.

The first news: A fire in Kurla station had derailed the Mumbai local traffic that day 'Kurla station fire disrupts train services. Passengers suffering and irated',
followed by the second:   In Nahur,  foot boarders were knocked off by some protruding pole, too close to the train's skin.

I got into the same station ( Kurla), the same day and there was real calm, while indeed there was a huge commotion around this.   Secondly, my fleeting thought about the foot boarders, indeed transpired as an unfortunate event leading to 3 deaths.

The tit-bit offered by the fellow Nira- customer hit me like a small tidal wave.  Is news following me?  Is it like being a fly on the wall?  Without knowing that there is something brewing just under your nose.  That you are part of it, yet not realizing it.  Like being in a tea cup, but not realizing that there is a storm inside!!!

-The One

( Pictures courtesy The One)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mumbai Mumbles: Why did the chick(en) cross the road?

Life has been so quirky and an uphill climb these days.   Going through some role change and shifting of my house to Thane, with some real difficulties indeed - mind is tad wound up - and crushed like a han-ki out of a tumble drier.
Why?  Why?

North East Chronicles has been given a break till next week - Nagaland awaits its turn.   Even Mumbai Mumbles was to take a break till things settle down.   Cho do ( leave it), this is for the mundane.   The curious cat let the rabbit out of the hat - why did the chicken cross the road?
When I read about it in Wicki-pedia and posted on the facebook some time ago, there were some responses - but as usual, like a footnote remark, it did not derive any 'likes' or response.

Is a million $ question!!!
Is it a million $ question?   Ask the chicken, somebody said.  'The other side' said another.  'The other side means the nether world, said yet another'.   But the question itself is thought provoking, and the answer from anybody, or lack of it, rather reflects the attitude, ingredient, situation of the respondent.   

But below is another interesting perspective.  In my defense, let me submit that the event itself led to this discussion here.  

Last evening, Thane, 930?:  Immersed in a myriad thoughts, after a sweet inaugural run in Thane, I was heading towards a multiplex to watch a movie - an oxymoron.   The name was 'Houseful', but the theatre was empty! 

Well, let us get back to the 'I was heading' part.   I was in an auto, driven by a sweet old chap who was courteous enough to give me a ride for such a small distance.   There was couple of full-laden lorries and a mini-truck which was driven hither-and-tither like a headless chicken!   And all these people suddenly came to a screeching halt! 

The answer is: THIS chick(en) crossed
the road, leaving people in 

shock and awe
Here was this tall lady - dressed in all green tops and jeans shorts, with a green-horn ( very much looked her brother), on a two-wheeler, trying to look at something on the other side, and cross the road.

The chick ( pardon my language here), was using her long legs to push the vehicle slowly across - trying to be safe against the halted monsters ( the lorries-mini-truck and autos of the world!) and finding if it was the right spot to cross.   The bro behind was busy on a mobile-phone chat or video game? ( that is besides the point).

This spot is usually a naka-bandhi ( checkpoint), but at that time the barricades were off.   I just turned around to see our ol'sweet chap - the auto driver and the now-visible mini-truck driver.  They were staring at the girl, who was like an angel against the high-beam lights, with her shining helmet and long legs.   Their face was reflecting anger, shock and awe! 

Now, were they too wondering 'why did this chick(en) cross the road?'  My wound-up mind giggled at the situation and eased up a little, as we pushed ahead.   

-The One

(Pics Courtesy the Internet) 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mumbai Mumbles: Tingling turquoise!

I love the turquoise and blue of  the
 swimming  pool
Water.  Is magic.   It opens me up completely.   My mind flies and soars like an kite, when the liquid touches and tingles my skin against the marvelous turquoise of the swimming pool.   How things have changed?  I yearn to get into that puddle, especially when I have lot of time in my summer holidays, and my skin sweats  sticking salt and there is a swimming pool right beneath my feet. 

I hate classes so much - beyond school.   My parents once put me in some handwriting class.  I scoffed and scowled at the teacher, and played pranks.  It was full scale mutiny - and finally the teacher gave in and gave up!   My parents could do nothing but pull me off. 

The magic of the 64 squares
captivated me.
Then I was introduced to the 64 squares.   Two days, I did my usual thing.  Protests - protests.   My father had told the master that I have the knack for staging 'civil disobedience'.    This man was a task master and used to put me through the drills in that baritone voice of his.   How I hated his kind!   

But the magic of the 64-squares made me forget all these.  I loved the pawn, bishop, rook, elephant, the king and the queen.   My mind would unlock the moves, both of me and my opponent.  When I do the check-mate jig, it was like being on the top of the world.  The imaginary paths of the moves on the chessboard would flash in my head like a lightning trails.  I ate, drank and slept chess.

I loved the froth of the beaches!
Within 4 months, I did complete the beginner and intermediate, and they told me that I was too quick.    They made me to wait for almost 6 months before they let me play Advance!   I was tournament material within a year.   But for the last one year,  since we have been in Mumbai, I have only played chess occasionally.  I know that my father tried, but there was no class in the vicinity.     

That is my tryst with chess.   Now I play self-chess at home. My father tries to play chess with me, but he is a lousy player, and always loses.   Anyways, he likes his blog thing more.  My uncles, Rajesh and Siva play well, and they are some match.   
My father and I in Alapuzha-
life-joy in a life-buoy!

I don't like going outside, it was like always Ben-Ten and Chess.  If I had to go out, it was always the beaches.  From the Marina to the Kovalam beaches in Chennai,  the froth of the sea and the cool sand in the evenings have always excited me.

And we took this trip to Alapuzha where my father put me in this lifebuoy and what an experience it was!  My father nearly drowned because of some undercurrent.   He came out with this dreadful experience with a poker face, and thinks no one knows it.   But we all had a laugh over it!

Then, another day,  my father took me in our car.   We drove past the aquatic complex, but suddenly, he swerved the steering wheel and lo! we were inside the campus - a 12 day summer swimming camp was going on.   

As we entered,   I saw the most beautiful view of my life.  Three pools - A small pool.  A large one.  Then a diving pool.   And out there, a whole set of kids, like me, splashing and splurging like the born rich.    

Colorful head-gear throwing a tingling madness against the aqua-blue of the swimming pool.   The turquoise is an enchanting color.  And the aqua-blue.  So captivating, and I fell for it like a moth to a bright light.  

My father met the man-in-charge, and they took me to the coach.  The coach, again, like the chess one, was an exhort-er. He was driving the bunch of kids to float, the way he wanted, and put them in line, if somebody had fun.   I did not like him, but it was ok.  The rebel in me went to sleep. 
The kids pool in this complex is fun

That evening, we shopped for the swim-wear - head-gear, trunks and goggles.   Colors, colors, I love them.     I waited for the next day with bated breath.

Once I was into the water, it was fun.   The smooth coolness made me peaceful, and naughty :).  Cut to the chase, the floating, the butter-fly, free-style and breast-stroke that I learnt was wonderful.   

The new swimming pool - so welcome!
 And to add to this, my mother learnt swimming as well.   My father is a bad swimmer and won't learn.  He can paddle and that is all.

Past two years, I have not been able to get back to the pool.   Then, my family moved to Mumbai.  And there is was - 

Water.  Is magic.   It opens me up completely.   My mind flies and soars like an eagle, when the liquid touches and tingles my skin against the marvelous turquoise of the swimming pool.   How things have changed?   I yearn to get into that puddle, especially when I have lot of time in my summer holidays, and my skin sweats sticking salt and there is a swimming pool right beneath my feet.

Exams are done, and I take the plunge!  Turquoise is back.   And again, my family moves to another place.  I hate this - but my father showed me a pic.  A shining pool -again that tingling turquoise next door!   As long as I get to dip, who cares!   My summer swims will continue!

-The One

Pictures Courtesy The One

( This blog is dedicated to the love that my kid has taken for turquoise of the swimming pool and his love for water)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mumbai Mumbles: Two sizes smaller

(This is a sequel to the earlier episode - This too shall pass - where his struggle to cope with the Mumbai environs, well, continues)

There is no logic to changes in life sometimes.  It is like that cataclysm that hits without forewarning and one may never realize it.   Some changes can be seen coming - a result of past actions, more predictable and well inevitable. 

How the chinese proverb in
the rest room proved true!
One of these days, he read a Chinese proverb, well, in a restroom, of all places - ' If you have to see the past, look at your present situation.  If you have to see the future, look at your present actions'.   The message almost drowned him in a wave of reality - as he stepped out.  

He saw it coming, like the Fukushima twin disaster. He had moved to Mumbai with lot of hopes and dreams.  And the first six months, he had struggled with himself, his environs - to find his feet, and in that short term measure he had failed - both in career and repute.

His wife and kids had adapted to
the great city better than him
His family was now more settled than he was.  His kids were adopting to the language and the cosmopolitan life of this great city.   His wife now had Sindhi, Malayali, Gujarathi friends and neighbours.  She was a regular in the kitty parties in the apartment complex,  could speak halting Hindi with the doodhwala, grocery stores etc.,   In fact, she was enjoying it.  She had given up her job to move to Mumbai, and suddenly she had lot of time to spend for herself and the kid.  Anyways, if she needed a familiar Tamil voice,  the slew of channels from the LCD TV would blare into the silent hall, for company.

When he returned home, he saw them happy.  That was a great solace - he loved them than ever before, and would like to see them happy.   Then there was his car - the new sedan that he always wanted to have.  That also was his financial nemesis of the temporary kind.  But for him, it was one love he would never give up.  

Mumbai was expensive.   The distances were longer, there were toll fees to pay.  Only Vada-pav was the low cost option.   Everything else was burning his shallow pocket.  

The Dindoshi skyline - his
clairvoyant companion
would disappear
Almost every night, he would wake up suddenly, sweating.  Like a taser shock, an odd thought would have struck his cerebrum.  He would keep the bedroom light off and look at the distance lights of the Dindoshi skyline - mind full of myriad thoughts around how each problem was life consuming and what he needed to do immediately.  This wee-hour wake-up call was his beacon, his clairvoyance.   He found his solutions in this dark and silent hour.

And one of those days - his mind mulled over this - should he give up and go back?  But, this was the city of Kishore Kumar.  Shah Rukh Khan.   Amitabh Bachchan.  The Ambanis.  Sachin-the-only-Tendulkar.  The place where art only grows, but glows.   The New York of India.   

Secondly, his family has just completed the transplantation to this city successfully.  He could not afford the switch back.

No, going back was not an option.   He would cut down his costs.   He would stay put.   He would do few things, better prepared and planned.   Hope would be his new ally. 

The lights of Dindoshi would disappear from his bedroom window soon.  He decided to move to the outskirts - to save money on rent, to start with.   From now on, he would have to be still more vigilant and frugal.  He would watch his wallet. 

At work, now he had to wear
shoes - two sizes smaller
At his office, meanwhile - grounds had shifted.   The ripples of changes in the upper echelons washed his shore.   His job description changed.   It was not appealing to his appetite and ego - a reflection of his past six months, in some sense.  But as he realized, it was his time to lay low, lick his wounds and recoup.   He would swallow his pride, but fight on.  May be, Providence would help him cut his losses?

Because, his present actions would determine his future, as the Chinese proverb exhorted, would they not?  And what he would wear now on his feet would be shoes, two sizes smaller.   But, he still had the shoes, hadn't he?

-The One

( Pics Courtesy The One, Internet)

Monday, April 2, 2012

North East Chronicles 11: NH39 - The Highway of Hope!

A road is a road is a road.  ( Or was it a rose?).   It is something that everybody takes for granted and most people use it, but ignore it.  It is like the quintessential ladder.  One uses a ladder for climbing - literally stamping the feet on its backbone a la stairs, but after that it is forgotten.   Ask a fire tender, he will tell you how important ladder is.

An elaborate map of NH 39
Roads are very important for accessing cities and towns in the mountains.    These roads have saved many region's destiny, peoples' survival and nation's pride.  They have made decisive contributions to the course of the history of the neighbourhood.

Railways are rare in these terrains, but can act as the main artery for both people and freight transport. But to reach to the interiors, it has always been the road.   The second option of air traffic is for the rich and famous ( who can afford it), for the tourists ( who use it occasionally) and for emergencies (it depends on who is being rescued or saved).  

Places like Ooty in Tamil Nadu, the Kashmir Valley have suffered cold isolation during rainy and snow seasons respectively.  The population has suffered from lack of supplies of food and medicine for long periods due to road blocks - mainly due to landslides.  The road-menders and security forces spend lots of their time clearing the obstacles and restore traffic as early as possible.

A huge convoy of supplies
awaiting clearance on the NH39
One such road is NH39. This is a beaten path - many a feet and wheels have tread here before.  But what makes this one special?   This is the lifeline of two landlocked states - Manipur and Nagaland.  

This road starts from Numaligarh, and then goes on till Tamu, beyond Imphal.  It traverses through Dimapur and Kohima in the way.   This road is maintained by Border Roads Organization ( BRO) under the name of 'Project Sewak'. 

This region has been strife prone.   One is a version of autonomy vs separatism from the Indian Union of the Nagas.   The NSCN, UNC and other splinter groups which have acted to protect the Naga identity vs the other tribes have used violence and peace as alternate tactics.  Stability is still a far cry in this region, but violence has long since been dropped as a strong-arm tactic.  Economic blockades are the in-thing here.
A queue for fuel - which is 100
times costly these days

Imagine if one has to live the rest of your life with pulmanory artery cut off.   From anywhere, one could feel the pain of being denied, basic stuff - food, fuel and medicine, of those Manipuris.   For the past couple of years, this elongated road blockade of NH 39, has made the Manipur economy bleed.  Petrol is being sold at few thousand rupees, LPG cylinders cost more than a kilogram of gold,  food costs a bomb, and finally most hospitals have run out of medical supplies.

For both the land locked states of Nagaland and Manipur, NH 39 is the lifeline and hope, as is evident. As I stare at my laptop screen, a small ode, pops out to the brave locales who are fighting to survive such blockades.

Highway NH -39 in happier times

I recollect, in the famous poem, 'Road not taken',
Frost says that he chose the road less tread,
But disagree would those who are stirred and shaken,
Because of the blockade, who lost their daily bread,

Harder to reach, and away seems the shore,
For the bread and gasoline, they have to pay more,
What costs one, now costs thousand and times four,
Hospitals have medicines no more.

They fight against the armed forces act,
In Delhi, it seems to make no impact,
May be it needs lot more guile and tact,
To dispense away honor and make the pact.

NH 39 - Highway of Hope
For those who have shunned violence,
The powers-that-be reply with inaction and silence,
The stream falls like tears of pain across the slopes,
But like the mountain, they stay solid with bravery and hope.

And this dark-grey road named 'NH- thirty nine',
Is more than a ladder, 'tis a lifeline,
A testimony to many a trial, tryst and travesty,
And one day, these peoples, happy, let them be!

The trip to these lands was an eye opener.  Before I share this story, let us understand the Nagaland- Manipur region a little more in the next couple of articles.

- The One

( Pics courtesy the Internet)