Can you ever imagine your bedroom in India and your kitchen in Myanmar. Isn’t it bizarre and wouldn’t it be strange to know that your home is divided not between family members or even relatives but between two nations? As bizarre as it sounds they exists! In fact it is a daily living experience for the Konyak’s tribe of Nagas that resides in the village of Longwa; a village in the Mon district of Nagaland.

I have heard stories and seen blurred pictures of this village growing up but the more I realised the significance of this place the more it seemed bizarre to think how can a house (village headman’s house) lies between two countries. It was only recently that I visited this place and have learnt about the place which was filled with adventure, exciting incident and ironic paradox that I would like to share with you all. As an added favour I would be sharing from the day the journey began so that I could take the readers along from the beginning of this journey.

It was an exciting journey that I and my friends waited in anticipation; we hired one taxi from Kohima capital of Nagaland and picked remaining friends in Dimapur the next town and headed towards Mon our destination; one of the districts of Nagaland inhabited by the Konyak Tribes. Interestingly we took Assam route, neighbouring state which was nearer and convenient route to Mon town instead of travelling within Nagaland. Since Assam is popular for tea garden we had an amazing view, with each side of the road stood well trimmed fine ranges of tea garden cut in uniform length and height which seemed like we were in the midst of a beautiful park dotted with trees in between those tea plants. Occasional sights of bird flying above us and quickly going away as if they got bored chasing our car which might have been too slow and loud for them.

Later as the afternoon sun turned golden we entered Tizit town of Mon district. From there the road turned dusty and rugged. Our car broke down which gave us a much needed break from the long tiring journey. We came out of the car looked up at the giant mountains looking down at us and beside the road were huge wild creepers hanging over the trees. It was refreshing everywhere we turn it was thick lush green forest; sight rare with rapid deforestation.  We managed to fix our car and reached Mon town at night rested and attended our friend’s marriage next day, where we got to enjoyed some of their local cuisine, interacted with the locals and relish the very popular country side organic orange which was delicious very sweet and juicy. The following day we visited Chi; a neighbouring village. The village church was beside the village headmen’s house a sign of modernity, Christianity and tradition blending into a harmonious union. The view was serene with all the warmest colours of nature at display on that hilltop that afternoon, where we stood looking at the monolith laid down by ancestors. We interacted with the children who were there playing in the afternoon, bright and happy faces with lights of innocence in their eyes.

Finally, the next day we headed to Longwa village located 42 kms. from Mon, our host packed us lunch which we enjoyed at the riverside, usual Nagas picnic style. We reached the village and walked few meters up towards the famous Ang[1] house which is believe to be divided between India and Myanmar. As we walked upwards I saw a huge thatch house apart from all the houses in the village. It became clear that’s the house which was so much talked about. The house stood grounded with mixture of light and dark brown colour traditional house, it had the old and grand look. There were local artisans selling their goods for tourist outside the house, we gazed through the collections of wooden, bones, sticks, beads and what not with wonder but decided to buy them later. We all headed towards the grand old door and step inside the house it was dark and cold although it was bright and sunny outside. It took us a while to clearly see the beautiful craved pillars dotted with animals, birds and humans made out of one huge tree trunk, most Nagas artisans use nature inspired wood carving and this was no different yet quite elaborate. The place had few collections from the ruins of World War 2, a large man made animal curved out from a tree root which almost look like a shape of a fierce animal (tiger). The place is also decorated with huge Mithun horns hung as a sign of Feast of Merit[2] offered by the King to the villagers or some as gifts for the King. All this was in the first room.

As we continued to walk inside, we pass through small chambers on both side of the house which were rooms for the Queens and children we were told, it finally leads us to the main kitchen which is one of the most important part of the household. The kitchen had firewood burning (sign of hospitality) and some food was already in the process of cooking. We could hear laughter from the small chamber and it was the King chatting with the villagers. There is no hierarchy in the relationship of the villager with the Ang and they had could eat, drink and talk with the Ang whenever they want. We greeted the Ang which was short and cordial, our local friends helped in interpretation. As we left that place I stood for a while to sink in the whole experience of that place. I was in that particular place where my step either to the right or left could be in different country. How amazing I thought, then I pause little longer than it slowly began to disturb me how difficult, ironic and paradox this will be for these people who are divided between imagined boundaries without their consent. A home is now divided! A village and people now divided!

This division came when the state boundary was drawn as the country gained independence from colonial powers. This division of borders are still resisted by the people living in these borderlands. A house that was one now stands divided and the bizarreness of this condition continues to attract people from far and wide. I believe their story must be heard, told and understood with an open heart and mind. As traveller one ought not simply to explore the exterior beauty but look deeper into the history and lived experiences of that particular place which enriches the human race to be more inclusive, caring and outstandingly kind.

 

Notes:

[1] Ang means King in Konyak dialect. The Konyak tribes have kingship system and Ang is the King of the village.

[2] Feast of Merits are feast given to the entire village by the wealthiest man and Kings. A popular practice among the Nagas, where rich people offer to share their wealth with the villages who are mostly poor by organising feast for everyone. These were times when enemies also forgives each other and debts are forgiven.

 

Sulila Anar

Sulila Anar

Sulila Anar received her M.Phil from the Center for Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, in 2011. She was the recipient of the ICSSR Doctoral Fellowship (2014-15). She has worked for NDTV, as an Invoice Artist for Nagaland in 2010-2012. Besides, she is also a member of several student bodies.

Comments

comments