Day 7 (Dec 22nd, Monday):
K2 and I decided to hike up Japfu peak ( highest peak in Nagaland, I believe) – while J and M went to interview some people at the Secretariat and establish some contacts.
We were dropped at the Japfu college by our driver – it took us a while to find the trailhead, since there were no signboards or anything of the sort. We finally ended up on an unmarked trail, landed up in a potato farmer’s field, and he guided us back to the main trail. Halfway up the hike, K2 felt unwell, and we had to abandon the hike. K2 got some good pics of the village women walking up to their fields.
We ate chowmein at a resort type place – after a few hours, K2 and I were puking our guts out. We spent the afternoon and evening in misery, taking turns to throw up –K2 not even sparing the steps of the cathedral in Kohima. ( largest in the NE, just behind the circuit house where we stayed).
J and M did not have a very fruitful day today in terms of interviews, but they managed to get some leads.
Day 8 (Dec 23rd , Tuesday):
We decided to visit Khonoma village today. It is a Angami Naga village, about 20 kms from Kohima.
J and M have been discussing about the Nagas wanting a separate country – so far I had not spoken to any Naga about this, and did not know much about the movement. The visit to Khonoma village showed very clearly how the concept of a separate country for Nagas was deep in the people’s mind.
In the village center, next to the Baptist church, is a stone memorial for “men and women of Khonoma who gave their lives for a free Naga nation”. Further, it says “we remember and salute them and still hold fast to their vision”.
M says that Phizo, father of the movement for a free Naga state, was from this village. Phizo’s movement was largely non-violent. Unfortunately, the current movement is not.
Another stone plaque on the way: ”Nagas are not Indians, their territory is not a part of the Indian Union. We shall uphold and defend this truth at all costs.”
A stone memorial: “In loving memory of <person’s name> who gave their lives for the Naga national cause”.
K2 and I talk about this – we are starting to get a sense of how much Nagas think of themselves as being very different from the rest of India.
Khonoma village is one of the most picturesque villages I have seen. It’s surrounded by misty hills , with terraced paddy cultivation all around.
We stop to hear a woman play the guitar – she invites us into her house, and offers us some very milky tea. We chat for a while – I ask her if she has been to Guwahati, she replies that the furthest she has been to is Dimapur, bordering Assam. She hopes to visit Guwahati some day.
We meet a very stylishly dressed local boy Noel, home from Kohima for the Christmas holidays. He is very self-assured, and talks confidently with us.
K2 took some nice pics of the painted owl, and the village rest-house.
In the afternoon, we go to the War Cemetery – it is one of the few green spaces inside Kohima town. The Cemetery is well maintained – taken care of by the Commonwealth Graves Commission. We read the names of the people – Indians, Dutch, British – sepoys, naiks, doctors.
Late in the afternoon we head to the supermarket. It was quite crowded even in the late afternoon – the women at the stalls were doing brisk business. Interesting items were on sale – plastic bags of tiny frogs alive and jumping, a string of wriggling caterpillars, a few rodents – and a pheasant-like bird, which I suspect is illegal to sell since the woman immediately hid it when she saw our camera.
We headed to the handloom shops – to check out the different shawls made by the various Naga tribes. Bought a Lotha Naga shawl for J, for Christmas.
We browsed at the supermarket – all the items on sale were Made in China. These goods are smuggled through various routes into India – and make their way to the supermarkets in various hills towns. Save for a lone Bata store, I did not see any other branded goods apparel store in Kohima.
Day 9 (Dec 24th , Wednesday):
Kohima – Dimapur – Golaghat ( Rongapani) – Bokakhat – Nagaon ( Next day Guwahati).