Development has reached some places in Nagaland but there are still some villages sparsely developed and lacking in good schools, electricity and roads. Yet, they can still be appreciated for the charming simple life and natural beauty. Temsukumla Ao, Head of Department of Sociology, shares her reflections of both worlds, as she takes a sojourn to Longchang village in Mon district.
Sojourn to a Naga Village
6th January 2014 - the day started with mixed feelings of excitement, reverence, confusion and fear. I was going on a journey with my mother and siblings to pay a final tribute to my late grandmother. We also decided to catch up with near and dear ones.
Our destination was Longchang village, under Mon district. The situation between the Karbis and the Rengmas in the Karbi Anglong areas was quite tense during this time and a curfew had been imposed that morning. In spite of this, my brother was keen on taking this trip, while my sister and I were quite reluctant and my mother was in a dilemma. After much deliberation, we decided to take the risk. By the time we made up our minds, it was already 6:30 am (we had actually planned to depart at 6am). True to our practice of, as we call it, ‘Naga timing’, we departed 45 minutes later.
Throughout the journey we were plagued by apprehension and fear. However, the journey turned out to be peaceful and calm. We were able to cross Assam without any problem and heaved a sigh of relief when we reached Nagaland gate. Once we entered Nagaland, the road was ceaselessly marked by bumps and jolts. On the way, I saw an old school building with broken windows and walls. It was an unpleasant view to encounter. Schools are actually supposed to be welcoming with good infrastructure and environment, a place in which children are attracted to study, but instead here was a view that conveyed the exact opposite. If we were to go by the reports of the Education Commission 1964-66, within a radius of five to ten miles in the rural areas, there should be about one secondary school, five higher primary schools and 28 lower primary schools. These schools should also have well qualified and trained teachers, with larger and well-developed playgrounds and sports facilities. If such recommendations were actually implemented everywhere, our society would probably be at a better position than it is now.
As we were nearing one village, I was distracted with yet another sad sight. I saw a very young boy aged around 6 carrying a tiny basket, fully laden with sweet potatoes. He was returning from the field along with his sister and mother. It was sad, because a boy that young should actually be playing around and enjoying his childhood, while attending school. In Naga society, it is apparent that we have overlooked the existence and practice of child labour. If we take a closer look, we will find that this practice has prevailed in our society for so long. On the pretext of giving them education and also because of the lack of good schools in the villages, the parents send their children to their relative or friend’s place to live, without thinking twice about the feasibility. As it turns out, in many cases such children become victims of child labour. Now, if the Directive Principles of the Constitution to provide free and compulsory education to all children upto the age of 14 was fulfilled everywhere, then such a scenario would not exist in our society.
Coming back to our journey, we reached our destination Longjang village around 10 pm. We had some family time, after which we returned to our rooms for a good night’s rest. The next morning my grandfather took us to my grandmother’s grave and we paid our respects and homage to her. She was one of the best human beings I have ever come across in my life. She will be dearly missed.
We also had other things planned for the rest of the day. After breakfast we were ready for an adventure trip. My brother was so excited about this particular trip as he wanted a break from the stress of work and the crowded city. My sister and I also needed a welcome break too. This trip was adventurous because we had to walk down a hill for 3 to 4 hours to reach the river belt. We hired some people to carry items such as generator, food items, clothes and other items. It took us 4 hours to reach the riverbank, while, we were told, it usually took the villagers only 1 hour.
We had to spend two nights in the jungle. I felt both excited and scared at the same time. As I lay there at night so many thoughts ran through my mind. I began to reminisce about the past, when society was much simpler and care-free, void of pollution, corruption and life’s complexities. At the same time, I could not imagine how things were even possible without the help of machines and technology. How could people walk miles without vehicles, and survive with just hunting and food gathering. Life appeared simple yet happy. As I lay there lost in thought, the cool breeze and dew drops falling on me made me realise I had not slept. I turned around to see my sister struggling to sleep in the other corner too.
The trip made me realise that technological advancement has brought about a lot of changes in the present world, which have made us dependent on them for comfortable and luxurious lives. It has also changed our outlook, making us feel so secure and protected inside the four walls of our home that sometimes we fail to appreciate nature and our surroundings. During this trip, I was able to enjoy the rich flora and fauna and the natural beauty of the place, the freshness and pollution free atmosphere. Yet, deep down inside, I was also saddened at the thought that after 20 to 30 years, this place might not be the same as it is now. Indeed, I felt lucky to have been here and experience natural beauty at its best.
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