I have visited Phek two days ago. I feel so proud to put that down in black and white. Not just as a bucket list thingy, but because I had been given the opportunity to see such a beautiful part of our land.
Nearly everyone warned me about the five-hour journey. It is probably equivalent to driving to Dimapur two times and backing up to Piphe after the end of the second trip. But our timing was really blessed. We left Kohima after the two days of rain that had ruined the last day of Night Bazar and made mud accumulate in front of Crossword Bookstore almost overnight. So it was to be expected there would be some fog and overcast skies accompanying us. The plus of this was that when the sun broke through at intervals, it was even more charming than it would have been had it been sunny throughout. There were patches of hillock in the distance looking absolutely enchanting seen from our side of hilly road. There were villages along the way upon which intermittent sunlight was shining and they beckoned to us as if saying, “Come and live here.” These faery lands were just the introduction to a long, winding feast for the eyes as we drove along the Viswema-Kedima and Pfutsero (also known as Fourzero by the Indian army) road. A historic road with many stories along its miles.
Losami was a little stop on the way where local women sold dried herbs, kindling, oranges, and sticky rice pancakes for the friendly price of 20 rupees each. On certain days, hunters would bring small game and pheasants to these wayside markets, I was told.
The road swooped downward after some time, and we found ourselves driving above the river Lanie, bordering Manipur. The forests that rose above the river are also the habitat of pythons, in addition to smaller game. I have not seen such thick forest regions elsewhere in Nagaland, and my heart rejoiced at the sight. Our forests are our wealth. The Phek district is still so rich in forest life and long may that be so! The sheer pleasure of gazing on mile upon mile of woods! There are harvested fields intersecting the forests but the population does not seem to have made the mistake of denuding their forests of trees. One sad story of this paradise comes from their neighbours in the Pochury region.
Villagers cut down pine trees for money, but get only five rupees per kilogram. In the Phek areas, Ginger is a crop that does very well in the region but the farmer gets only 12 rupees per kilo while in Delhi the same crop is sold for 250 rupees per kilo. Something drastically needs to be done so that the farmer can get better rates for his labours. I don’t have much hope in the government but this is possibly homework for the Entrepreneurs of the region. May some educated members help the farmers to get their due.
Phek Government college was our destination. As we entered Phek we could see the pink-painted building towering above the township. It reminded me of the verse, ‘A city set on a hill….’
Phek Government College has been consistently producing good results. Their numbers are fewer than colleges in the capital town of Kohima. But I have not seen a more disciplined set of students. In their smart blue blazers, they bounded past us and not one of them failed to greet their elders. What a well cultivated habit, I thought.
I don’t think I was wrong in the perspective I formed about Phek government College. The smart and energetic young bunch of teachers were eagerly working on developing their college. Even when we arrived late there were still teachers around on campus hard at work to finish projects. That dedication will not be without results.
The next morning, I looked out my bedroom window. Mount Saramati was resplendently covered by a pink glow. It was possibly the rays of the rising sun. It looked sacred. I quickly remembered all the stories told by hunters and people who have been to that sacrosanct space. Who could doubt their truth as white and peach light covered the foot of the mountain and sent up a most glorious glow till the top of Saramati? Who can resist that call?