The vanishing tribe

The vanishing tribe

Tribute to Visebi Dolie

 

N Khoto Zetsuvi
Kohima

 

The year ami (maternal uncle) Visebi Dolie threw a Christmas feast to the village, the young people staged a drama, as in the way of rural folks, during camp fire and fun time. In that role play there was a fireside scene; ami and his wife Nichürhiü made a financial account. Ami dictates, his wife writes and people laugh. Yes, he cannot read or write. My mother, his elder sister, told me that their father wanted to send him to school but he preferred a carefree life. At one point of time, they were worried he may go wayward. But things changed when he turned to Christ and got married. Ultimately, he became the longest serving Deacon Chairman of the church.

 

His unlettered disadvantage was compensated by his sharp memory and a mind full of wisdom. One of his own niece, a lecturer, commented, “He is so intelligent. I am really afraid of his eyes.” His voice was heavy and his piercing eyes can be intimidating. The powerful aura of his presence is felt by his children and relatives. However, he got a great sense of humour and when he laughs it would be a kind of a bouncing laughter. Several of his comments and humour became the talk of the village. For example, to slay and get a wild animal’s head was the pride of the village folk but my uncle never got a head. So he joked, “What the god of the animals apportioned to me will be, by now, so old and so tame that I may be able to pat them on their backs.”

 

Honest living was the refrain of his advice. Once he spoke in a meeting organised by the Government servants from our village. He said, “Those days, rich people were looked upon with great respect. They look bigger and more handsome than they actually are. We look back as they passed by. No more. Today, as we pass by a rich man, our first question is, ‘ from where did he embezzle all those riches?’ Richness does not bring respect anymore” he said, adding, “People who headed Departments but were struggling to build a decent house had great honour.” Speaking against corruption perpetrated by husband – wife duo, he often narrate a story of a woman admired by many suitors for her beauty but she had a problem. She was a kleptomaniac. A man decided to marry her against the advice of his relatives. He married her and whenever she brings home stolen goods, he would shout to the neighbours, “There is an article in my house that does not belong to me, anybody who has lost an article may come and collect it.”The wife stopped stealing because she could not own what she stole. He used to say, “If, at least one of the two parents in the family is honest there wouldn’t be so much dishonesty”.

 

He lived the talk. He took up contract works a number of times. Some of his contract works are prominently standing even today as a testimony that the work is done properly. After he stopped doing contract work he met an acquaintance. This friend enquired what ami was doing. Uncle replied that he was not exactly doing anything. The man said, “I will do something for you.” After sometime, words reached him that his name was on the list of people who did some plantation works and were being requested to come and collect the money. Uncle was really worried. “I never did any plantation works, please go and remove my name,” he commanded his children. He kept on insisting, “I don’t want my name to remain there.”The children had to go and request the concerned Department to forgo his supposed due and remove his name.

 

Ami wanted to do what is right. The family use to have a small house in Kohima. One day he said to me, “The light bill seemed to be too high. Please do something.” I wrote a complain letter to Power Department and promptly the Department removed the meter box, did some testing, corrected it and refitted it. After sometime he said, “The power bill now is too low, this cannot be right. People may think I am tampering the meter. Do somehing”. The concept of justice and rights is very strong in his mind.

 

In the village meetings and in matters of conflict resolution, his opinion is valued. His excellent memory together with his knowledge and wisdom is like a reference book. He was consulted by individuals and various groups of people. Journalists who visited the village often interviewed him. I interpreted him a couple of times. He being the closest kinsman of A.Z. Phizo in the village, Naga political issues were often raised as they interviewed him. Though uneducated, his diplomatic approach, his readings of the situation and his judgement were admirable. Like many of his contemporaries, political aspiration of the Nagas was his dream. They talked and worked throughout their lives to fulfil that dream. He was greatly disappointed by the forces of divisions among Naga national workers. In his old age, a bit of frustration was setting in by the turn of events which seemed to be going against their dream. Like everybody else, uncle has a natural temper too. In the process of an interview by a journalist from outside of the state, he reminded her of how a political leader threatened Nagas with blood flow. To make his point that violence and blood is not the solution, he cited the agonizing result of that threat and named some leaders. After the interview he confided to me that he has crossed his boundary.

 

I believe ami represents a group of people in Naga villages and towns whose lives are unspoiled by modern day pressure and greed. They lived with principles that did not get compromised. These are the people who continue to give good advice. These are the true Nagas we need to listen to and emulate. Alas! Their tribe is vanishing. Ami Visebi Dolie passed away a few days ago, on 21st August, 2018, at the age of 91 years. His political dream remains unfulfilled, but he has left with the hope to inherit the Eternal Kingdom. May their tribe increase.