An Escapist Reverie

Keyicaulang Meru

I was totally engrossed in a book about the Nagas of the olden days, written by a German, which literally got me preoccupied in the world of my own fancy and imagination. The simple and idyllic life corresponding with the blissful nature was a utopia I could not resist to experience even in my imagination. However, a sudden impulse of the mind directed me to look outside the window. I saw house sparrows chirping and hopping in their own company; and the roar of a truck’s engine brought me back to reality. Alas!!! Gone are the days when I should have been awakened by the rapturous music produced from the mixed sound of a variety of birds or the shouts and shrieks of the gibbons that once echoed over the Naga Hills. Where are the deers and the antelopes that once roamed about and frolicked freely at close vicinity, the tigers and the leopards that prowled majestically over the jungles and the school of fishes that once were the pride of our revered rivers. I felt threatened by the reality!!!

Earlier, my imagination also transcended to a higher plane and introduced me to the institution of the morung where the young people were taught to become responsible human beings and I also met up with the Yokels who led a simple and idyllic life bounded by the traditional norms and customs of their respective villages and tribes. As I delved deeper, I also saw pride, honour and august in the ways of the HEAD-HUNTERS who took heads as trophies. Atleast they deserve more admiration and respect than the present day hoodlums – extortionists, insurgents and robbers. As the tour continued....chance and not fate brought me to the feast of merit and other colourful festivals which were a powerhouse of cheerful songs, dances and simple rituals in honour of some simple Gods – the God of harvest, the God of longevity and the God of Love Etc. Oh!! How it relieved me off my obligations to adhere to some absurd and unintelligible religious doctrines and ideas which I don’t understand; and the world is fighting over it. And of course, the beautiful belles adorned with their colourful traditional attires and ornaments beckoned me to join in the merriment. At one point of time, I could feel why these simple fun-loving lasses appealed to me more than the present day freaks clad in all kinds of infinitesimal garbs and fashionable designer wear, yet full of insecurity and vanity in their approach. My imagination showed me that life was much easier and pleasant then; and it was here I could break away from all the social stigma and social taboos the present age inflicts us with (which are more narrower and shallower than how it used to be). In short, life was simple and idyllic then!!!!

But alas!! Reality hit back hard on my reverie!!! The transition was only momentary and I realised that the radiant crowd with solemn songs, the cheering, the dances and the merry feast round the pot of sweet rice beer belongs to the past! Gone are the idyllic days, perhaps never to return!!!! A reverie is a reverie. Please do not misjudge my intention. I do not mean to satirise anything or anyone. If you think it has, you know best, huh!!! The message my reverie wants to disseminate is that our flora and fauna and our cultural heritage is on the brink of extinction due to some unscrupulous factors. Forget the environmental degradation and other ill-effects it has caused, it has also eaten into our social and economic perspectives of life and has perniciously percolated deep inside. We have seen how many of us Nagas chased down deers, wild boars and many beautiful birds during the onset of winter just because we wanted to have enough money to spend during Christmas and celebrate the birth of Christ in style. This is the irony of life. Enjoy the present at the cost of the future! How can we let need and greed destroy our rich flora and fauna? Nagaland talks about providing a face-lift to its dwindling economic situation by giving a boost to the Tourist sector which evidently have a lot of potential hitherto. But when the truth speaks – our flora and fauna and nature in all its magnificence is fast diminishing due to our own reckless doings. One finds it hard to digest the remark made by his Excellency, the Governor of Nagaland, Shri. Shyamal Datta in one of his speeches during the inauguration of a Tourist Village in Nagaland. He rightly said that tourism industry, economic development and preservation of nature are inter-related. He also related how he was charmed and captivated by the beauty and mysticism of the Village, but revealed his disappointment in one sentence “ I did not see any birds!!” That says it all. Doesn’t it? Imagine how disappointed a foreign Tourist would be after having come all the way through the globe.

We also see a tinge of how the rich and varied cultural heritage that the Nagas are endowed with is also on the wane due to our ignorance. Can any Gen-X Naga narrate a Naga folk tale or appreciate and the poetic folk songs and the artistic dance steps?? There are huge prices to pay if we continue to disregard and ignore our tribal laws and customs and our cultural heritage in the name of Religion and Modernisation. Religion should not blind us to the extent that we tend to foresee the malicious realities of life and just flow along with the tide. Thousands of Christians in Nagaland celebrated the phrase “From darkness to light “ when Nagaland commemorated 125 years of Christianity. Preacher after preacher still propagate from the pulpit that the coming of Christianity in Nagaland has transcended us to the Light from the dark predicament of the head-hunting days. Yeah!! We rejoiced, we prayed and sang the song “Count your blessings!”, because we thought that life has drastically changed ever since. But hey!!! Has life really changed for the better?? I find it really hard to agree when the headlines in the newspapers always read...BOMB BLAST... RIVAL CAMP BUSTED... 1 SHOT DEAD... 1 TANGKHUL SHOT AT POINT BLANK... 2 KONYAKS KILLED, etc. It was yesterday, and tomorrow the newspapers will carry the same news again. The list goes on and we become so familiar with these dreaded lines. I shudder at the thought that it might be my own brother or even me to fall as the next victim. Things have changed indeed!! We are as insecure as ever...that I’d rather opt to vote for the good old head-hunting days than the present “From darkness to light” where people conspire and kill in the name of Sovereignty and Peace. At least, the head-hunters killed their enemies, not their own brethrens in Christ; and what a shame! We called them savages. Yes everyone does and I also do say my own prayers and say thanksgiving for all the blessings which I feel I do not even deserve but I’d rather escape and build my world around the people I love and revere so much......THE HEAD-HUNTERS!!!!! Just because we are Christians or Modernised does not mean life has changed for the better.

When I was young I used to wonder why John Milton, John Keats and scores of other poets were such lousy escapists who kept denouncing the real world and escaped into the world of illusion and imagination. I used to think that’s Bull shit!! But now, the stark fact tells me that they somehow moulded the perceptions and ideas of some of the biggest think tanks of the world and awakened the sleeping giants of the world to rise up to the grave situation in some corners of the world. So don’t get me wrong because of my pessimistic portrayal of how Nagaland is headed to the doom at all fronts – the gradual degradation of our rich cultural heritage and our floral and faunal abundance, corruption, killings, insurgency problems, etc. Some few good men or rather the OPTIMISTS should stand up once again with a positive and progressive outlook and prove the pessimists like me wrong. As for me, I can do naught, but to return to my book and visit the old folks in the sylvan woods and maybe, try my hand at the spears and machetes to gain that dexterity and win a head as my trophy and be respected rather than to be cowed down by the vanity and cruelty of this modern world. What say you??????