Neichiilieii Nikki Haralu - A life of Testimony

Former Ambassador Ms. Neichiilieii Nikki Haralu passed away at her residence in Haralu Colony, in Dimapur on September 2nd of old age. She was 98 years old. The eldest of eight siblings she was born July 28, 1918 to the first Naga medical doctor Dr. Harielungbe Haralu Poilwa village in Peren district and Rükhrieü of Kohima village under Kohima district.  

he leaves behind an adopted daughter. Neichiilieuu, which means ‘to please all’ was true to her name. She was lovingly called Nganuo to her family. From a young age she displayed the pioneering spirit of her father being instrumental in putting together the first choir group in Kohima where she sang Soprano, the third Naga to venture out to study in the United States and becoming the first Naga Ambassador.  

Contrary to her father’s desire for her to follow in his medical profession Nganuo had set her heart on foraying into uncommon fields for women and Nagas in particular. She chose to channel her talent into an area that demanded a spirit of adventure, diplomacy, integrity and discipline... that of the Indian Foreign Service.  

She ended 26 years of service in the Ministry of External Affairs, as Ambassador to Panama from June 1978 to July 1980 with additional charge of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Her career as a diplomat saw her serve in Belgium, Italy, USA, and Sri Lanka before her retirement as Ambassador of India to Panama. Panama is the first country in Central America where India established a resident Embassy in 1973. The historical events that took place during her tenure include the handing over of the famous Panama Canal that changed the economy of the United States, Europe and Asia. The other major event that took place was the ousting of General Anastasio Somoza Debayle, de facto President of Nicaragu in an insurrection led by the Sandinista Liberation National Front (FSLN).  

Early Life: Neichiilieii enjoyed a happy childhood growing up in Kohima village Her memories paint an idyllic life typical of any Naga village little girl at that time: fetching water from the wells, collecting firewood from the jungle and playing with other children. These days were enriched further with a grandfather for company who lived nearby.  

He was a rich farmer who cultivated paddy in jhum fields along with pumpkins and cucumber. Some of these moments etched in her memory include the days she would accompany him to the ripening paddy fields to put up the scarecrows. She refers to those times as “wonderful times, just me and my grandfather going to the field”.  

These carefree days soon changed after they moved into the house her father built in Choto Bosti (Chiephobozou) in the suburbs of Kohima and schooling began. But sometimes these walks instead of school would lead to the paddy fields to collect nulla (escargot) with her girlfriends.”Life was full. Everyone knew each other and we enjoyed sharing our lives and working together” is how she recalls the days past.  

Some things remained a constant in Neichiilie’s life as a young girl growing up in Kohima; her nature never to remain idle.

  School and work in the jhum and paddy fields complimented each other. Domestic chores too were not neglected and fetching water from the well, gathering firewood from the forest for the home hearth were regular responsibilities.  

These were also the years she learnt to weave on the backstrap loom, even attempting to create new designs and color schemes, sew her own clothes and knit as well.  

She loved gardening and would dig the garden to plant vegetables. Church also formed a central part of her growing up years as she regularly attended Sunday School and the English Service. It is here she developed her love of music, especially the hymns going on to form the first choir in Kohima with Ayo Zhanikhou. They were taught music by Rev. George Supplee. The choir would accompany their teacher, Rüzhükhrie, to preach the Gospel in the nearby villages.  

She enjoyed sports and with Keveilhouvoü she would play hockey badminton and race games with her brothers Yao and Silie and their friends.  

Education: As a young girl Neichulieii received her education from Mission school at Kohima and went on to the Welsh Mission Girls’ High School, Shillong.  

She graduated from the Scottish Church College, Calcutta University in 1948. She went on to complete her Master’s Degree in Haverford, USA in the year 1953 where she studied Psychology and International Relations at the State Universities of Oregon and Haverford. Her area of specialisation was Diplomacy, International Studies.  

While in the United States of America to study She participated  in the Social Service for Migrant Workers with the Student – In –Industry, Oregon, University of Oregon. 

She raised her tuition fees, by working in the carrot and beans canning mill.   Similarly in Haverford College, Pennsylvania, She completed a seven week work and study field seminar on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, North Carolina.   To earn her return ticket to India, She worked as Assistant Supervisor, New Jersey, State Reformatory for Women, Clinton, New Jersey, USA.  

Her Academic qualifications include: - BA (Pol Sc & Eco) - Calcutta University-1948 - MA (Soc Sc) – Haverford USA – 1953 - Rockerfeller Foundation Seminars on Diplomacy, School of Advanced International Studies, John Hopkins University, Washington DC - 196  

Other Work: After attaining her BA Degree from Scottish Church College, Calcutta University, she taught in the Government High School, Kohima for some time. She received a stipend by the Government to study BT at St. Mary’s in Shillong which she attended for a while but left for other activities. This was all towards the end of WW ll and at that time Sir Akbar Hyder Ali was the Governor of Assam, Naga Hills and Chaliha was Chief Minister and many new things were being introduced. At this time she was appointed the first Secretary of the Red Cross Society of Naga Hills of Assam. She also joined the Auxiliary of Nurses in the Shillong Mission Hospital for four months.  

Her Career Graph: Ms Neichulieu served in various capacities in the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and Indian Foreign Service and retired in 1980 as she reached the pinnacle of her career as Ambassador to Panama. Thereafter she returned home to Nagaland and served as Chairman of Nagaland State Social Welfare Advisory Board and served many other organisations like Nagaland Red Cross Society, NERC, IDBI, NEZCC etc in different capacities. Given below is a summary of Ms Neichulieu’s distinguished career: 1954: Assistant Research Officer 1955: Information Officer 1958-1962: Press Attache in the Embassy of India, Brussels and Senior scale of the Indian Foreign service (1961) 1962-65: First Secretary, Embassy of India, Rome 1965-68: Deputy Director, Ministry of External Affairs 1968-71: First Secretary, Embassy of India, Washington DC, USA First Secretary, Embassy of Colombo 1975-78: Director, Ministry of External Affairs 1978-1980: Indian Ambassador to Panama 1980: Retired  

Hobbies: She enjoyed cooking. Even at the ripe age of 90 she would cook and continued to hold charge of her home. She I loved gardening, especially growing flowers. She brought back with her several exquisite plants from Sri Lanka and Panama, some which were not grown in Nagaland at that time. The most prominent is the Temple flower tree (frangipani, plumeria), which gives flowers in yellow, pink, magenta, white, and dark red. This tree has taken well to Nagaland, and has flourished widely. In Dimapur especially many homes are growing these flowers. Some churches also have the white frangipani in the church compound. Other flowers and plants include the heliconia, varieties of crotons, bougainvilleas and a vine with purple flowers. All have propagated well.  

On the international platform N.N. Haralu while representing the country, also represented the Naga people. Where ever she went, people came to know of the Naga people, and learn of the existence of a corner of North East India.  

N. N. Haralu came back to Nagaland after retirement, serving in various voluntary capacities for the upliftment of society, particularly for the welfare of women. During her tenure as Chairman, Nagaland State Social Welfare Advisory Board she was able to extensively tour the State and gain first-hand knowledge of ground realities; an asset also for other ongoing positions on several welfare boards. Her successful career an indication of the emergence of Indian Tribal women from backwardness and an insular society.  

There is no denying that more and more girls from the tribal areas have taken to higher education since.  

In an interview to the Times of India when she reached retirement she said of her service that it was "unique experience". Asked if she felt discriminated against she replied "Not more than would happen to any woman pursuing a career but there were times I felt that it was because I was a tribal, For instance in one of my postings my seniors objected to my wearing the Chiacha (the Naga lungi) Miss Haralu feels that tribal girls have to prove that they are good as the rest until they are accepted by the society as equals".  

Nechiilieii Haralu has inspired many others and played a positive role in life. As among the most senior of citizens, she held steadfast to her faith in the Lord. She was an example of diligence, and her choice to be happy (she’s also up to date with current affairs and uses a cell phone). Above all, she nurtured the pioneering courageous spirit which underlined her passion for life. In her passing an era has come to an end.  

Bano Haralu