The Chief Minister’s Tuluni Gift

Al Ngullie

Answering the phone in your birthday suit isn’t the best of ideas. I was struggling with the previous day’s news reporting filth when my Editor rang up. Scrambling out with soap suds trailing behind, I grabbed the Cell and the Boss vamoosed me off to cover the Tuluni function at Chekiye village. Cool, I thought. I have a bit of Axone running through my Banstenga veins, courtesy my Mom.

So there I was, dressed and off to...Er...Where? Chekiye Village? Oh I hate to travel in those fossils we call NST buses. And traveling all the way to Zunheboto never figured in my mind! Then somebody told me Chekiye Village was just a10 minute walk away from my place. Perhaps I should start traveling more around Dimapur before I become a foreign tourist in my own colony. Honest.

Anyway, I set off to the place I thought was in Zunheboto district. The first problem: the auto rickshaw I hired rattled and gasped to a stop on account of low diet. Low Fuel and poor health, I mean. After an excruciating hour of repairing and running around for petrol depots, we rattled off again. The second problem was purely medical: I nearly had a heart attack when the driver rattled off a number which sounded like a telephone number. I realized that it was the fare for hiring it. So my wallet lost weight. Final problem: the function was already on.

There were thousands of people – each one of them as colorful as Christmas trees. Ah! The festive air was wonderful and I could sense a rush of joyful energy coursing about the occasion. 

There on the stage sat the Man-In-White himself, surrounded by a host of other dignitaries. The big boss, the CM– in his usual white kurtas and dark glasses. Handsome guy this. Really debonair, manly and lots of cool (he was privileged with the only portable fan on the stage). With all his dash, it’s no big wonder he’s got the Opposition so jealous that he gets rapped in the papers every morning. Anyway politics always unsettle my stomach so I decided not to dwell too deeply on polity before I started looking for a bathroom. 

After a dose of speech from Sumi leaders, The Boss took the mic. The people hushed up. After the customary ‘Respected Chairman etc. etc. he went “….Ami laka Khushi to bishi…!” Omegosh no Nagamese now please! I mean when he articulates the Creole, he sounds a lot like a Japanese truck driver mumbling Russian syllables Lotha-style with a mixture of Ao twang so as to be called a Chakesang in Mon district. Anyway after denouncing land-encroachers with hefty dollops of censure and calling upon our fighting brothers to unite, he advised the people to consume fewer chilies because “Mirchaa laka bimar bishi ase!” (Yes he said this!) Well, Rio’s got no inkling, that after the function he’ll be served gigantic strips of Tuluni festival pork with Raja mirchaa – fiery enough to turn his ears into a portable chimney. And perhaps Ma’am Rio would scold him for being too much of a smokin’ gun in Naga politics. 

Not everybody thinks that much high of political orations (thanks to Vajpayee’s 5-hour blahmarathons) but Rio’s speech this time dug through everybody’s ear wax. He slammed land-encroachers and land-grabbers for obstructing developmental projects. He should have mentioned that land-grabbers are also responsible for many families living as paying tenants in their own houses .And lands. Two years ago, in Kohima, my sister’s land fell prey to a greedy land-grabber. This guy appeared one sunny morning out of nowhere, with lofty claims that the land belonged to his father-in-law and he had come to finalize his ownership. You should know, we couldn’t convince him that my sister has been living in that plot for more than a decade – and had bought it on government lease.

Anyway back to the Tuluni function. After the function, the CM was presented with a gift. No, it wasn’t a flower wrapped cutie box. Hold your breath here (the CM held his breath too). When the gift was presented the entire throng at the ground let out a collective gasp in astonishment. Even the Chief Gasp…er…Chief Guest gasped in all sincerity. And you’d thought politicians are hard-necked.

The gift turned out to be a raging Mithun (Bison) full of Testosterone in its panicked trot. It took about 50 full-blooded Sumi youths to pull the gift. And then suddenly the gift, obviously not used to celebrating festivals leaped and charged at the boys. So the youths only in small black shorts, momentarily forgot about legendry Naga bravery and scuttled off for their dear lives.

No wonder, nobody thought it a great idea to gift-wrap the thing. But then, in this age of computers, even Bisons must imbibe what is advanced, namely, good manners. So the gift suddenly remembered it was in the presence of the big boss and calmed down there. The gift-pullers re-assembled with revived heroism and dragged and tied the hyperactive gift to a tree. This is one gift that won’t get to ride in the CM’s swanky car. And one gift that’ll have Ma’am Rio scurrying up the ceiling.