A childhood memoir
- Part 2 -

Paul Hangsing *

My old school could boast of the best there is to a school; the best infrastructure, the best teachers, the best playground, the best musical instruments, the best students and why not the results, which we bettered year after year in the board examination. Above all, I personally had the best Principal in the person of Father Devasia, whom I loved dearly. A man, whose wit and intellect defined wisdom. His humility and uncompromising honesty, to me, was an embodiment of the principles of life for his students to live by.

However, as days passed on to months the romanticism I jealously defended of my alma mater gradually faded and my new environment appeared less weird and more exciting!

I have fond memory of my Teachers in Noklak high school that had grown accustomed to the corporal techniques of teaching a little crude perhaps, but may have been effective in hitting the message home. I have no complains about them as I myself did receive some of those instant compliments a fine art that raps the living daylight out of you.

Though living on the flipside of modernism, there were never a dull moment in the months and year that passed since my family arrived in Noklak. My father had been busy trailing the perilous tracks that meanders across sixteen odd villages under his administrative control. There were serious security issues and the porous international border that stood along the summit of the hill facing Noklak compounded the problem.

For a remote town of sorts, Noklak soon turned into a VVIP destination and our home the centre of activity. I still proudly recall shaking hands with the illustrious Governor of North East India, Shri. Lalan Prasad Singh who handed to me a 50 rupees bill - I had problem spending it for over a month.

My Parents had their own modest circle of friends; the local church Pastor, the Major of Assam Rifles, the Assistant Commandant of Nagaland Armed Police, the Medical Officer, the Block Development Officer and rarely, the Central Intelligence Officer.

Be that as it may, my life revolved more around my peer group comprising six motley boys; two of them my class mates at school. Beside these boys, Blacky had been my constant companion. A cross breeds between a German shepherd and a Golden Retriever; Blacky was a friend, a family and a faithful escort where ever I went. Mild and loving as always, Blacky could also be ferocious and fearless when commanded. Blacky died of a Cobra bite while escorting me to check on my bird traps laid, a day earlier, in the neighborhood wild.

It was here that I first saw a bow and an arrow and felt it with my own hands. The Khiamnungans are master craftsmen. The bows crafted by them are masterpieces; a collector's delight, worthy of being showcased inside teak paneled shelves' of a typical English countryside home.

The bow and arrow technology though crude in essence, the end product betrayed a touch of improvisation. The bow comprised of a string entwined from wild reeds. A wooden bow; both strong and supple. A robust shaft made of hard wood on which to suspend the bow. The strings are then fastened on to both ends of the bow. An ivory carved trigger fitted on the butt end of the shaft which when pressed releases the trapped strings that in turn strikes at the arrows held at the other end of the shaft.

It was Koi who taught me the art of shooting an arrow. I had with me two bows and five to ten arrows at any point of time. The first time I shot a Bulbul with my bow, I couldn't conceal my pride that I preserved my first hunt for days on end, until ants ate up the poor thing.

My initial reticence of playing alongside half clad kids soon disappeared. It was a carefree life under the bosom of nature. Wild grasses rolled up with rags into looped shaped contraption gave us our football and endless matches, both under the rain and the sun.

Indeed, neither the contraption nor the weather mattered; it was the manifestation of the spirit of freedom that we all enjoyed and in equal measure.

A nondescript existence by civilized yardstick, yet life seemed to carry on indifferent to the opulence and resultant complexities of modernity. In the egalitarian society of Khiamniungans, greed and selfishness is an anathema. Each according to his ability and, to each according to his need was both a value system and a way of life. A chicken sold for Rs.5/- cannot be bought for anything less or more.

Of course, a crispy note was always heartily welcomed. Human desire for more than what suffice his daily need is at the root of all misery or so they profoundly believed. Life, to Khiamniungans was all about upholding stoutly held tribal values of fairness, honesty, simplicity and integrity of character, pride and honor of manhood and that of the community.

The village folks would scorn at the contrasting lifestyle in the emerging township at the'Noklak town' - not a proper town, by any standard-as sinful. Hence, they strived to maintain a higher level of spiritual existence. The older folks repudiated Christianity precisely for the fear that it would encourage the culture that they so abhor.

Like all good things that finally come to an end, my fleeting association with the enchanting world of Khiamniungans had its day of reckoning. It was the early summer of 1976, when my father received his transfer order.

Within days we were on a new trail of adventure to a place unknown. But deep inside of me was an expectation of yet another rendezvous of discovery perhaps as enchanting or even more.


My initiation into the mystic world of the Khiamniungans made me a firm believer that in God's own country-Nagaland, there can never be a dull moment, only a supernatural experience, if only one let go of oneself.

* Paul Hangsing wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a free-lancer and can be contacted at thirdvoice77(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on February 05, 2014.

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