One night in my village
- Part 2 -

Witoubou Newmai *

Armed with a new Chapi (catapult) which was made by one of my uncles during the day and the fresh baked Taloompisiu, my mind was already floating in the wishful world while lying in my bed-bug filled bed. I was thinking of the escaped Agui (green and red-foot wild pigeon) I had shot two days ago with my old Chapi. That injured green pigeon had escaped because the blow from my old Chapi was not forceful enough. While dreaming this, I was occasionally disturbed by these bedbugs. But comparatively, the bugs were less that night.

People from Makidi (Imphal) had come and sprayed Takhengpiu (DDT powder) in our village few days ago. The freshness of the odour of Takhengpiu was still there. The bamboo wall of my grandfather's house was spotted with whitish colour due to the spraying of Takhengpiu. The snoring of Apou disturbed my sleep though we were separated by a bamboo wall. He had cut down two giant trees that day in his paddy field at Aguanglujam(name of a location). It took him an hour of walk to reach home from the paddy field. He was exhausted after the day's hard work. I too went off to sleep.

Due to the clanging sound of my grandmother's Chahen (water containers made of bamboo) I was woken up. Apeh (grandmother) was lighting Kahiu (a torch of burning pine-wood piece) while getting ready to go to fetch water in a distant place deep into the thick hilly forest carrying about ten Chahen in her Akha (bamboo basket meant to be carried the women folk on their backs. It must be around 2 am and she had to walk for about 2 kilometres or more to reach Akhun (natural public well).

Water scarcity was another prime concern of Nchiang village. If she happened to reach late, the Akhun would be emptied. Women folk of the village had to compete for this small quantity of potable water. Very often there were quarrels in the Akhun among the women folks.

My two cousins were already there outside my grandfather's house waiting for me. I could make out they had finished brushing their teeth for I saw a black stain in my younger cousin's chin. Almost all the villagers used the same brand of tooth brush and paste in those days—the charcoal. I picked up a piece of charcoal from a fire place and soon joined my cousins and we then headed for Joukasangmai Kiluang (an abandoned village dwelt by Nchiang villagers before they had embraced Christianity).

Ruined houses, uncared and old giant stone erections in the memories of the dead people and the sporting fields were seen. The deserted village had the glorious past. One could understand this for its ruin prominently displayed. The matured mithun horns tied in slanting and slacked pillars of the ruined houses, probably the Khangchiuki (male dormitory) were the common sights.

One could also see small mounds of earth in two places. These were the places where strong males competed in Long Jump in Liangmai tribe style. One would find Nphua Bang (a kind of flower resembles bottle-brush flowers but this Nphua Bang is white in colour). When this Nphua blooms at Joukasangmai Kiluang, different kinds of birds swarm there for food. The flower is rich in nectar. Even children are fond of sucking the Nphua Pen (Nphua flower).

We had reached our hunting ground after about 20 minutes of walk. The Sun was just above the hills.

We were partly wet because we had come here bull-dozing ourselves through the dew filled bushes. We were not the first people there. Other bird hunters of the village were already counting the number of their kills.

I rubbed my palms together to relieve the numbness due to cold. When I turned around to show my cousins which different directions they should go, they had already disappeared in the Nphuali (grove of Phua plants)

The chirping of birds of different kinds hovering at Nphua Pen excited me. Watching this beauty was heaven but my instinct was the problem. I had already shot down three birds. A bulbul was my biggest kill of that moment. I heard my cousin shouting excitedly few metres away. He had shot a large parrot but the bird was still alive perching in a lower twig. He was asking me to lend him few Taloompisiu as he had already spent all his.

I rushed towards my cousin and looked upward to find the injured parrot hanging upside down. I pulled my catapult aiming at the bird but before I could leave the leather strap of my weapon that wrapped the Taloompisiu, the parrot fell down due to the impact of the soft wind. I saved my Taloompisiu.

"How many birds have you hunted?" I asked my cousin who had replied that it was not his day. He had narrated that two large green pigeons was shot down but he could not find them as they had fallen in the cliff. He had also said that a squirrel was shot down but that too had disappeared in a thick bush. He tried to clear the bush to search the squirrel but the thorny creepers were the cause for him to retract the idea.

I showed him my kills. The other cousin joined us. I had killed altogether seven birds including two parrots and one green pigeon.

"I was using my grandmother's shawl to make my hunting bag and so this had ruined my day's hunting," lamented by cousin who had killed only a parrot.

The common notion was that using or even touching the attire or materials of the women folk would bring bad luck.

Reaching home, I submitted my kills to Apeh who happily took them and smoked them.

Birds were smoked and put in Tabung (a specially made bamboo or cane basket to contain smoked meat) to be used on special occasions.

It must be around 8 in the morning and my grandmother served me food. It was Tasang Gan (a curry made of fermented beans and Nkana ( a kind of bitter leaves). Seeing this food, my glum face became prominent. Noticing my resentment, my grandmother (Apeh) was trying to appease me by saying that she would buy me a new catapult string if she could manage to sell her sheaves of hay.

My joy knew no bounds then. I devoured my food and ran off to the back-yard panting, to split fire wood to reciprocate Apeh's pleasing diplomacy. I had eaten a hot chilly to increase my appetite. Apeh noticed me panting. She brought some water and asked me to take rest in the shade for a while.


* Witoubou Newmai wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Editor of Newmai News Network (NNN).
This article was posted on October 14, 2013.

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