Posts Tagged North-East

The invisible nation*

(The following is an extract from an e-mail from a friend. Thanks, PK.)

My father, who was in the army, was in Nagaland in the 60s, in Kashmir at the end of the 40s. When I was a child I heard from him about the army trying to arrest the Naga “hostiles.” His unit was patrolling in the Naga hills (every one is scared–by the forests, by the guerrilla tactics, by the idea that the Nagas are different) and somebody stepped on bamboo.

Have you heard bamboo split?

A guy fired a mortar. This was near a village. He just fired, in no particular direction, at no particular enemy.

Nobody was hurt. My father, if I remember correctly, had to have his own colleague tried.

When I went to study in Delhi, I stayed with a Kashmiri student. A Naga used to live in the next room. The room was about 6 feet by 4 and this chap–a student, too–had a music system that occupied half the room. He was extremely shy. My roommate and I went to introduce ourselves. This extremely gentle man, very courteously asked us to sit down, beamed while showing us his music system, told us what he was studying, and went on to tell his story.

“When I came to India,” he began.

I do not remember much but I do remember the landlord. The man must have been about 60 years old. He used to walk up the stairs demanding the rent. He would wear a shirt for the occasion, otherwise he would be in his striped, knee-length underpants. Some students from the northeast, boys and girls, used to live together in one of the rooms on the second floor. The landlord found it easy to collect the rent from the first floor; the Kashmiri and I spoke Hindustani. He would sigh, though, while trudging up to the second floor. “These people all sit around half-naked,” he would mutter. He would stand outside the door, trying not to look inside.

I do remember some bras giggling. Happy laughter. I was young, and never cared to find out which state they were from.

My son has recently learnt in school about the “seven sisters,” the states of the northeast. He was asking me if they were clubbed together because the people look different.

I guess they have yet to get to the “two brothers” of Kashmir.

* From a twitter comment.

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