North East Exotica 2

First 25 years of my life, I haven’t stepped out of my locality. My folks were freaked out hearing that I needed to go across the country & were making arrangements (travel &lodging etc). But I had convince them, its time I learn & I’m too old. It’s time I spread my wings. Luckily or lazily iam an minimalist. Only in excess if I have, its books. My entire wardrobe would be less than 6 pairs. My sister can fill four full almariahs. (That really freaks me out when she complainsthat she hasn’t have anythingto wearwhile she can clothe entire africa with her wardrobe).

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As outsider, everything for me was exotic in North East. Unlike other outsiders, I didn’t behave boorish or kept myself to people from plains. Army regulations to their jawans was to move in threes. Seldom you find people from plains moving alone. I mixed well with natives, lived among them, learnt languages, prayed & dined with them

Just like we (never did I btw) term them Ch***i (which invites 5 year jail term now) , they call us Indian, ugly Indian, pigs etc in local languages depending whether you are in mizoram or Nagaland. Funnily they call Chinks between themselves. 

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In streets you are charged higher obviously due to language barrier. Mizoram is totally hill state. All towns would be on top of hills. So vehicles have to move around up the hill. Roads are very narrow, barely allowing two vehicles to pass at same time. But people are highly disciplined . There won’t be over taking or honking. Horns are banned. Even if space is there, they won’t over take. If anyone honks the horn, chances are high that it’ would by an outsider 😅

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There are no trains. Flights are upto capital cities. Rest of main towns, people go by Tata Sumos. Ten persons per Sumo cruise around the mountains. New people always puke due to snaking & winding roads. Best thing in mizoram I found was toilets everywhere for men&women. Even in remote mountains, if not cement structure, there would be cloth curtain on bamboos on roadside for ladies to ease themselves. Otherwise you can opt for helicopter that flies to different towns weekly once/twice.

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Most of North east citizens don’t pay any Income taxes. If a person salary is 20,000/-. There won’t be any IT on them & it’s full take home. But there is some amount that has to be donated to Church, local NGOs, and in Nagaland, its 24% tax to insurgent groups who have offices in open. Same in Manipur. Insurgent taxes or extortion is rampant. And during occasions like Xmas, anniversary, money has to be paid. With Burma adjoining, it’s easy to procure weapons & drugs. We can get M10 or ak47 assault rifles for 4 lakh from Burmese mafia. There is/was lot of terrorism & insurgency in NE. Thanks to local grievances, support from China & ample weapons available in Burma (again supplied by China). It’s easier to become insurgent than graduate, though now it’s reducing . Manipur, Nagaland & upper Assam are still reeling under never ending insurgency. No wonder we have established jungle warfare school in mizoram. In twist of fate, during insurgency days, Army officer son was rebel leader. Both were fighting on opposing camps. Later father went on to become Chief Minister & son led peaceful life. 

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North east has three major religions. Christians in Mizoram Nagaland Meghalya. Buddhist in Sikkim & Arunachal. Hinduism in Assam, Tripura & part of Manipur. Paradoxically outsiders outnumber locals in sikkim & tripura. Nepali outnumber bhutia in sikkim while Bengali outnumber in tripura.

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Sikkim & Arunachal is great for enjoying Tibetan Buddhism. Those huge bright colored monasteries & marooned robe lamas are sight to behold. In sikkim, no polythene is allowed & alcohol is dead cheap which is available in local grocery shops & unlike in cities, you can’t pee on roads or streets. Btw actor Danny Denzogpa is from elite families of sikkim. Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava, monk who brought Buddhism to Himalayan region & Tibet is revered person here. In sikkim, they say ,hidden lands (Beyul Demoshong, wiki it friends) at Mount Kanchenjunga (3rd highest peak) are there which can be opened by Incarnate lamas only. It was in sikkim, on 100km trek, I saw the snow for 1st time. My expression was like, same as Madhubala in Song “Yeh Hasiyan Vadiyan ” in film Roja. Except ice in refrigerator, I never saw or touched snow. Mt Kanchenjunga brought lump in my throat. If the sight of Kanchenjunga has this effect, I wonder how Mount Kailas would be. FYI, currently “The last hour” series in Amazon Prime was shot in Sikkim. Since subject of snow has come up, watch MERU documentary on mountaineering. It’s fresh & amazing.

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Assam is biggest prosperous state among all 7 sisters of NE. Land in Gauhauti & its 2 hrs Shillong (remember Rock on 2). From Gauhauti, we can book bus/sumo/even chopper to other places.

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Where there is water body, temple or tantra is possible. Khamakya temple (Gauhauti) is centre of tantra (as mentioned in our beloved Om Swami memoir). Only animal sacrifice is given now unlike human sacrifice in past. It is perhaps due to history & flow of Brahmaputra.

Btw head hunters in Nagaland & mizoram are part of folklore. Man’s worth was decided by number of heads he chopped. Women & children heads had more value as they were most protected. Konyak tribe in Nagaland & Maras in mizoram were famed head hunters till Christianity took over.

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We find legends from mahabaratha scattered in North East. City Dimapur in Nagaland is corruption of name Hidimbi w/o Bheema. These tribes were known for magical abilities. Their son, Gathkoacha, settled in Mayong in Assam which to this day known for its magic (wonderful documentary on YouTube). Chitragada is name of Arjuna wife & is from Manipur. Though not sure, Tripura is mentioned I stories of Shiva ( courtesy Amar Chitra Katha comics)

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If you are visiting NE, leave prejudiced mind & preconceived notions at rest. One might get shocked at women having birth before marriage & with no stigma or women running economy while men laze around or get shocked at sight of dog meat shops or beef curry or still bizarre, snake. Just bask in local culture, your life’s perspective is never the same again. Happy weekend Co travelers of life

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Praveen Sagar

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