Raw, Real and Utterly Mesmerizing: Nagaland

BY | Monday, 8 July, 2024

My journey began in the bustling metropolis of Mumbai, a city known for its fast-paced life and endless hustle. Leaving behind the urban chaos, I set out for Nagaland, eager to explore its unspoiled beauty and immerse myself in its rich traditions.

The moment I landed in Nagaland, the warmth of the local people was palpable. My first encounter with Naga hospitality was at the Dimapur airport, where I witnessed a group of locals in traditional attire, joyously welcoming IPS Robin Hibu, a DGP-ranked officer in the Delhi Police and the first IPS officer from Arunachal Pradesh. He has formed an NGO “HELPING HANDS SOCIETY”, serving North East Indians citizens in distress with a targeted & focused approach to make a positive difference. Their colorful clothes and the rhythmic sounds of their welcome left an indelible mark on me, setting the tone for the rest of my trip.

My adventure took me to the tranquil villages of Dzuleke and Jakhama.

Dzuleke, a remote village surrounded by lush forests and rolling hills, felt like a sanctuary away from the noise of the modern world. Once a headhunting village, Dzuleke has transformed into a model of eco-tourism and sustainable farming. This village has achieved significant milestones, becoming an open defecation-free and tobacco-free village, reflecting its commitment to health, hygiene, and environmental conservation. This shift underscores the resilience and adaptability of its people, who have redefined their identity from warriors to custodians of a thriving, clean, and green village.

My days in Dzuleke were made unforgettable by the warmth and hospitality of my hosts, Aunt Tuseu and Aunt Aso. These two sisters own the beautiful homestay where I stayed, a place filled with charm and a sense of belonging. The morning began with a conversation over tea on their Traditional dress. Aunt Tuseu was quick enough to realize my desire to dress up in one of the attires. She went in her room and got the most beautiful “Lohe”. They both adorned me in their mother’s original and precious Carnelian gemstone beads necklace, making me feel like an honorary Naga girl. With playful teasing, they urged me to marry a Naga boy and settle down in Nagaland. Their faces fell momentarily when I revealed that I was already married and got a child, but the room quickly filled with laughter, breaking any cultural barriers between us.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a soft glow over the serene village, I settled down with freshly brewed local rice beer known as “Zutho” among the Angami Naga tribe accompanied by Aunt Aso.

Aunt Aso, a lovely lady in her 80’s, with a hearty laugh and a twinkle in her eye, and I found ourselves lost in a conversation. As the evening progressed, we shared stories of our First love, each tale more amusing than the last. Laughter echoed through the room, blending with the sounds of the night. There was a sense of liberation in those moments, a realization that these stories, these experiences, were part of our lives.

Never in my wildest dreams I would have imagined to share the name of my first love to a stranger who has a completely different world altogether than mine. In that moment, I realized, there are three Truths of Universe we all have to go through. Life and Death!! And Everything in between is Magic. And for that matter, Magic is the only truth which is in our hands.

Despite the language differences, our conversation flowed effortlessly. Aunt Aso and Aunt Tuseu spoke primarily in their native Naga language, and while Aunt Tuseu knew a bit of English from her NEIDA training program, our bond transcended words. Gestures, smiles, and shared moments bridged any gaps, creating a meaningful and lively exchange that I will always cherish.

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In Nagaland, a guest of one is considered a guest of the entire community. The hospitality I received was not just from one household but from the collective spirit of the village, making me feel like a part of their extended family. Every home in Dzuleke tells a story, and the old man’s home (Ring man) was no exception. Unable to communicate in any language other than his native Naga, he welcomed me into his world with gestures and expressions. His humble abode was filled with artifacts of his trade and life. As I stepped inside, I was invited into a narrative woven through generations of tradition and craftsmanship. Using sign language, he shared the secrets of his craft, creating delicate jewellery known as “Phiso” – a type of jewellery made from cane reeds and worn by men just below the knees. His wrinkles, etched deeply into his face, seemed to hold a lifetime of wisdom and experiences. On that day, for the first time in my life I witnessed the power of universal language of kindness and hospitality.

During my visit to Jakhama, another serene village of Nagaland, I had one of the most beautiful experiences of my travels. My host and his friends welcomed me with open arms, and our bond grew so strong that they felt like family by the end of my stay. Despite the bad weather conditions canceling our planned trek to Dzukou Valley, we made the best of our time by spending days around the bonfire, sharing stories and laughter. This unexpected change of plans only strengthened our bond. They went above and beyond, helping me navigate the area and ensuring my safety as I crossed state borders to my next destination. Their genuine concern continued even after I left, as they kept checking on me, making sure I was safe and comfortable. This level of care and attention made my travels smooth and worry-free, allowing me to fully immerse myself in the experience.

Visiting places like Nagaland is not just about fun; it’s about immersing yourself in the rich cultural heritage that India has to offer. It gives you a chance to connect with history and learn from those who have preserved it through their way of life. To experience the warmth of communities like Dzuleke who are melting pots of 1000 and 1000 of cultures. Engaging with the local culture, learning from their wisdom, and appreciating the beauty of our shared heritage. By doing so, you not only enrich your own understanding but also contribute to the preservation and celebration of India’s cultural legacy.

My journey to Nagaland was a profound experience that went beyond the picturesque landscapes and scenic beauty. It was a deep dive into a culture that values tradition, community, and hospitality above all. The warmth of the Naga people, their rich traditions, and the serene beauty of their homeland left an everlasting impression on me. As I left Nagaland, I carried with me not just memories but a newfound respect and admiration for this remarkable state and its people.

For those seeking an authentic cultural experience, Nagaland is a destination that promises to enrich your soul and broaden your horizons.

Follow me @wanderlustvibs on Instagram for more such human-interest visuals and stories.

Veebha Bandekar Tripathi

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