Kire exudes confidence in the entrepreneurship spirit and willingness of Naga youngsters to try new careers as opposed to the older ones reluctant to leave the nest
By Bunty Thoidingjam
Walking the Roadless Road by Easterine Kire is a well-researched quest for identity, one that culminates in establishing the unique existence of a crowd of different tribes that we now collectively regard as Nagas. Weaving in four sections — the origin, the advent of Christianity, British Raj and the Naga — and lastly turning the focal point to Naga history, the narrative evolves into a gripping read, steeped in rare and invaluable information.
The author’s strength lies in her enthusiastic delineation of the affinity among the social mores of the community. Backing that up with the intrinsic fact that Nagas are aboriginals of Mongolia, the book is a privilege to read for those who have little or no knowledge about this ancient group of tribes. Her exhaustive research is palpable from the various references of great works by reputed writers that the book is densely peppered with. As broadly classified, the Angamis, Aos, Chakhesangs, Changs, Dimasa Kacharis, Khiamniungans, Konyaks, Kukis, Lothas, Phoms, Pochurys, Rengmas, Sangtams, Sumis, Yimchungers and Zeliangs are individually highlighted with special emphasis on their cultural origins, based on the similarities or the differences of their traditions.
Kire’s profundities are established on readers when she says there are two schools of thoughts. First, the new religion had crushed old traditions. The second opinion stands contrary to the first one. It postulates that people believe the new religion did not obliterate the earlier traditions, and there were various similarities between Christianity and the practices of old traditions that easily accommodated the new religion. But, the one common point of agreement was that headhunting actually went down due to the spread of Christianity.
After acquiring Assam and Manipur, the Britons wanted to open a land route between these two territories in the 1800s. The book sheds light on the stiff resistance put by Nagas against Britons in their desperate bids to preserve their verities in soul, substance and spirit. The author’s poignant touch in narrating the many small wars that ensued between the Nagas and the Britons clears the obscurity and ignorance that history had gifted these plucky and patriotic Nagas.
However, the book takes a crucial twist at the juncture when Japanese troops marched towards Dimapur via Imphal and managed to seize a place for some time.
Reading up on the war tactics of the Allied and the Axis forces and how the battle was won by the Britons is exhilarating. The author’s magic lies in the fact that while we read, we see the region slowly growing up from a child to a mature woman.
The author infuses hope and positive outlook about the future of young Nagas. She exudes confidence in their entrepreneurship spirit and their willingness to try new careers as opposed to the older ones reluctant to leave the nest.
The freedom struggle of Nagas and how the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) is not constitutional also find special mentions in the book.
But my favourite part in the book would be the epilogue where individuals say what it means to be a Naga. A college teacher says: “I celebrate the fact that I am a by-product of various political and cultural forces that have shaped our land and people through the years, whether it be the British Raj, the American missionaries, the Indian government, the Naga national movement and now the whole world. I do not deny nor reject these influences but embrace and celebrate the unique synergy…”
The book, however, is not devoid of its weak points. While defining the different traditions of each tribe, she could not avoid being repetitive, as she wanted to emphasise on the oral narratives. These are the portions where the book drags. All in all, it is an interesting read for anyone who wishes to know about the Nagas.