Khonoma: The land out there…

This historic Angami – Naga village was the site of two ferocious Anglo – Naga war in 1879 – 80 and Indo-Naga war in 1956. Fondly tucked between towering mountain ridges, with emerald paddy fields carpeting the valley, Khonoma looks artistically traditional.

Ever heard of a village that twice, brought the British army juggernaut in the North East to a halt and forced the Indian Army to suspend its military operations (though for some time) in the 1950s, at the height of battle against insurgency in the state. This is Khonoma, some 20 Kms off Kohima, with a population of 3000, and a past dating back to centuries. Fondly tucked between two mountain ridges, with a liberating view of terraced paddy fields, forming a sea of yellow tufts in the valleys between the crotches of the mountain ranges.

 

Khonoma_Nagaland

Battle lines are still drawn in Khonoma, but this time between sustainability and long held traditions. This story began two decades ago, with the slaughter of around 300 Blyth’s tragophan, a pheasant with stunning plumage and the state bird of Nagaland. This massacre made the village elders cognizant of impending eco-war and Khanoma’s conservation movement was born. Today, it is India’s only eco-village. Logging and hunting stands banned today, a herculean task considering hunting is a cultural right of the Nagas. In 1998, Khanoma village council reserved an area of 20 sq. Km as Tragophan Sanctuary, India’s one of the first community led sanctuary. Soon, the forests which had gone silent, was alive with the calls of Tragophan and other birds. But a ban on hunting in Nagaland, is a rich affair. There is increasing pressure from the youth to revive the hunting culture. They forced the council to open a hunting window in the last years. Hunting has revived but is limited and only to maintain the carrying capacity of the forests.

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Tales from a headhunters’ land

Conversing with a nonagenarian is like collecting some pages off the calendar or redrawing some history from a person who barely remembers what he had in the morning for breakfast. Indeed a tedious task. But, the moment you ask of his good old fighting days, the geriatric time machine turns a raconteur; the years dissolve and clarity returns and tales of old fights pour as if it was all yesterday. What a dilemma to see a person, who barely remembers his age or for that matter his name, but is eager to give an account of his fighting days, tales from his youth and all with exacting clarity.

Headhunter@longwa_Mon_Nagaland

A headhunter – old but turned a raconteur when asked of his old, fighting days.

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Quiet mountains of Namchi

Think of Sikkim and the images of snow clad peaks, terraced rice fields, lushly forested hills, misty clouds setting in the deep valleys, whispering falls and mesmerizing cascades fall before your eyes. Sikkim is a painter’s dream – a beautiful landscape sketched by the creator. With these thoughts we set out for this land of peace and tranquillity. All along our way we were accompanied by the majestic River Teesta storming its way through the heavy boulders; its thunder cry noising out the traffic of NH 31 – the only road that connects Sikkim with the rest of the country. Our first tryst with Sikkim was very much like treading between the familiar and the alien. We were still to reach Gangtok but we could feel that connection with nature and the rhythm in the lives of people. Journey from Bagdogra to Gangtok covered a myriad of landscapes.

Mt. Kanchenjunga_Sikkim
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Living on the edge: Imphal

A chubby faced Ima in the Imphal’s sprawling Ima’s market was talking in sing song Hindi and insisting me to buy her traditional Manipuri shawl. By then I had spent all cash I had with me and I chose to quickly drift through this group of sharp eyed Imas’ calling out from beside their towering stacks of handicraft products and shawls. From there I landed up in another cacophonous section of this one of its kind ‘all women’s market’, devoted to fresh produce. The section was filled with aroma of the freshly procured, fertilizer free, mostly organic produces. It’s a colour on display; the bright orange of oranges, the dangerous red of the famed killer chilli of North East and the lavish green of the pineapple, joined by beautifully scattered yellows, umbers, shades of blues and greens and delicate pink of lotus flowers. Continue reading

Shillong: Walk among the clouds

Perfect landscapes with a complementary offer of an eclectic mix of nature, culture and history and a hint of friendliness in every face, well do you need anything more to make your vacation more romantic. Hmm, just add long walks on clean, decked up footpaths and manicured lawns alongside a lake, a ride through gushing cascades, babbling brooks, green hills, gorgeous dales all flaunting the munificence of Mother Nature and a lovely feeling of walking among the clouds. And now if I have got you thinking, then add to the list some ‘unforgettable’ shopping and culinary experience. This is Shillong for you, an orchestra of myriads scents, sights, sounds with a hint of unique culture, undiminished openness  and love and music floating in the air.

Umiam lake in Shillong

Popularly known as ‘Barapani’ Umiam lake is a famous spot for angling.

And breaking all ground rules of travel in India, the best way to savor Shillong is to walk, walk and walk, without being worried about pollution, sun or rash drivers. It is perhaps, one of the nicest places I have seen for a leisurely walk. From the center point or the Police Bazaar, a leisurely morning walk on Camel back’s road takes you through the colonial past of the city towards the Ward’s lake and then to shady streets of Oakwood, where the old colonial buildings play the charmer.

Scene of valley from outside Shillong en route to Cherrapunji.

Scene of valley from outside Shillong en route to Cherrapunji.

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Quiet mountains of South Sikkim

Think of Sikkim and the images of snow clad peaks, terraced rice fields, lushly forested hills, misty clouds setting in the deep valleys, whispering falls and mesmerizing cascades fall before your eyes. Sikkim is a painter’s dream – a beautiful landscape sketched by the creator. With these thoughts we set out for this land of peace and tranquillity. All along our way we were accompanied by the majestic River Teesta storming its way through the heavy boulders; its thunder cry noising out the traffic of NH 31 – the only road that connects Sikkim with the rest of the country. Our first tryst with Sikkim was very much like treading between the familiar and the alien. We were still to reach Gangtok but we could feel that connection with nature and the rhythm in the lives of people. Journey from Bagdogra to Gangtok covered a myriad of landscapes.

Mt. Kanchenjunga_Sikkim

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