The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book - 'Naga Path', by Ursula Graham Bower, published John Murray 1950

caption: 'V' Force - 'watch and ward'
caption: Chapter twenty-five. The Colonel
caption: visit to Hangrum with Col. Wright
medium: books
person: Wright/ Col.
location: Hangrum
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: (183) I didn't realize until we came to keep pace with him on the bride-road how desperately slow his leg made him. We were making barely a mile and a half an hour. On the steep climb which leads out of the Jenam valley to the Nenglo ridge, there are short cuts; narrow Naga paths, for a hundred feet or so, which leave out several hundred yards of road. To get down a steep slope, the Colonel had to use a man's shoulder; on the short cuts, where none of us could get alongside him, he dropped on hands and knees and crawled up. He didn't complain. There was no doubt that his leg hurt him.
text: Before we reached the top of the hill I asked him outright why he had taken on this trek with his leg as it was. (This after he had apologized, for the fifth time, for holding us up, and pressed me to go on.) He said he'd spent many years in Assam, and more than anything he loved his Assam Rifles. And, too, the hills, the rivers, the life in the open. He'd come back full of hope, and joined " V " Force. But it was manned by young men, who laughed at him, he felt, as a desk-bound crock. Therefore he'd begged himself this reconnaissance, and he was going to do it if it killed him. For, he argued, so long as his leg would carry him, he wasn't a crock.
text: So we went on slowly towards Hangrum. After the steep climb to Nenglo, two thousand feet or more of it in a couple of miles, the road humps itself along a pinnacled ridge, five miles of ruckles and pleating, till it climbs the big, camel- hump hill which hides Hangrum from Laisong. And this load we travelled, in the August steam-heat; a man's shoulder for the Colonel, step by step, on the down grades; and on the other the step by step climb up.
text: On the halts, we didn't talk about the road any more. We talked about fishing, and people we'd known in Manipur. He was superb. We might have been sitting in a Club veranda.
text: When we came to the last summit, the one which overlooks (184) Hangrum itself, I saw the headmen waiting at the village outskirts, by the upper morung. I knew they'd be in a panic at a Colonel Sahib arriving - anything scared Hangrum - so I did go on then, Namkia with me, leaving the others to bring in Rawdon Wright. The Hangrum headmen came on to greet me and we met in the middle, at a turn in the road. Before I could open my mouth, Namkia broke in - I had never seen him so excited :
text: " That Colonel Sahib - he's not a man, he's a tiger ! He's got a wounded leg. He got it in the German war. His bearer told me. He goes up the hills on all fours, like a bear. He comes down the hills like this, on a man's arm. And not one word, not one ! - the courage ! Anyone else would be weeping aloud by now. I tell you he's not a man - he is a tiger ! "
text: We all stood, and watched the little group of figures, the thick-set Colonel conspicuous, descending the dozen zigzags of the opposite slope. When he joined us at last, it was in a hush greater than any words.
text: We halted next day at Hangrum, and went round it. There was a silence on the village, as there generally was with strangers; but not this time the silence of hostility. They all looked at him in the same way as did Namkia, or, for that matter, as I. His was not a courage on which one could comment. One could only watch.
text: Sitting over our drinks in the veranda at sunset, we looked out over the hills of Manipur - their infinite ridges, all green with forest, lifting, locking, melting, merging; reddened now with the sunset reflections behind them. I said something of them.
text: He looked at me.
text: " I think you're in love with the hills."
text: " You're right."
text: The Hangrum headmen came in that evening with a deputation of elders. They wanted him to have a litter. They'd have one made; they'd arranged the porters. They would (185) provide men free of cost, as a gift from the village. Namkia translated. The Colonel shook his head.
text: " I'm a soldier, tell them. I'm not going to be carried about the country like a woman."
text: This was translated back to the Hangrum headman. He said :
text: " The Sahib got his wound in the war. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Nobody questions his courage. He ought to be carried - he shouldn't go on as he is."
text: But Rawdon Wright wouldn't have it. He went on next day, over Hemeolowa, that mounting, narrow scramble, on foot. The headmen and I stood outside the bungalow, watching the white shirt climbing slowly, painfully, with the aid of the interpreter's shoulder, over boulders, gullies, and slippery red soil. At the last turn of the road he stopped and waved. We waved back. Then the white shirt was gone. Nobody said anything, because there was too much to say.
text: He fell, the porters told me, three times, coming down the steep descent to the Plains from Baladhan. Perry was shocked when he met him again on the return journey to " V " Force H.Q.
text: I heard from him once or twice later; he left " V " Force, and was busy organizing a Porter Corps. Then he fell ill.
text: The reconnaissance, that last gesture, had been too much. His leg was amputated at the end of November.
text: He died in December, after a three weeks' fight, just as the scheme he had started, North Cachar Watch and Ward, came into being.