The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Journey to Nagaland', by Mildred Archer. An account of six months spent in the Naga Hills in 1947

caption: W.G. Archer's visit to the Governor of Assam
caption: train journey to Shillong
medium: diaries
person: Archer/ W.G.Hydari/ Sir Akbar
date: 31.8.1947
person: Archer/ Mildred
date: 9.7.1947-4.12.1947
text: 31 August. Kohima.
text: Bill has just returned after meeting the Governor in Shillong. His journey up, he says, was comically symptomatic of the new Assam for the first sign of independence seems to be ticketless travelling! He had meant to catch a night train, but when the train drew in at eleven o'clock every upper class compartment was full. The guard and ticket collector tried in vain to find a berth. The doors were locked, the occupants refused to open, all the railway staff stood blankly by. 'What can we do?' they said. 'Most of them have not got tickets, but the rule is that after nine o'clock no one in the upper class (62) can be disturbed. If we force ourselves in they will refuse to show their tickets. They will complain against us to the Manager. They will give us a beating.' Bill knows when he is defeated so he quietly returned to the rest-house and passed a hot and windless night, sweating on a slatted bed.
text: The next train was at half-past four and as he waited on the platform, the darkness gradually left the sky, the electric lights grew pale and the rows of coolies lying on the stones turned and shuffled in their hard sleep.
text: When the train arrived most of the upper berths were empty and Bill composed himself to a morning's lonely thought. But not for long. At nine o'clock a crowd of college boys, laughing and chattering, came bursting in. They were on their way to a Congress conference. None of them had tickets and with the greatest good will they spread themselves about the seats. Bill was pressed into a corner, but even then there was not enough room. So with twenty sitting and ten standing, the train went slowly through the morning. In a little while Bill and the youths were busy talking. Did he know Assamese? Did they know English? What were they going to do after college? Did they play football? Where was Bill born? How much did he earn? Where did he work? The Naga Hills? Oh yes - the Nagas - very simple people. While the chat went on, some of them took Bill's newspapers and soon they were circulating them round the carriage. The latest copy of Horizon was also there, but with a baffled sigh they took one look and quietly put it down. Only one ventured on the poems and while Bill tried to expound the Naga case, he heard some lines of Stephen Spender coming slowly through the din.
text: 'O Night O trembling night O night of sighs
text: O Night when my body was a rod O Night
text: When my mouth was a vague animal cry
text: Pasturing on her flesh O night'.
text: Presently some cigarettes came out and one was pressed on Bill. (63) Then a boy got down, bought some pears and as the others cut them up Bill too was given pieces. When at last they reached Gauhati, Bill took them to the waiting room and stood them all tea. They parted loud in expressions of general esteem.