The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, Naga diary four

caption: Shankok's marital problems
medium: diaries
person: ShankokShikna
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
date: 23.3.1937
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 12.2.1937-31.3.1937
note: translated from german by Dr Ruth Barnes
person: School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London
seealso: notebook 9 p.178ff
text: I worked for some time with Shankok on the translation of the story about man and tiger. (See notebook 9 p. 178 ff.) Then we started to talk about his private affairs and he opened his heart to me about his unhappy marriage. The marriage has never been consummated but it stops him from taking another wife and just now he seems to be seriously in love. His girlfriend is Shikna daughter of Yophong (Metahu, Balang). She is married to someone from the Angban (221) but the entire village knows that Shankok is her lover. Unfortunately this affair had immediate results. Now Shikna is pregnant and next month will give birth to a child whose father is Shankok, but who will grow up as the child of the Angban husband. At the same time Shikna's affair with Shankok has to come to an end as she will move into her husband's house and lose her independence.
text: Shankok is very miserable about this. At the moment he still spends most nights with her but during the day the two do not look at each other as they feel "a great shame". In the evenings they meet in front of another Balang house and together they then go to a rice granary. There does not seem to exist the same degree of intimate acquaintance between them as there is for us between lovers. As to my question of how Shikna thinks about the pending separation and her marriage to the Angban man, Shankok responds that she is unhappy too but that it is "shorom" to speak about it. Apparently Shankok does not have the courage to attempt the most obvious solution. (222) This would be to dissolve his marriage which only nominally exists anyway, and to marry Shikna. Although he has often considered the possibility he fears the resulting scandal. He would have to pay his wife a compensation of ten layas and two big fields and would have to pay the bride price to Shikna's legal husband as well as all expenses incurred before, during and after the wedding. He could easily afford both but he does not dare to confront the endless negotiations, the neighbours shouting and the reproaches of the other gaonburas. Yet both Medzou and Metlou have done exactly the same, and his own father has even expelled two of his wives before he married Shankok's mother.
text: I point out to him that his forefathers went to war and were not afraid. "Yes, going to war, fighting, even dying, I am not afraid of that, but negotiations today, negotiations tomorrow, disagreements day in day out, that scares me. Also my mother says that she would never live in the same house with my second wife". The case is further complicated by the fact that Shikna's clan, Metahu, and Shankok's, Noknokhu, (223) have not intermarried traditionally although there is no specific genna against these marriages. Anyway Shankok does not know what to do "Sometimes I think this way, sometimes that way. I am pulled in two directions". Yet he has already gone through the same with two girls prior to Shikna. Again and again he gets his girlfriends pregnant and loses them that way to their legal spouses.
text: Strangely enough Shankok's wealth does not give him enough prestige to override the opinions of his village companions, but in fact this is mainly due to his own weak character as despite his affability he is no strong personality. His fear at the notice which a divorce would bring upon him is especially strange as his marriage's effective non-existance is generally known.