The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - 'Diary of a Tour in the Naga Hills, 1922-1923' by Henry Balfour

caption: Visit to two villages; treating a boy with a severe wound
medium: diaries
ethnicgroup: Ao
location: Chungtia (Chuntia) Aliba
date: 3.12.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Sunday, Dec. 3.
text: I was up pretty early, & after reading Mrs. McGovern's book on Formosa, I spent nearly all day in Chuntia & Aliba villages, which adjoin one another. Both are Ao villages. I spent time sketching xylophones, which are fine, old & massive ones (one in Chuntia & one in Aliba). I visited the morungs, which are mostly large. The two villages are laid out in definite 'streets', on very rocky & uneven ground. The floors of the morung are just the uneven ground surface, unlevelled. The houses are at ground level in front & on piles at the back, the back platforms being usually very high, owing to the falling away of the ground-level. I visited & drank zu in several houses belonging to the gaonburas. They had one big living-room floored with interlaced bamboo-strips, with a layer of mud for the hearth. There is a lobby in front and a door leading to the open air platform at the back. The house fronts are flat. Many of these have carved horizontal boards across the front over the door, carved with human heads, hornbills, snakes and breast designs. Some were painted with figures of daos etc. At one house there was a boy who had just gashed his ankle very badly with a dao. I had no surgical equipment with me, so I applied a tourniquet & told the parents to keep the wound washed with warm water, & that I would return later & do up the wound. I then visited a new morung in Aliba, which was having the finishing decorative touches applied - 'enemies' hands', palm-plumes and birds along the roof ridge. After lunch I returned to the wounded boy, who was in great pain. I dressed his wound with Jeyes (my only remaining disinfectant) & bound him up. A difficulty always arises in one's attempts to treat wounds. It is impossible to find any vessels which are even approximately clean, water which is pure or strips of cloth which are not filthy, & when one's own outfit is exhausted, one had to make shift with local materials & trust to native immunity to septicism. The mother of the boy insisted upon paying me a medical fee - of two eggs, one of which hatched shortly afterwards! I gave the other half-fee to one of the carriers. Another Naga came to me, suffering from the worst cataract in both eyes which I have ever seen & begged me to treat him, Of course I could not, & could only recommend him to go down to a hospital in the Plains. But he could not understand why, if I could treat a gash, I could or would not treat him. I next went right through Aliba village. Chuntia & Aliba together must be nearly a mile long, & stretch along the top of a ridge, about 4000ft above sea level. I had a crowd with me all the time, very inquisitive about my sketching & photographing & a decided nuisance. In the evening Mills's 'bearer' - a very capable man - turned up, to accompany me to Calcutta.