The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

diaries kept by Ursula Graham Bower on visits to Manipur and North Cachar between 1937 and 1940

caption: exploring the Barak river bank
medium: diaries
person: 'Cuthbert'
location: Barak R.
date: 23.11.1938
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
person: private collection
text: (32) Nov. 23rd. Longkaiphum approx. 5 to 6. V. rough.
text: Halted, to explore Chota Hatea. Set off with Kukis & Shikaris. Shikaris let down big raft to judge current. Celia & I on shore found it washed up, nearly intact about 300 yards down. Moored it. Hamja and Umaid & Kuki let down other raft through rapids on cane rope. At scramble through roots Cuthbert caught up Celia (behind me) like a ghost, announcing his arrival by a delicate cough. Shinned over bank and down tree like a wild-cat, using his toes & strolling down tree. Presently three others caught up, one with tiffin, and we proceeded acrobatically along shore by route previously blazed by Celia and I. Jeff came down in fine style on raft, vanished downstream, rod at the ready. Reached edge of cliffs, found, as expected, only possible path through jungle (dense). Instructed Cuthbert by signs to cut path.
text: 10.30 approx. Cuthbert and gent in blue coat hacking.
text: 10.40. Crossed stream over slippery rocks, Cuthbert & Co. agile as apes.
text: (33) 10.50 Came to steep descending rocks. Cuthbert and Co. went down. After much discussion we followed, I first, sliding largely on tail. Rocks slippery, mossy and steep. Branch rigged as inadequate foothold. Lower rock almost sheer. Cuthbert rigged branch-ladder with no footholds. Had to slide down, clasping only available hold - banana-trunk swarming with ants.
text: 10.58. Reached bottom, covered with stinging ants.
text: 11.0-11.5 Cuthbert dusting ants off me. Celia sliding down.
text: 11.5-11.8 All hands dusting ants off Celia. One ant started up her shorts. Gentleman in blue jacket gave a seraphic smile and pursued and captured it.
text: Continued along rocks, including section where I had to take off my chapplis & go up barefoot, and then came to precipitous rocks with concave face giving on deep water and crossed by one infinitesimal crack. Cuthbert went up and was pained when we jibbed. Toyed with the idea of stripping & swimming, but felt shy in front of the boys and didn't (34) know how to tell them to go round. Sat on the rocks and thought, Celia and I eating oranges, Cuthbert & Co. smoking and waiting for the next move. At last we struck back, and after much scrambling reached sheer face which proved to be dirt on smooth rock. Cuthbert went up like monkey on a stick, taking two footholds with him. I got up halfway, found myself clinging on by suction, and the others, wedged in chute directly below, watching with interest and anticipation. Signed to Cuthbert for cane rope. Cuthbert retired into jungle, came back with length of cane; wedged himself in and with his help and the rope and a root about the level of my head, up I came. I having shifted all the remaining footholds, Celia was heaved up by handpower. Remaining Kukis probably came up by levitation. Anyway, most of the subsequent travel was tame by comparison. Hacked our way through dense, wet, cane jungle with every chance of sliding straight into Barak if one slipped. At last slithered down earth-bank and came out on big rocks. Easier going, in fact quite simple after (35) cane-rope stuff. Saw Jeff's raft moored, hailed, but no reply; passed cliff with wet cave and cascading water like rain: hailed again, no reply. Got down more rocks & came to river, pools & quite Highland-looking waterfall. Shed chapplis, waded pools, climbed fall barefoot by way of log in which Kuki had cut notch. Nearly fell in on top. Rocks very slippery. Further on, after more scrambling, found Jeff and Shikaris retracing steps to camp (Celia already sighted them on rocks on bend; but they didn't see or hear us). Returned to waterfall for tiffin. Relieved to meet. Had begun to think we were in for a real tough day, or had missed Jeff. In view of travel conditions and jungle, neither was a cheering prospect. Celia & I crossed stream by shallows, found we had to crawl round bulging rock by crumbling edge of steep sandbank. Hamja came to rescue, hauled both over, falling over backwards when pulling me round. Got back to camp about tea-time - Jeff having caught a fair fish, 11 lb., to the (36) delight of the faithful four - all scratched to bits and quite exhausted. Kukis climbed barefoot over hair-raising rocks on the way home, risking certain death above the Barak, which was running great guns while they shinned round shelving slabs on bare feet. Jeff's smaller fish was loyally carried through all out adventures. So was the tiffin-stuff & box. Cuthbert did most of the jungle cutting, but after the cliffs he handed over to one of the others.
text: [Note. Heard from Reggie Shaw that Longkaiphum didn't build camp as ordered, and Laikot (Cuthbert's village) did both their own & Longkaiphum's. Longkaiphum headman ordered to Tamenglong & got a beating, for disobeying parwana.]