The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : Return to the Naked Nagas (1939;1976)

caption: Chapter Four. Above the Clouds
caption: entertained at Shiong, hostess a leper; leprosy
medium: books
person: Ahon
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching Shiong
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: In Shiong we were first entertained in the house of Ahon. He was an old friend of Mills and only too pleased to see him again, his whole household assembled to welcome us, and the hostess never allowed our rice-beer mugs to stand empty. I am afraid, however, that, fresh from the over-anxious atmosphere of Europe, I could not help feeling that it was just the hostess that presented one of the drawbacks to that otherwise well-assorted household -- for the hostess was a leper. Ahon, too, must have come to the conclusion that in the long run a wife with leprosy is not very pleasant, for he had married a second wife, his first wife's cousin, and they had (39) seven children. But the first wife -- the leper -- continued to live in the house, attending to her duties as best she could. And as she had not so far infected any of the members of the family, my prejudice against leprosy was somewhat appeased. Even in Wakching, where there were only four lepers, the people could not make up their minds either to isolate or to settle them outside the village. The kind-hearted Konyaks refused to exile poor, sick members of the community. "After all, they are our brothers," I often heard them say. "How should we chase them out of the village ?" Yet they were fully aware that this "evil illness," as they call leprosy, was contagious.