The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Seven. Fishing with Tactful 'Savages'
caption: news of a fishing expedition
medium: books
person: Achin/ of WakchingYongem/ of WakchingNlamo
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: (66) "Sahib, Sahib," I heard a soft voice say in my sleep.
text: Angrily I sat up.
text: "Sahib, we are going fishing, would you like to come with us?"
text: Achin, the young brother of my friend Shankok, stood at the door of the bungalow. Had any one else torn me from sleep at such an early hour with that remarkable information, I would probably have given him a very irritated welcome. But only an inhuman barbarian could have said an unfriendly word to Achin. I never saw a more charming child, with his soft dark eyes in a gentle oval face, his melodious voice, and the graceful movements of his slender brown body. Perfectly unconscious of his charm, he retained even towards me the full simplicity of his fourteen years. I crept out from under my mosquito net and went to the door to see what was happening. At last a clear morning. The first rays of the sun bathed the land in a sea of light and colour, and clouds of damp mist lay over the valley. I decided at once to join the fishing-party.
text: There were four of us when we started -- Achin, Nlamo, Yongem, and myself. I have not yet introduced Yongem to my readers; he was the newest member of my household. He had the very important task of fetching water, chopping wood, and sparing my other two boys any work that they found irksome. For this he received the princely pay of ten rupees a month -- quite enough to make it worth his while to leave the work on his fields to the rest of his family. Yongem was a man in his early thirties, and I believe his fellow-villagers, though too tactful to mention it, looked upon him as a ne'er-do-well. He was still unmarried, and owned only few of this world's goods; but somehow I rather liked him, and found that he performed the task of fetching water with masterly skill.
text: Besides, he learnt to speak Assamese tolerably well in the course of a few months, while even in the end I could not speak more than a few phrases of Konyak. That fact could actually prove that (67) his intelligence. . . but I think that that question had better not be gone into, for the Wakching people really did not have any too high an opinion of Yongem's mental capacity.
text: I once sent him to Borjan on an errand, telling him to fetch my post at the same time, but quite forgetting to give him a note for the post-master. He told the post-master that "he was the Wakching Sahib's son and wanted the Sahib's letters." The post-master babu, a Bengali unfamiliar with Naga expressions, thought that he was dealing with a lunatic, and was careful not to hand over my post. Of course he could not know that Yongem used the word "son" in the sense of a member of my household, in the same way as the Konyaks describe their tributary villages as their "sons."
text: On a fishing expedition Yongem was to carry my gun -- a job perfectly suited to his mental capacity. Since the whole of Wakching was streaming in the same direction, we soon found ourselves marching in single file along the narrow path leading to Shiong.