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: exhausting journey home
medium: books
person: Chinyang/ of Wakching
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching Chingtang
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: But I was more dead than alive, and I began to comprehend all those numerous warnings against the tropical sun that are given to every green-horn. Soon -- much too soon for me -- we had to start again, if we were to reach the village before dark. The path led through the jungle in that eternal uphill and down dale that drives every European to distraction. The Nagas do not mind climbing, and rather than make the smallest detour they will climb the steepest hill. After an hour of most exhausting going we were still near the river. Not a leaf moved in the damp heat of the forest, and I had to stop more often to regain my breath while black spots danced before my eyes. The path ascended now with greater steadiness, and I soon found the uphill climb harder than the greatest fatigue alone would have justified. Light sunstroke was an easy diagnosis. Some Wakching people coming up behind us realized at once what was the matter with me, and without many words they fell in with our pace. I have never met more perfect tact. None of them had had any luck that day, and now they were hurrying home, hoping at least to reach their village before dusk, but without a shadow of impatience they halted with me every quarter of an hour or so. In vain I tried to persuade them to go ahead -- for, after all, I had Yongem to show me the way -- but they would not hear of it.
text: "No," Chinyang assured me, "we won't leave our Sahib alone. When an Ang goes with his men, do they leave him alone? No, may tigers come, may bears come, they remain with him. And you are now our Ang."
text: All agreed with him, and I was not a little flattered, even in my exhausted condition, to be awarded the rank of a chief.
text: If a similar misfortune had befallen me on a tour in Europe, I tremble to think of the impatient faces of my companions, or (71) those few nice words about slacking and lack of stamina, which would have been slung at me. But these men behaved as if a leisurely walk was exactly to their taste and did their best to save me the embarrassment of my miserable condition. "Of course, a Sahib cannot walk on our paths," Yona comforted me. "We Nagas, we are like monkeys, we climb the mountains -- straight up." Little Achin, though all his friends had gone ahead, only looked at me with serious, anxious eyes. He did not show the faintest trace of a superiority that most European boys of his age would have felt in a similar situation.
text: At Chingtang people waited for us by the path with water and bananas. One of my companions had gone ahead to get me these refreshments, and Chinyang suggested I should hire some young men in Chingtang to carry me up to Wakching on a stretcher. But I did not want to stake my prestige on such an issue, for I felt that if I once allowed myself to be carried the atmosphere of comradeship would somehow be spoilt.
text: Chingtang lay on top of a hill, and I really thought we must be well on our way up to Wakching, but we had no sooner left it than we dropped again, and soon most of the height so hardly gained was lost. Now dark storm clouds precipitated the short dusk. The first lightning flashed, and the thought of the terrible downpours of the last weeks was anything but cheering. But my friends paid little attention to the weather. Nothing was to make me believe that we were in a hurry. Now they proposed we should rest again, and brought small green tangerines from the forest which were dreadfully sour but refreshing.