The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Ten. Paradise in the Jungle
caption: carefree and gay temperament of the Konyaks; absence of crime
medium: books
person: Dhakai/ of OtingPhotun/ of Oting
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Oting
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: It is certainly the freedom from all those daily worries, so overshadowing the life of the more civilized world, that is responsible for the gay, carefree temperament of the Konyak. Perhaps it is also responsible for the absence in their villages of any serious crime. Talking to the old men sitting in front of the morung one evening, I turned the conversation in the direction of punishment and crime, for, after all, I thought, there must be black sheep even in Oting. The old men admitted that cases of theft did occasionally occur, but they said it hardly ever happened that a man stole rice from his neighbour's granary. He can so easily borrow what he requires, they explained; the next year he has only to repay the same amount. If he borrows two baskets, he returns two baskets. It seems that the Oting people are more generous than my friends of Wakching, who make a profit of fifty per cent on such a transaction by demanding three baskets in return for the two.
text: "But tell me," I continued, "what would you do if two men of your village quarrelled and one killed the other?"
text: There was a thoughtful silence for a moment. None of the old men knew what to answer.
text: "Sahib, I have seen many harvests fill my granaries; these palm trees did not yet stand when I was young, but never have my eyes seen such madness. I do not know what would happen, for our fathers' words do not tell of such things."
text: "All right; but may it not happen that some one sets fire to his (93) neighbour's house? What is done with him?"
text: "What should we do with him if he has bad luck and the fire escapes his hand? We just help to build a new house."
text: The others nodded in agreement; yes, all would help, that was clear to them; that needed no long deliberation. It never occurred to their minds that the fire might have been intentional. Yes, they would just help to build a new house!
text: "Of course," remarked the old man after several minutes, "it does happen that two men come to blows. After all, we have women in the village. Do you see Dhakai over there, plaiting a basket on his platform? Well, once he went to Wangla, but on the way down to the bridge he noticed that he had forgotten his pouch with betel nuts. So he quickly puffed up the hill again and entered his house, and there he found the rascal Photun with his wife. Sahib, you should have heard the noise when he chased Photun through the village. Two fat pigs the boy had to pay the infuriated husband. "However," he added with a sly smile, "few women are so stupid; is the jungle not large enough?" And he pointed with a vague gesture to the palm forest encircling the village, and then added with pretended indignation: "Why must the boys play with the wives of other men? Are there not enough girls with brass earrings?"