The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Twenty-two. Love and Poetry
caption: marriage and love affairs of Shankok
medium: books
person: ShankokShoubaShiknaHenlongShonga
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: By this time Shankok had grown to manhood, and thus nothing stood in the way of his married life, except that he just was not interested in his wife. He could not help it if she lived in the same house, for there his father was master, but to lie with her was different; no one could force him to do that. He simply ignored her, looking straight through her as though she had no more substance than the air around her, and never addressed her with so much as a word.
text: The passing of the years saw no slackening in Shankok's resolve. He did not love Shonga, he could not bring himself to be her husband, and therefore he continued to lead the gay and charming life of a bachelor in Wakching. This suited him exactly, for Shankok himself is gay and charming, and why should he spoil the best years of his youth? He did not foreswear love because he had a wife ten years older than himself. There were plenty of pretty girls in Wakching, only too happy to yield to his persuasions, and the years that have passed since his growing up have been full of light-hearted frivolity and light-hearted affection.
text: When the old Shouba died last year, the position changed but little. Shankok is now head of the house, and he could divorce Shonga if he wished, but his mother still creates difficulties. She is a dignified and highly energetic lady, and opposes such a drastic measure; and Shankok himself shuns the scandal and the payment of the colossal fine.
text: Even now he takes no notice of Shonga. He does not sleep in his own house, but as night falls he meets his love and together they go to the granaries on the outskirts of the village. His love is called Shikna, and ever since I came to Wakching their love has blossomed like the rice in the fields, and the nights have been full of joy and happiness. Their love is an open secret, but during the day they are never seen together, and if by chance they meet, hardly a word passes between them. But every evening Shankok goes to the house of the Balang girls, where Shikna sings and makes merry with her friends, and together they slip away disappearing among the shadows of a granary. In former years, Shankok would take his loves to his own granaries but now he has given that up, and goes where he is less likely to be recognized, for it once happened that his wife Shonga followed him, and tore him from his sweet dreams with a flood of insults; on that occasion he had not been lazy in retaliating and had continued the night with his love, but he is careful that no such unwelcome disturbance should recur.
text: Alas! the weeks of love for Shankok and Shikna are numbered, for Shikna is expecting a child, and as soon as it is born she will have to move into the house of her husband, and will be lost to (182) Shankok. "It is always so," complains Shankok sadly. "Whenever I love a girl she immediately becomes pregnant. There are already two of my children growing up in the houses of other men, but the child in my house, the small daughter of my wife, is not mine." Every man in the village knows who the real father is, but it is Shankok who is considered her lawful father; she belongs to his clan and he must look after her.
text: But much more tormenting that the thought of his children growing up as those of other men -- after all, quite a common occurrence among the Konyaks -- is the loss of his beloved Shikna. He assures me that he will never love another girl as he loves Shikna. For her sake he gave up an affair with Henlong, whom I think the most beautiful girl in the whole village; true, he had tried to carry on both affairs at once, but before long Henlong noticed his unfaithfulness, and bade him choose between her and Shikna. He chose Shikna; and with her he has been happy -- happier than he could have imagined; but now she was going to have a child and would be lost to him.