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: marital problems of Shankok continued
medium: books
person: ShankokShiknaShouba
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: There was only one way out of the situation. He would have to divorce his wife, richly compensating her family for the insult. He would have to pay Shikna's husband a large enough fine to compensate him for the bride-price he had paid and for the expenses incurred at the wedding. In addition, he would have to pull down his house and build it anew, for it is considered wrong to bring a second wife to the house where the first has lived. But these are not the only obstacles. His mother tells him she will not live under the same roof as a new wife and his relations will certainly reproach him for squandering the family fortune on his love. Yet, there are many other Wakching men separated from their wives, and even his own father Shouba only married his mother after divorcing his first wife. But Shankok is bound by the fetters of his own riches; the relatives of his wife demand an an unheard of fine, and the men of the village council, whose task it is to pass judgement in all such cases, are trying to line their pockets at his expense.
text: "I myself don't know what to do -- sometimes I think so, and then I think so. It tears me in both directions! To go to war -- to fight, even to die, that does not frighten me. But all these negotiations! Today discussions, tomorrow discussions, day after day shouting and quarrelling in my own house -- that I am afraid of."
text: (183) Shankok's is not a fighting nature, at heart he is too sensitive; and the Wakching people feel this too, for when I talk to the old men of the possibility of Shankok's divorce, they remark, and perhaps not unjustly: "Shankok is no 'he-man' or he would have divorced his wife long ago, and paid the fine to her relations." Neither is it avarice that makes Shankok shun the cost of the proceedings -- no one can be more generous -- but he thinks of his four younger brothers, all dependent on him, and hesitates to encroach on their inheritance. He is the first-born, and the sole heir to old Shouba's land, but when his brothers marry and build their own house he must give them enough land for their needs.