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: Shankok's miserable love affair
medium: books
person: ShankokShikna
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: Several weeks latter Shankok appears in the evening, his face full of despair. I understand at once what has happened: Shikna has borne her child, and is already in the house of her legitimate husband. They met under the moon, the night before last, but yesterday when he went to the Balang girls' dormitory he heard the other girls talking among themselves of the birth of Shikna's child; sad and ashamed, he turned away, without even asking whether it was a boy or a girl.
text: "Then I went to the morung, but no sleep came the whole night. It hurts, if we have to separate so suddenly. We were so long together. Like brothers, we helped each other. Like father and child we were together. This morning I went with my morung friends to the fields. They did not yet know of the coming of Shikna's child, but they all asked me what was the matter. 'What is the matter with Shankok?' they said. 'He doesn't talk, no word comes out of his mouth. Are you ill, Shankok?' So they all asked me, but I was ashamed to tell them. The whole day I can think of nothing else. Alone, how shall I go to sleep in the morung?
text: When I ask him if he and Shikna might ever meet again, he replies apathetically that even if they meet by day, they will be too shy to speak to each other, and now they can no longer go together at night. Of course, he says, it is possible to meet even a "woman in her husband's house," in some far away granary, but such fleeting moments are not the real thing, and there is always the danger of being pounced on by the husband or his friends.
text: I try to cheer Shankok, and a few days later I suggest that he should seek among the girls in Wakching for another love, but he shows very little interest. "A new girl cannot be as Shikna; with no other girl could I get on so well. What I said entered her head, and her words easily entered my head; what shall I talk of with a new girl? It can never be as with Shikna."
text: Some time ago I happened to take a photograph of Shikna, and I gave a copy to Shankok. He fixes it to a kind of wooden back, so that he can always carry it with him and keep it in his bag. Gradually, however, the solitary life begins to pall, and in spite of his first scruples Shankok sets about looking for a new girl. But it is not so easy, for all his old acquaintances have married long ago, and the younger girls, who have not grown up with him, or who have only known him as their elder sisters' friend, are afraid to trust a married man. So he spends long, boring nights alone in the morung, and he laughingly remarks that this is turning his face quite "brown and ugly." Only when you sleep with a girl, Shankok says, does it remain beautiful and reddish.