The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book - 'Naga Path', by Ursula Graham Bower, published John Murray 1950

caption: Chapter three. Second Attack
caption: birth complications
medium: books
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: It was almost dark when we got there. The house stood tall and shut against a green twilight sky - green with a line of coppery-red over the hazy Manipur plain. The headman spoke at the door. It opened, and we stepped in.
text: A fire burned in the middle of the oblong room inside; by it sat a man, nursing a bundle of rags. The rags whimpered; (29) it was a baby. A woman, her hair loose, left us to shut the door and went back to the hearth to stir a rice-pot. Clothes, hoes, baskets, gourds, all the soot-blackened odds and ends of a Naga household, were dumped and littered about in the untidy darkness. The heat was incredible - the air felt solid. Food, smoke, stale clothes, the dungy, dusty smell of the village, they were there; and added to them a reek of sweat and a sweetish, horrible odour.
text: We asked for the patient. They pointed across to the far wall.
text: She lay on a bed of rags. Her face and body were swollen, her skin a yellowish-grey. She levered herself off the bed when the headman spoke, and part-crawled, part-dragged herself to the fire for us to see her. The trouble was all too clear. She had had a difficult labour, and the villagers, midwives, with their gnarled and filthy paws and twisted nails caked with the dirt of years, had delivered the child by hand. The results were shocking; and our resources were few.
text: We did what we could. We worked for an hour. The firelight flickered and often died; the others, watching us, forgot to make it up. We used a flashlight, and held it by turns. The sharp smell of disinfectant thickened the mixed reeks in the air. Suddenly I found myself faint and sweating. I made a dash for the door.
text: It was cold outside. The headmen and Chinaorang were squatting by the wall. Over them the night was clear, a pattern of stars; and down below was a procession of pine- tipped ridges, a landscape like a dim transparency.
text: " Will she be all right ? " asked the headman. She was his cousin.
text: " She'll be all right," said I, and thought - What a lie. I went back in.
text: The compounder was sitting waiting. It needed two pairs of hands. We were nearly finished; we applied a dressing and drew the bandages firm. The syringe was lying sterilized in its little pan; the compounder gave an injection; the other (30) woman and I helped her back to bed. She was quite exhausted and pitiably ill. But she tried hard to give us no trouble; she turned her head, her face so swollen it was hardly human, and said something in thanks. Her thick black hair splayed out on the rag pillow. I had felt it over my arm - it was wet with sweat and harsh as a horse's tail, and as full of tangles. I watched the other woman pull up the covers. We turned to go. The husband, nursing the baby, stared after us. His thin, Mongol face was sharp with misery.
text: It is so difficult on these occasions to find words. One tends to speak with a crisp, professional assurance :
text: " That's all for now - we'll come in the morning. Just a day or two now, and she'll be better."