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 eight. Exile.
caption: Namkia's practical joke
medium: books
person: Namkia
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: On the chosen evening he complained of fever and retired early to the spare hut. As soon as the cook and the others had settled down for the night, he slipped down into the high grass by the cookhouse, thrashed about and roared for all he was worth, and then bolted back to his quarter - I covering his retreat by shouting questions out of the hut window.
text: There was no answer till my second or third yell; and then three hapless voices - Ramgakpa's, Chinaorang's and the cook's - cried " Tiger, tiger ! " in a concerted wail.
text: I went out into the veranda. After a minute or two they came across, Chinaorang armed with a piece of firewood, Ramgakpa glancing nervously behind, and the cook, long, thin and anxious, but manfully leading with the kitchen lamp. They trooped up into the porch and all began to tell me about the tiger at once. Its performance improved with every repetition.
text: Then the cook broke off to reprove me for having come out. (68) He quoted horrible cases of Sahibs torn from their office desks and Memsahibs snatched screaming from bathrooms by tigers (I should have thought that the most difficult place from which to snatch anyone) and I hastily diverted him by asking for Namkia. That set us all to calling; and after a minute there was a muffled reply. Next he came slowly over, wrapped to the eyes in a blanket, carrying a stout staff, and looking like nothing so much as one of the Pilgrims' Chorus.
text: They all, of course, then had to tell him about the tiger. In the very middle of the story, when tension was at its height, he grabbed the cook by the arm, pointed up the road, and said : " 'Look' ! "
text: It made me jump, but Ramgakpa's reactions were far quicker, and he made one flea-hop straight past us into the hut. We others stood. Chinaorang gripped his firewood and prepared to defend me to the last; the cook peered tensely into the night; and after ten seconds' suspense he cried excitedly : " Yes, yes, I see it ! There are its eyes - it's going downhill ! "
text: By that time I was staring over their shoulders, and the dark curve of the hill was as bare of tigers as the palm of my hand. Not a leaf rustled, not a green eye blinked, except in the cook's imagination. It was altogether too much for Namkia. He spun round, and had a veranda-post not intervened I think he would have fallen weeping on my neck. As it was, he clung to the post, and, with choking noises inside his blanket, regained his self-control. But we saw no more eyes, and I packed the men off to the cookhouse. They sat there half the night telling the story to a most appreciative Namkia. It was days before he let out the truth; and by then the tiger was such an established legend that they refused to believe him. The cook said indignantly that never, 'never' could the Miss-sahib have been a party to such a conspiracy.