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 twenty-one. Masang
caption: visit to Kepelo to see Masang
medium: books
person: MasangHaichangnang
location: Kepelo
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: (157) But I did go over. I couldn't desert Masang. I had an innate sympathy for the rascal - he had been my mentor before Namkia. Namkia or no Namkia, the appeal had been made to me; it had to be answered somehow. So, as he wouldn't go, I took Haichangnang, and early next morning, with a wallet of drugs, we took the eastward road to Haijaichak.
text: Kepelo lay in the U-shaped pass, a little way up the side from Haijaichak. We turn to the north from the road, and climbed steeply, through graves and stones and gullies and all the litter of a village; through a belt of wood; and then, up a steeper slope than ever, between the granaries on their bamboo stilts, into Kepelo's wide, bare village street.
text: As soon as the villagers met us, memory flew back to the time when first I came to this district. They seethed, they surged, they fell on me, as they had at Guilong. They clamoured, they cried out, they thrust gifts on me, they touched my clothes, they begged my blessing. Then Masang's brother came out and brought us through the mob. He led us into the house where Masang was lying and closed the door in the face of the crowd outside. Soon I was to understand what had prompted all these repeated and embarrassing demonstrations since my arrival in the Zemi country.
text: The house, as all Naga houses are, was pitchy dark. A fire burned on the hearth, between three stones; behind it the family sat, the firelight catching them; behind them again was a rich, brown shadow, a smoky darkness, with glimpses of mats, clothes, gourds, beds, baskets, leaping for an instant out of obscurity as a flame briefly rose.
text: At the near side of the fire, on a mat on the floor, was Masang.
text: All doubts and fears I had of the wisdom of coming, of seeming to patronize him, were gone in a moment. Masang was dying.
text: Of the old, hard, stocky ruffian, tousled and tough and brutal, there was nothing left. On the long cane mat, under a cloth or two, was a skeleton. Caked with soot and grime (158) from a two months' illness, his powerful muscle gone; his bones - the skull like shape of his face, the thin, thin arms, the legs like stalks - alone showed now, under the tight-drawn, leathery skin. And, from the skull, the little, yellowed eyes looked out at mine. A hand came up, a hand all bones - a dry, harsh, dead, black hand, like a bird's claw - and groped for mine.
text: " My mother. Goddess. Save me," said Masang. "I am afraid to die."