The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: war work: running a canteen at Lumding junction
caption: Chapter twenty-two. The Coming of War
caption: Namkia's fears
medium: books
person: Namkia
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: Namkia was strangely silent on the way down. On our last night in the hills, in the camp at Asalu, he drifted to and fro, hanging about - wishing, it seemed, to say something, and yet not able to nerve himself to the point. A little after dark, when the lamp was lit and I was sitting writing, he came abruptly in. Before I could move, he dropped on his knees in front of me. His arms went round me, his head went down on my lap, and suddenly, bitterly, he began to cry.
text: This was so completely unlike Namkia, so shocking a collapse, that for a few seconds I did nothing.
text: " Namkia, Namkia ! Whatever is the matter ? "
text: I shook him and tried to raise him. He didn't move. I tried to quiet him. He went on weeping. I pulled myself free and stood up, and his head and arms fell on the empty chair, where he went on crying. There was some rum in the stores. I hunted for it and found it, gave him a stiff tot, and (167) bullied him into taking it medicine fashion. In a little while it worked. His sobs grew less, and he sat up gulping, regaining his self-control.
text: " Well, what's the trouble ? " I said, after a little.
text: He got up and perched himself on the edge of the bamboo table, always his favourite seat.
text: " It was all right before I left Laisong. I didn't mind a bit and I wasn't afraid to go. But now my wife and mother have been at me, and I don't know what to do. Suppose Assam is invaded, and abandoned without a fight, as they say it's going to be ? " He looked across at me. " Suppose we can't come back ? Suppose raiding breaks out again in the hills when the British go ? Who'll look after my wife and children ? I was in the village today, and heard what they're saying. They say this isn't our war, and we ought to leave it alone - we aren't Japs, we aren't British; we're Zemi. What's it to do with us ? " There was dire trouble in his face. " We've been together now, you and I and the others, for two years now; we are like a family. How can I leave you ? - -What about my children ? Oh, my sister, my sister, I'm being pulled in two ! Which way shall I go ? "
text: I sat down at the table.
text: " Well," I said. " I don't know what's going to happen, either. But my home's here in Laisong, and I'm coming back to it whatever happens. After all, Lumding isn't far; we can walk home in four days. As for the rest, I don't think you Zemi will be able to stay as neutral as you think - certainly not if the Angamis and Kukis take sides; and I doubt if you'd find the Japs a fair exchange for the British. From what I hear, they're rather more like the old Kachari Kings you talk about, who made men lick knives, and flayed the soles off their feet and made them walk along thorny logs."
text: " That's likely," said Namkia.
text: " Meantime, there are all these people coming through from Burma, in the devil of a state. I've been told to go down and help; and I'm going, with anyone I can find to go along (168) with me. If you people won't come, it's my bad luck - I've had the orders, not you."
text: Namkia got off his perch and wiped his eyes.
text: " 'Asipui-ghao,"' he said. " Dear elder sister - don't be afraid, we're all in it together."
text: We shook hands on it, and he went off to the lines. Three days later, in vile discomfort, by fits and starts, half our kit adrift on a line already disrupted and chaotic, we landed up on a hot, dark night at Lumding.