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 thirty-one. Interlude
caption: Mohendra Dals withdraw and Mahrattas arrive
medium: books
person: Archer/ Capt.Namkia
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: Then the Laisong forces were further augmented. The Mohendra Dals, who had been increased to a full company under their own officers, were withdrawn and sent to Nungba, and in their stead came a company of Mahrattas under Captain Archer.
text: We were at that time training as many scouts as possible to use rifles, and Namkia was being taught to use a tommy-gun by Archer's Havildar-Instructor. One day in the middle of rifle-practice on the miniature range, which lay between the bungalow and the garden, we were suddenly visited by a low-flying Jap fighter. In the rush for cover I drew the cookhouse drain. After the excitement was over, I, like the hero of Kipling's poem, " flushed that four-foot drain-head, and it never choked again ". Archer, who was looking for a new camp-site, decided as a result of the fighter's visit that he must have one well-concealed from the air, and one of the few places which answered this requirement was a point on the east face of the hill. Platforms could be cut to hold the buildings, and the bamboos and jungle afforded fair cover. He and I went to reconnoitre, crawling up a well-trodden game-trail which ran in from the main path.
text: " This'll do," he said, surveying the place as far as one could from the all-fours position. " We'll have the platforms along on either side and the path'll do nicely through the middle."
text: I saw just under my nose, immortalized in the hard, baked mud of the path, a large, feline pug-mark.
text: " You may get trouble with game," I said. " This is a main run."
text: " Oh, they won't come when they smell humans about! After all, it won't be a small camp."
text: (221) So on that site it was, and we called in men and cut platforms and built huts, and the Mahrattas moved in. They were good company. They had a field-telephone which linked us, Archer, and their outpost at Haijaichak, and from it we derived all the exercise in exasperation which a field-telephone can provide.
text: On one occasion, when Archer was taking a small patrol across the Jiri, his Naga porters, who were Haijaichak men, laid down their loads at that point and refused to go farther. He had no interpreter with him, but didn't want to use force, so he went along to the 'phone and rang us up.
text: It so happened that Albright and I were out, and only Namkia was there. He had some slight experience of the telephone, having played with it twice in Calcutta in George Gemmell's office at Balmer Lawrie's, so he answered it, and Archer explained the trouble.
text: " Oh ! " said Namkia. " Well, put the Haijaichak headman on to talk."
text: Archer fetched up the old man, another of those unfortunate asses who were so often figureheads to tough villages, and the Havildar held the receiver up. The old man took it and cautiously pressed it, as they told him, up to his ear.
text: " Is that the headman ? " said Namkia, at the other end.
text: " Uh."
text: The telephone made a noise like a burst of fire-crackers. The old man dropped it and backed off. The receiver hung, still firing intermittently. He was with difficulty re-connected to it, and even then held it out at arm's length.
text: " Yes," he said. " Yes, yes. Oh, at once, yes ! " He dropped the receiver finally, scrambled out of the trench, and doubled off shouting at the recalcitrant porters; who picked off their loads and made off with the patrol and stuck to them like glue till they all came back to Laisong again three days later. Archer had hardly time to thank Namkia before he had to run to catch up with the patrol and porters. When we returned to camp, some three hours later, Namkia (222) was sitting smiling beside the phone. The headman of Haijaichak was one of his pet dislikes.