Tuesday 20 November 2012

November Remembered

On my way back from church this morning
I saw cherry trees blossoming by the wayside
their small pink faces opened out to the cold
I pointed them out to you
and when I turned back
you had cherry blossoms in your hair.

A week ago, I saw a photograph someone had taken of a cherry tree in bloom. Instantly I conjured up for myself the brilliant blue of our November skies over the pale brown of newly harvested fields. In some places the bright yellow sunflower would be blooming fiercely like a Van Gogh painting come alive. I've never thought of it before but November must be the prettiest month in our hills. There is the blue vanda that flowers in this month and even shabby roadside houses are transformed by the blue clusters tied to young trees in the outside yard. I love to describe the month of November to newcomers and strangers. They have no equivalent to our colours and flowers. European cities are cold and bare in November. The trees that were ochre, yellow and russet two months ago are  leafless now. A dark rain has left the streets puddled and dangerous for pedestrians. The sun has long gone and become a distant memory that will be recalled only in the new year. Nature has closed shop and is going into hibernation.

Back in high school, I could not grasp the concept of animals going into hibernation during the winter months. To think of bears and smaller animals sleeping through the winter sounded like something that a Disney movie had made up. I'm a believer now. Hibernation, the state of inactivity in animals and metabolic depression makes absolute sense in the context of light deprived peripheral territories such as the north of Europe. Predictably life slows down and, strange though it might sound, the dark months bring people closer together as they find they have more time to sit around family dinners or simply spend time with friends. In Vienna several Christmas markets  sprout up as early as mid-November. The markets sell food, hand-made goods and Christmas goods. Big areas are decorated with lights and fairy tale themes. In the darkness, the lit up markets and recreated landscapes from Hans and Gretel are every child's dream come true.

Beautiful but very far from our blue-skied month. I close my eyes and think of Novembers past; how the sky would get so blue that it hurt your eyes to look at it, and the cherry trees that made pink blobs upon the forest cover. Many years ago, we climbed Japfü in the month of November, starting our walk after midnight. It was a moonlit night and the leafless trees near the summit appeared ghostly in the light of the moon. At the rest house the dew fell from the roof to the ground in great drops. And in the early morning we reached journey's end and Kohima lay below us like a jewel, tin roofs glinting in the sunshine. It had been worth every bruise in our aching backs.

I don't expect to climb Japfü again in this life. I share my memory of November in my beloved land because nostalgia has swept over me at the sight of that photograph of a cherry tree in bloom. But Japfü beckons younger hearts and legs and backs. Don't disappoint her. Do the journey in November: your memories will tell you did the right thing.

Originally published at www.easternmirrornagaland.com

Monday 12 November 2012

The narratives silenced by war: the Barkweaver project of peoplestories and folktales

"Of the many narratives silenced by war, the folk tales of the Nagas suffered a long period of being silenced. This was because folk tales require certain settings in order to be told. The Naga war with India, after military operations began in 1956, destroyed the settings for oral narratives. One may not think that something as simplistic as a folk tale would need to be approached with ritual and ceremony in order that its narration might take place. But it does. The folk tale belongs to eras of relative peace in the village community..."

Read more at "The North East Blog"