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Modernity



I was reading a fashion blog written by a Naga. She was talking about the upcoming Indian fashion week, ‘drinking red wine at parties’ and the summer/winter/autumn collections. It was good reading but somewhere I kinda fell out.

Relating it back to Nagaland, I was wondering where that context might be. During the dry dry winter season in Kohima, wearing ‘slippers’ and carrying water in bamboo baskets. Or dusty roads, corrupted government, alcohol prohibition by the NMA, villages etc. Somewhere is a missing link. Perhaps somewhere I’ve missed that link.
It’s not the old Nagaland. Not the secluded hills and the ‘unknown’ of the 19th century. Nor the silenced hills of the 20th century, bottled up and kept from view. We’re facing the world, and slowly rehabilitating. ‘Naga socialites’, they’re called. Someone commented. With blond hair and sunglasses, driving in SUVs and Corollas. Modern dressed with an eye for detail and I am positive they can pass off for any ‘white girl’ on a magazine cover. Woah, I thought, what chapter did I leave out?

While in England, I went to the annual ‘Naga-meet’ at Leicester. It felt awkward. Nagas speaking in English accents, half-English kids running around and talking about what they did in the weekend, and the weekend before that. While the other (pure) Nagas sat in a corner, a little awkward, a little out-of-place perhaps. I didn’t really know what I was expecting when I agreed to go with my aunt and her husband. Or why I was there, now that I was there.... But then, that’s outside Nagaland, it’s even outside of India, I gotta admit. When we were kids in Pune, I remember our NSF fellowships nostalgically. How we all used to eat dog-meat or birds, bats that Dad and the guys shot with the air gun and brought home. Secluded, and far away from home we tended to stick together and developed our own small community. But then, that was also a long time ago. Like my aunt in Norway sometimes tells us ‘We need to call ourselves Norwegians. I do, I have a Norwegian family I say.’
I am trying to grasp something else here I guess. Something new in our midst. Just slowly getting my head around it; seeing for myself. My mother says, ‘Culture has its way of adapting.’ Alright, I said and from a window-view, and at times feeling a bit like the outsider I’m assessing.

In cities more and more students are streaming in, some working, some living there now. ‘Live-in relationships’ without adapting to ‘marriage’, city-life, late nights, night-clubs. ‘Modern attractions’. In this developing country, which itself is also facing ‘outside’ influence slowly streaming in. Trying to determine what this all might be for themselves too. I guess we’ve all wondered over it a bit too. To look at these issues become a matter of examination; I feel. A balancing act or weighing of its odds, even. Someone showed me a picture of two girls (sisters apparently). I didn’t really have another word to describe, other than that they looked like Upper-class ‘whores’. Or is it ‘escorts’ they are called nowadays? The photography was done well, the lighting and focus exceptional but something was amiss; if my interpretations of ‘tacky’ or ‘trashy’ cannot complement here. I just wondered if something got lost in translation between the photographer and the models.

Relating it back to our reality of corrupted governments, back door appointments, underdeveloped and very lacking state. Of factional extortions, and in-killings, passiveness among people or even that simple-village-life-way-of-thinking. Sometimes I wonder; if we step out how far off will we have gone? Does society deteriorate because of it?

We are that generation between the peace talks. That ‘generation of ceasefire,’ if we can call ourselves that. Where the past has not haunted us, as the generation before; or nationalism burned in us to be an independent nation. We’re probably that ‘in-between generation’.

When I think over, I feel its not a question of resurging old passions into a new generation. Nor, stubbornness, nor resentment or neither frustration. One generation at a time. One movement at a time. The generation before us have lived, and some gone. The generation of the cease-fire faces a new challenge; faces another time.

As for me, my parents separated when I was 17. My mum took us to Norway. Placed in a new environment, we had to learn to adjust; I guess this is where I got left out. We took different things into perspective: ‘You become independent when you turn 18’, equal rights for women, look after yourself or else no one else will for you. Peer pressure for a teenager, going to school, adjusting with age-mates, trying to keep up with the times. I was privileged in ways. My friends were nice and life, easier that way. My studies- getting my life somewhere. Trying to connect all this back to Nagaland, to childhood where I grew up, sometimes felt far away. Sometimes it hung on those peripheral lines. Other times you slowly trailed off with those adjustments. And it has not quite done- to be politically aware, humane, involved, or being a good person. It couldn’t suffice everything. And I guess that’s what I try to find sometimes. Trying to look out from this vantage-point, watch a little, listen a little, absorb a little.
(This article was featured in Naga Blog)


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