The Times of Kewhira

‘Kewhira’ is a term that may not be very familiar to the non-Angami tribes. But I believe all the Angamis and the Tenyiemia people are very familiar and accustomed with this term. ‘Kewhira’ is a term used by the Angamis and the Tenyiemia people while referring to Kohima. In other words, ‘Kewhira’ is just another name for Kohima. The people of Kohima village are called Kewhimia and therefore Kewhira simply means ‘the land where the Kewhimia people live’.  

Having been born and brought up here in Kewhira and having done my entire schooling and college here itself, I have literally lived in this beautiful place for over 30 years now. And in these 30 years or so, I have seen Kohima or Kewhira at close quarters and saw it change right in front of my very eyes. 

A few weeks back, I saw a photograph of Kohima town while going through the family album of a friend at New Market colony. The date in the photograph read 12th April 1992 and this photo shows a couple of ambassador cars lining up a certain street in Kohima town. Through this photo I recalled the days when these ambassador cars used to ply as taxis between Kohima and Dimapur. Yes, Kohima has indeed changed. 

Speaking about ‘change’ let me begin with some economic matters. I can still vividly remember the times when my mother used to bring home 2 kgs of pork by spending just Rs.120. Now, Rs.120 cannot even fetch 1 kg of pork. I also remember the times when my father used to send me to the neighborhood shops with just Rs.2 and I would return to him with 8 tamul pieces. But now, I am told that even Rs.10 cannot fetch 8 pieces of tamul. There was also a time when my school fee was only Rs.60 per month. But now, school fees could be anywhere between Rs.600 and Rs.1000 per month. 

Growing up here in L. Khel, Kohima Village in the 1980s, one work of wonder that never abandoned us was the radio. The radio was there with us right from the start. And when I say radio I mean not one but two. The first one belonged to my father and it was a majestic one. The second one was the radio which was always present in my grand mother’s kitchen. I was told that my grandmother’s radio was abandoned by the Japanese soldiers during the Kohima battle of 1944. 

Listening to the Angami dialect program at 6:05 pm in the evening was a regular part of our evening routine. And it was always a special treat for me whenever songs of Thekelie, Pfulhoutsü, Ruth Belho, the Jütakhrieko, the Living Quartet etc were aired in this Angami dialect program. Likewise, listening to the western music at 7:30 pm was also always a cherished moment. 

Then came television. I still remember that it was a rainy day in the summer of 1988 when my parents brought home our first TV set (an Orson TV) from Dimapur along with a VCP (Video Cassette Player). With the arrival of the TV and the VCP, the radio took a backstage. We had only Doordarshan channel but that was enough. Watching the Hindi feature films on Saturday and Sunday evenings became an indispensable part of our lives. Moreover, the Chitrahaar which came every Wednesday and Friday at 8:10 pm was also never to be missed. 

We also had the VCP. Therefore, renting video cassettes from the video libraries in Super Market also became a regular and much sought after activity. And why only us… because even our relatives and sometimes even people whom we had never known in our entire lives would come with movie cassettes to view at my home. 

In 1986, something happened faraway in Mexico and a name invaded our neighborhood. It was the FIFA world cup played in Mexico that year and the name was Diego Armando Maradona. By the time the world cup ended the name of Maradona was on the lips of everybody.   I did not watch even a single match of the 1986 FIFA world cup. This was because of two reasons. Firstly, we did not have a TV in 1986 and therefore even if I had wanted to watch, it would not have been possible. Secondly, even if we had a TV in 1986, I believe I would be still too young and too small to be really interested in football or soccer. But by the time the 1990 FIFA world cup arrived, the TV had a solid place in our house and I was ready to devour the matches. After watching almost all the matches of the 1990 FIFA world cup on television, soccer and Diego Maradona became an obsession and an inspiration. This was the case with me even though Maradona did not shine much in the 1990 tournament.   

During my school years, I also often heard about a football match that was played at the Kohima local ground. The match was played between the Nagaland team and the Mohan Bagan (the No. 1 football team in India at that time). It was an exhibition match and the Nagaland team was represented that day by the Nagaland Police team. Thousands of people thronged the Kohima local ground to witness the match and history was created when the Nagaland team defeated their illustrious rivals by a solitary goal.          

Talking about sports, I also developed a craze for the Naga-style wrestling. Ever since one of my maternal uncles took me to witness one of these wrestling tournaments at the Kohima local ground, I became fascinated and intrigued by this beautiful sport. It was the times when Kikrusolie and Khriesakhotuo Suokhrie were ruling the wrestling arena (in the Angami circle) and they instantly became my heroes and idols.    

In the 1980s and even in the 1990s, when one reached the junction below the Kohima north police station, one could easily notice and spot all the big colorful posters put up on the sides of the streets. These posters were movie posters put up to advertise the many movies that were being shown in the many video parlors run in Kohima town. The stretch of these video parlors started from right below the Kohima north police station through the heart of Kohima town up to the TCP gate. All kinds of movies including Hindi movies, Hollywood movies, Chinese martial art movies and the very undesirable X-Rated movies were available in plenty for viewing. Some video parlors were also stationed in places like the Tinpati junction, the high school junction and the BOC junction. The video parlors situated deep inside the Super market complex were notorious for showing the X-Rated pornographic movies from morning till late in the evening. These parlors were a hot den for criminals, drug addicts, school dropouts and rebellious teenagers and young adults. 

Here let me also mention that during the 1986 FIFA world cup, many of these video parlors in Kohima did booming business by showing live matches to the soccer-crazy citizens of Kohima on payment. A good friend of mine who resides in New Market has told me that since all the live matches used to come at night, he and his friends used to go to the parlors deep in the night, book their tickets and enjoy the matches. Through this friend I also came to learn that even though the matches were shown at night, the parlors were always packed to the full with no empty seats.        

But with the advent of Cable television, personal computers and the internet, these video parlors made a slow but obvious exit from the face of Kohima town. Thankfully now, movie posters do not adorn the streets of Kohima town anymore. 

During our early school years, we were often made to draw pictures on themes like ‘a rainy day’, ‘a picnic’, ‘A Day at the Super-Market’, ‘A railway station’, ‘An Airport’ and ‘Traffic Jam’. Whenever we were made to draw pictures on Traffic Jam, our teachers had to take a lot of time in explaining to us what a traffic jam is. This was so because during those early years, traffic jams were yet to be experienced by the citizens of Kohima. However now, all the school going kids witness one or the other form of traffic jam almost everyday. 

In 1972, I was not even born. But I am told of a historic event which took place in Kohima in the year 1972. This was the Billy Graham crusade which took place at the Kohima local ground in November 1972. The visit and the preaching of this world-renowned evangelist in Kohima have to this day remained an unforgettable episode and an inspiration for many.     

I was also told that there used to be a very popular cinema hall in Kohima town at the site of the new NST bus station. This cinema hall was called ‘Ruby’ cinema hall and all kinds of movies were screened here where hundreds of viewers turned up everyday to view. In the 1960s and 1970s, this Ruby cinema hall was probably one of the most happening places in the whole of Kohima. Even a bomb blast took place inside the hall during a film show which obviously resulted in casualties. However, even after the blast, the screening of movies in this hall continued for some more years before it was finally shut down. This Ruby cinema hall is long gone and now even the new NST bus station which was constructed at this site is being dismantled to build a car parking spot in its place.

If my memory is correct, I think cable television invaded the homes of Kohima in the later part of 1991. And I also remember that we had the cable TV connected in our television in the summer of 1992. With this new connection, doordarshan became the most boring thing in the world. With the cable connection, the entire world of television viewing got revolutionized and much more enriching and gratifying. It opened doors to worlds which had never been parts of Naga lives in the past. Some of the programs which became an instant hit with the viewers were Santa Barbara, Reviera, Baywatch, The Bold and the Beautiful, Donahue Show and a few others.    

After the conquest of Naga homes by the cable TV, the next invasion was done by the Internet as more and more people with their own personal computers got connected to the Net. Consequently, cyber cafes started to adorn many nooks and corners of Kohima town. And as it stands now, Internet has now become a part and parcel of Naga lives with its many effects – both good and evil.   

During my school and college years, whenever I went to town alone or with others for some purpose, I would always enjoy visiting any of the hotels having momo and chow in their menus. It was always a cherished moment to have a plate of momo or chow along with tea whenever such opportunity offered itself. But now, whenever I visit any of the hotels in Kohima to relive and re-experience those times and moments, I am unable to do so. And for this, I do not know where the fault lies. I do not know whether the quality of these food items or its preparation has changed or whether my tongue has changed along with time.      

In the 1990s, the Keziekie colony of Kohima was famous for booze joints. I won’t deny that I used to visit some of these joints with some friends during my college years. Yes, I was not a drunkard but I won’t deny that I used to drink. But now, it is really relieving and gratifying to see that a big church called the Koinonia Baptist church had been constructed at this very site where booze joints once abounded. The manner in which this church came to be built at this very site is really a story of good triumphing over evil.     

Along with the passage of time, many of the words and names that were a regular feature of our vocabulary also got relegated. For instance, words like ‘Peracüzie’ and ‘Pezielietsie’. Peracüzie refers to the high school colony in present-day Kohima and likewise, Pezielietsie means the Tinpati junction in present Kohima. However, these names are hardly heard today and the upcoming generation would be totally alien to these terms and names. 

In this way, Kohima or Kewhira has also stayed in tune with the winds of change.