Experiences of the Hornbill Festival, 2016 (a feast for the eyes)

Waking up early with the alarm clock and be ready for the same monotonous routine. Suddenly, our minds came across a thought that why not an attempt to ditch the usual hustle bustle city life and be an escapist for sometime. So, we alongwith our friends planned for a short trip. Despite being a travel enthusiast, sometimes out of life’s obligations you need to be hushed up right. Our idea to take a break was not a new one. Sometimes, you really, truly need to float free for a while. But now the question arises, “Where to go?” Let’s pack our bags for the most enchanting and grandeur festival of the Northeast,  ‘The Hornbill Festival’ which is now an international eye-arresting event organised by the State Tourism and Art & Culture Departments of Nagaland. So, finally it was confirmed that we were heading to Kohima. The day we confirmed our tickets for the festival and got our ILPs done, my happiness knew no bounds. On 3rd December 2016, our wait was finally over. Me and my husband’s next key was to pack smart. Accordingly, we made a checklist as we were about to leave for the hills. But no matter how much we stuff ourselves with woolens, the most important thing we need to carry is our medicines which is a very smart move yet mandatory for a traveller. Okay, fine everything is ready. Both of us would travel from Dibrugarh and the rest of our friends would leave from Guwahati Station. And at Dimapur Station, there would be a common point to meet up and leave for Kohima together. Our train for Dimapur was at 11.30 pm and then from Dimapur we would book a local taxi for Kohima. That was our plan. But all the plans turned out to be a disaster at that moment because of the sudden delay of our train which played a spoilsport to our journey. The train which was supposed to depart from Dibrugarh Station (Assam) departed at 5.30 am, the following day. We spent the night at the waiting room. I didn’t close my eyes for a second out of desperation waiting for the train to depart. The clock struck 5.20 am, and the railway authority gave an announcement of the departure of the train (ufff). What a relief! We were finally on the train. And there I felt so sleepy that I struggled to raise my eyelids still heavy with sleep. So, I gave a power nap. By 12 pm, we reached Dimapur followed by extreme hunger cues. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any proper place or hotel to fend off our hunger. Somehow, we noticed a small food joint nearby and there we took our lunch. Though not satisfying because of its poor quality of food and cost but okay for the time being. Now, the next plan was to book a ticket for a local taxi which would take us to Kohima. Meanwhile, we saw a long queue at the ticket counter and on enquiry, we came to know that we have to travel on shared taxis as taxis are not available due to the heavy/huge rush of the visitors for the Hornbill festival. And I was like why I choose to come over here. ‘O’ God! Already we were exhausted by the delays of journey/train and now the ticket boy asked us to wait for another two hours. It was so depressing. To be honest, Dimapur didn’t offer much beyond a dusty city with broken roads all around. But, being a commercial hub, the rush was all around. All our enthusiasm and energy for the event disappeared. By 2.30 pm, we were moving towards Kohima finally which is 70 km of road distance. And am just telling you traveling through shared taxis and that too on a poor road which was under construction turned out to be a nightmare. Besides, the horrible and pathetic road condition, the only surreal view was the rugged hills which was definitely a photographer’s delight (smile). By 7 pm, we reached Kohima and checked into our hotel which had been booked 3 months earlier prior to the festival. As it was already dark, obviously we just could not go for strolling or sightseeing. So, better go for the night bazar where many other activities kept the nights alive.

Without any more delays, after freshen up and having light snacks, we alongwith our friends (who had reached in the daytime itself) went to explore the Hornbill Night Bazar. There we could see some live music concerts on the street. Food joints and stalls were participating in the corner where we ordered some naga cuisines including fish, brown rice and meat which was dried in a bamboo tray placed atop the fire. The smoky aroma that came out from the dishes were tempting though it was spicy, juicy and chilly. It helped us to beat the extreme bone-chilling cold night which was 3 degree Celsius. At the end, the night was fanfare and full of excitement. We finally returned to our hotel named Millennium and had a sound sleep after our tiresome journey. The next day early in the morning, after having our breakfast, and without wasting our time, we left our hotel for the World War II Cemetery which was few miles away from the main highway of Kohima and can be quickly visited. It is a memorial which lies on the battleground of Garrison Hill dedicated to the soldiers of the second British division of the Allied Forces who lost their lives at Kohima in World War II. For us, it was a moving experience one can say. We walked there and stopped to read the tombstones. Many of the casualties were foreigners but there are no proper statistics or inscriptions on those graves.

World War II Cemetery

Our next stop was the Khonoma Village, which is 12 kms away from Kohima; where this famous and grandeur ten days carnival takes place every year. After reaching the main entrance of the Hornbill festival, it was an inexplicable feeling and we were so amazed by the affable behaviour of the Nagas.

Everywhere we could see the headgears of the Nagas, their weapons, multi-coloured spears, ivory armlets which stole our minds. It was a melange of cultural displays by 16 major tribes of Nagaland under one roof. It was a huge gathering for merrimaking and celebrating the brave deeds or works of their ancient warriors and heroes in the form of food, drinks, folk songs and traditional dances.

We found that each tribe has got its unique way of promoting their culture. We got to see morungs of the Nagas. Inside the Morungs, people had food stalls where they served their local cuisines. It was a good opportunity for the food lovers or foodies to experience the less oily steamed or boiled chilly smoky food alongwith fried fish placed on a bamboo tray and the dipping juice of the meat alongwith brown rice. We dedicated our entire day strolling and exploring the village. Though tiresome, the festival made it up for us. With different stalls offering “Zothu” and ” Thutse”, there were many other different stalls for showcasing their cultural and tribal festivities. For visitors, it means a closer understanding of the people and diverse culture of Nagaland. Besides, these traditional games and other traditional Competitions were also displayed. During our expedition, we met a group of young Naga girls and an old Angami Naga man and got the opportunity to take a picture with them.

Other than this, we witnessed the war museum, a massive horticulture display and much more. We explored every shop thereby and bought unique antique collections of handmade art-crafts and legendary paintings. All these stalls closed by in the evening at 6 pm but that didn’t limit the show; there were many other eccentric contests and activities organised as King Chilly Eating Contest, Pork Eating Contest, Fashion Shows, etc. But this time, we could not stay for long as it would take an ample amount of time to give a picture of all the events that was happening simultaneously. So, with bagful of memories for a lifetime and a promise to revisit this colourful and enticing festival and that too for a longer period, we returned to our hotel by 7.30 pm. We had our dinner by 10 pm and went to bed early. The next day, we checked out early in the morning at 8.30 am for Dimapur and from there we boarded the trains for our respective destinations. (Photo Credits to Arpandeep Saikia, our travelmate)

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The Unresolved Feelings about Losing my Dad

Although five years have elapsed without you dad; still memories of the dreadful evening that came to us like a tumultuous wave of feeling is still vivid. When we got to know that my father was diagnosed with ‘ Mesothelioma’, a rare form of lungs cancer, it was so terrifying and traumatic and experience for me to hear that news and that too on my twenty fifth birthday. I was totally blank and there was a fear of coping with loss and feeling powerless because you can’t cure the illness and avoid the inevitable. The feeling of losing a parent and that too who has always been there for you, support you, guide you is like losing yourselves. Can’t imagine a second without him. Everything in our lives were going smooth and fine. One day out of the blue, me and my mother noticed him changing his food habits, saw him weak, tired and pale and soon after there was a meeting with the concerned doctor. Followed by a series of tests, we learnt that he had lungs cancer. That instantly spelled the end of our happy days and the onset of a rather painful period starts. It’s rather difficult to see such an active man becoming weak and bedridden, suffer seizures and eventually drift away eating nothing. We witnessed him helplessly as he moaned, groaned and writhed in excruciating pain from the cancer. He suffered unspeakable discomfort from all the treatments, drugs, biopsies, chemos and radiation therapies.

 

 

My feelings of loss was growing stronger because at that time I never knew when death would be knocking the door to take him away from us to an unknown world. Even I put my arms around him and console him that he would live long enough to see me get established and get married and all sorts of things that a father usually wants to see in his child. And he was determined too to fight the battle. But he took his last breath five months after his diagnosis and he left a symbol that he had fought it until the end. And the sudden reality of not being able to talk with my dad can be hard to accept. After his funeral, sitting at times infront of his photo, I still talked to him. I asked where he had gone? But ofcourse, I didn’t expect an answer. It was a way of getting the words out that were already in me to say. I first didn’t hide from the fact that my dad is gone. I talked to him regularly in my dreams and in my thoughts. Whatever made me feel comfortable. Not only does it keep his memory alive but it’s also a release for my feelings for him. And I comfort myself with peace knowing he was no longer sick and in pain. He is resting in heaven and watching over me and pouring his blessings upon me. And after his departure, I realised that everything in life is transient and nothing belongs to us. We come into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing except the memories we formed during the journey of life. How many times in our life do we freak out and worry about almost everything in our lives which is a waste of time and energy. Instead I let it go, if it comes, let it – congratulate myself that it was meant for me. If it goes, let it and there will always be another opportunity. Secondly, Optimistic Vision. Even in the midst of a tornado of unforseen circumstances, and all the despair it brings in its wake; there is always something to appreciate in life. Even though I lost my dad, I still have fond memories treasured in my heart. We need to focus on the good in our life and try to be happy. Being sad and focusing on what we do not have does not change the circumstances. We can either make a list of what we have or we can make a list of what we do not have. The first list will bring us peace and happiness and the second list will bring us only sadness.

Cuddles and Jiggles are part of a New Mom

 

Mothers are always deeply attached with their kids and cannot let anyone throw shade on them. And being a new mother, it’s a blissful experience and sometimes daunting too. It was on 14.02.2018 that we welcomed a baby girl to our family.

A new addition into our family and as the parent of a new child, I was very protective about her and always ensured that I gave the best effort to comfort her. No doubt, she was our first priority. We always needed to put our best foot forward. As time went by, I developed a deep attachment with her being up all night and still going through the day making sure that she sleeps in peace. Sleep deprivation is a common thing in my life. While making sure that my baby sleeps with a curved smile and I try to hit the rack, I suddenly hear her cries (uff). Despite feeling sleepy and tired, I had to wake up and sing a lullaby to my baby. For the onlookers, it might be sweet enough but this repetitive cycle of sleepless nights made me tiresome too often and took a toll on my health. I often felt isolated because at some point of time, I realised, I don’t have a mom tribe to turn to. It could be easy for a new mommy to fall into the trap of thinking that she is alone, because she feels alone, particularly if she have decided to take a break from her career and are now finding that her daily social sphere is pretty devoid of other adults. But fortunately, there are plenty of resources for any mom with an Internet connection out there. Yes, am talking about baby and mommy blogs which aims to connect with you by being relevant and truthful. Many a times, the mom bloggers posts’ help me to build frienship and going through their blogs and writeups, I used to feel connected with other mommies. Following the work of a mommy blogger benefits me by providing helpful and entertaining roads. As it is my first blog and writeup, I want to pass the positive message through my experience to all the new mommies who have gone through postpartum depression or have a notion that motherhood is a bane for them. Please mommies, don’t lose yourselves in this thing called ‘Motherhood’; just grow with motherhood as it teaches a lot in our lives and take up the challenge to realize the true sense of a mother.