The feeling that you have just been turned into a human Guinea Pig sure is not a nice one. While riding on some dirt tracks in the village of N.Longithang, in Wokha, Nagaland, I had a fall that left me with a slightly bruised right arm. Upon reaching the village, I took off my jacket to clean the bruise and a really concerned village elder advised me to get a Tetanus Toxide injection. Good idea, I thought, but where in this remote village can I get a doctor? And he took me to a young chap who promptly gave me a shot with a disposal syringe. Impressed with his deft handling, I asked whether he was a medical student. “Oh! I am not a doctor or anything like that. I am a farmer, and this is just my hobby.” Hobby?!! That means that he was practicing or even worse, experimenting on me! The damage was done, and there was absolutely nothing that I could do but curse my luck.
Well, the injection didn’t turn me into some green gremlin that I had feared, and we continued with our tour. My photographer friend Anuj Singh and I were riding through Nagaland as part of our North East India tour and what an amazing and educational trip it was A very large portion of the North East is rural and does not have proper roads but it is in these remote places that one comes across the most amazing visuals, meet the most interesting people and experience colourful and unique culture and tradition… experiences that the innumerable books on your shelves can never replicate.
Motorcycling is the best way to see the remote places in the North East, the risks not withstanding. The rider is one with nature. The wind (and dust) in the face, trees overhead, the road rushing beneath the legs, bugs under the collar and getting soaked to the bone are all the tangible joys of motorcycling. In a car, you are boxed in and see only what the window allows you to see. In a motorcycle, the rider has an 180-degree view (or is it 360-degrees?).
After riding through the district of Mon, we made our way to Dimapur, the commercial capital of Nagaland. Dimapur, which has the only railhead of the state, does not hold much that would interest a rider other than the Hong Kong market and so we decided to push on to Kohima, the state capital that is 75 km away. On the outskirts of Dimapur, the Nagaland Police flagged us down for a mandatory permit check. Ah! Now I knew what was bothering me all the way. I had left the Inner Line Permits in the hotel. Anuj and I wore our best smiles and tried looking as innocent and harmless as we possibly could. I guess we must have impressed the officer, and he was satisfied with our driving license and the Press cards (they do come in handy). A couple of tea and a few clouds of smoke later we hit the hilly stretch for Kohima.
There has been a vast improvement in the roads, and although it is still narrow and unpaved at stretches, it is simply a fabulous ride. Halfway to Kohima, we stopped at a place called Medziphema where the small eateries cater to the Dimapur-Kohima traffic. Since most of the places were taken, we decided to eat at a small joint run by a Manipuri lady. The hut was built on stilts and the windows at the rear opened up to a deep valley and amazing greenery. It was a peaceful feeling, but the peace was rudely shattered as soon as I put a tiny bit of chutney in my mouth. It was excruciatingly hot. If ever I smoked through the ears, this was it.
Kohima is the fashion capital of the state or even of the entire NE. It is amazing how the youth juxtaposes the modern with the traditional. Girls invariably recreate the same fashion that one gets to see in Cosmopolitan or other fashion magazines but only at a fraction of the cost. And most of them carry those beautifully woven traditional shawls.