“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise”.
The people of Khonoma live by this proverb our guide tells us as he shows us around the Moroung: a kind of Boy Scout base camp where 10-20 boys will live at a time and be taught life skills in addition to going to school and having dinner at their own homes. “You won’t find anyone asleep here past 5am,” he says indicating to one long plank of wood which serves as a communal bed for the members of the Maroung who sleep together in age order.
Naiso is the kindest, most welcoming, patient man. And boy does he know his sh*t. Ask him any question about this village, his tribe or Nagaland in general and he won’t leave you hanging.
As he showed us around the immaculately clean village (the first Green Eco village in India, and completely community run). He introduced us to some of his neighbours.
As we climbed the stairs, an old lady, perched on a stone seat outside her house welcomed us with a standing handshake. She tells us, via Naiso, how glad she is to see foreigners in her village and wishes us all (3 women) a happy marriage and lots of babies. When asked if she had any children of her own she said it was gods will that she did not and she’s ok with that. She has many nieces and nephews to keep her busy and look after her instead.
She couldn’t tell us her age as she didn’t know her date of birth, but could tell us the season she was born in. She recalls how she carried her baby brother on her back and ran over the mountain to escape the Japenese who had come to torture the villagers. We assumed she is around 80.
She invited us to have a look around her home which is simple but hosts an impressive collection of decorative spears, which, in the headhunting days would have been embellished with human hair from the victims heads. We found bamboo mugs and woven baskets aswell.
The villagers are completely self sufficient, eating only what grows in their fields, and on their trees. Everything is grown manually too – no animals are used.
They use the ground up powder of the inside of a certain seed to shampoo their hair, they ferment their own rice beer and build their own roads and stairways. There is a real sense of community spirit here. Naiso picks some guavas and a grapefruit off a nearby tree for us to eat – as long as people aren’t greedy, it’s ok to take without asking.
There are several memorials to British soldiers around, and gravestones outside people houses for their buried loved ones. Naiso shows us the town gate and tells us some folk tales/legends too.
Later that afternoon, we are led down to the rice paddy fields, which, are kept cleaner and tidier than ones own kitchen. The unique and advanced water-system, that has been in place for generations, channels underneath the paddies to ensure equal water distribution to all of the fields, it cannot be altered and seems to work well. At the time of visiting most of the rice had been harvested, with few patches remaining. Whole families are seen hard but happy at work with rosy cheeks, and smiles on their faces. Wicker baskets are carried on their foreheads regardless of gender or age, everybody chips in.
In the evening, a cultural show had been arranged for us which involved traditional Naga songs and dances, however due to short notice and cold weather, they did not wear traditional dress.
The staff at Dovipie Inn helped us organise our onward plans, booked us a shared taxi and even came to the bus station in Kohima with me and helped me book the bus to Mon. These guys know hospitality and tourism well and will go out of their way to ensure you leave filled with stories and good memories.