… These Scarecrows!

… A father had three sons. Once he decided to test all three of them. So, he gave them all equal sum of money and told them to come back home after one year. They did return exactly after one year. Father asked what happened with the money he had given. First one had many vices, the number of his friends grew suddenly as he got the money. He lost all of it on wine, women and friends. He came home broke. The father was furious with him. The second son had invested in some business, managed it well and returned home with profits. He paid his father the principal amount that was given initially. Then came the third son and before father could say anything, he started, “I knew you are a shit of a father! I knew all the way that you’ll ask your money back. So I didn’t do anything with your money and had kept all the money here itself all the while, hidden in an urn underground!” Father pointed his finger towards the third and said thus, “I wish you were not my son. Son, you can either swim across or get drowned if you take a plunge in the river but, sitting idle at the banks and not having the courage to take initiative for you is what proves you to be worse than the first one also!”

Man, if alive, is bound to have fear. Fear of open space, fear of closed space, fear of height, fear of animal, fear of reptiles or spiders, fear of public speaking, fear of flying, fear of swimming, fear of contamination, fear of failures, fear of death … You name it and we have a fear of it! Some of them rational, some of them irrational, some of them logical, some illogical, some morbid, some benign, some less, some in plenty! It is our rational fear of dying that we don’t jump off the tall buildings. It is our logical fear of stage that we all are not good public speaker or actors. But sometimes we take the concept of fear too seriously to let us perform at all!

scarecrows001

Last year, I drove all the way from Kohima in Nagaland to Guna in MP, India in my car. Near Bundel-khand, though on either side of the highway there was negligible greenery, but there I saw the ugliest Scarecrows ever in the field! … And what more, there was a whole flock of birds chirping on nearby structures – as if actually frightened by the scarecrows, and yet, there were a couple of birds on the scarecrow itself – having had their fill already! Does not that remind us of our own lives? … Of those, who fear these Scarecrows and those who do not? People who fear these Scarecrows, you can see in lots ‘chirping’ among themselves, oblivious of their failures. And if you look around you, you’ll always find at least some, who did not fear these. You can identify them by the determined look they have on their faces and by the toiling hours they put in one goal – to just do it. One may not be a bigwig but you can see the urge to become one there already. These are the enterprising ones who do not care for their personal comforts but persevere and persevere hard to change the destiny. These are the ones, whom fear also shudders to come near! Well, not all of them are going to become a Dhirubhai Ambani or Bill Gates – but at least they tried. And don’t we know folks, that all long marches begin with a tiny step and similarly all the riches begin with a penny itself! Look at China! It is what it is today because of the feeling of enterprise in its population. 15 years back it was started by a small group of people – they started with cottage industries – then others got inspired – then others – then still others! Now Chinese goods have captured the majority of markets. What is it that we fear in taking these steps ourselves? Why do we keep sitting at the bank itself? Had we taken the plunge, we would have changed our picture also. And how unfounded our fears are…? We may fear going out that some vehicle may hit us, but sitting at home also we can die – if an earthquake decides so! Yet, there are others, who fear the consequences of an unsuccessful attempts and what others will say about it. I just want to tell them, “Don’t worry about what others are going to think of you …They won’t! They’re too busy worrying about what you’ll think of them when they fail!” Who has not failed even once in his life?

“I have been through some terrible times in my life, some of which actually happened.” – Mark Twain

Excessive fear about anything is known as “Phobia” and one should take steps before fear gets converted into phobias, like, phobia of failure. Our problem isn’t that we have these uncomfortable feelings called fear or phobia; it’s what those feelings do to us.  We feel threatened by people, places, situations and things that are no threat to us at all, sometimes so threatened that these fears plunge us into depression. When we dream about doing things that would be pleasant or productive, fear comes in and squelches those dreams.  Fear interferes with healthy relationships and causes us to imagine and react to conflict that isn’t there, creating the very conflict we imagined.  Fear and phobia causes us to always focus on the worst possible outcome to any situation. Well, let me make one point very clear in the end, whatever is written here on this page, is not going to make your fear or phobia clinically any better! The intention is, to make you look inside you, do some introspection and think why do you not look beyond the imminent hurdles – if there is at all any! … Why to fear the Scarecrows!

… In Platitude! (Two Poems)

Platitudes02In Platitude!

… You want me to reply

But, what will I?

Leaves me – perplexed!

Thousands of thoughts

That fleet past,

But some how,

None of them

Seem so strong

That, I must say,

– Come what may!

And what if I do?

– I know now you!

You are no closer

To me, than

You left me – when

With my pain,

My unanswered questions,

My un-tended soul.

I fear this –

It is your attitude,

And my belief

That, if I attempt

I might end up

Again …

… In Platitude!

Platitudes

Procrastination

I look out of window

The world is moving

At a pace, so indistinct!

The reason –

Unknown to my eyes.

I am carrying on

Like a zombie –

Without a push or a pull!

I haven’t the power

For much of anything

– Anymore!

I dream of

Time spent earlier –

Of good nightmares,

To while away the time

This whole thing

Is moving to

No where.

I guess,

I am busy with

My own neurotic bliss!


…CONNECTING THE HINTERLANDS IN NAGALAND!

Grey hill tops, Green tree lines, Colorful people, Untouched culture and Proud history … To an outsider visiting Nagaland for the first time, the romantic image of this part of India is very fascinating. But to Border Roads Organisation personnel engaged in making and maintaining roads – these very characteristics of Nagaland present an entirely different aspect. Gone is the romanticism associated with hilltops – in comes the soft/ mixed soil with sinking zones, gone are colorful people – in comes the man/ manpower management tactics, untouched culture is replaced with issues of distance/ segregation from mainstream and, proud history is substituted with problems of insurgency. .. And in continuation of the same logic, the issue of “… CONNECTING THE HINTER LANDS” is changed into “… SURVIVAL, WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TRADE!” But besides everything the point remains that the enchanting beauty and serenity of Nagaland is worth taking any pains to go and see it first hand.

Our Journey to the state begins on the National Highway 39, the lifeline of Nagaland and other five north-eastern Indian states. This road, maintained by 15 Border Roads Task Force of Project SEWAK, begins at Numaligarh, Assam and runs across the states of Nagaland and Manipur, up to the Indo-Burmese international border, covering a combined length of 436 km. On its way, the road passes through Golaghat, Barpathar towns of Assam then Dimapur, Kohima Districts of Nagaland, and further Mao, Imphal, Thoubal and Palel towns of Manipur before terminating at the border town of Moreh.

Of its total length, 115 km is in Assam, 110 km in Nagaland and the rest 211 km in Manipur.

DIMAPUR:

Dimapur District was upgraded from Sub-division to full fledged District in December 1997. The district consists of Dimapur and Niuland sub-divisions, bifurcated from Kohima. The proposed headquarters for the District is at Chumukedima. At present, the headquarters is situated at Dimapur town. The District is bounded by Kohima district on the south and east, Karbi-Anglong district of Assam on the West. The DAB (Disputed Area Belt) in the north borders Golaghat district of Assam.

The District draws its name from the Kachari dialect; ‘Di’ – meaning river, ‘Ma’ – meaning great or big, and ‘Pur’ – meaning city, together connoting ‘The City near the Great River’. That the Kachari kingdom flourished in Dimapur in the days of old is evident from the existence of the Kachari Rajbari Fort ruins, housing the ancient stone monoliths, and the many excavated tanks dug by the royalty known even today as the Rajpukhuri, Padampukhuri, Bamunpukhuri, Jorpukhuri etc. to name a few. History and legends trace their civilization to the epic age of the Mahabharata, where Bheema the second of Pandavas, while in exile, married the Kachari princess Hidimba. Dimapur, before the advent of the British, was known as Hidimbapur, which might have got gradually corrupted into its’ present form ‘Dimapur’.

CHUMUKEDIMA:

Chumukedima is situated in Dimapur District, about 14 km from Dimapur town on the National Highway 39, on the route to Kohima. Chumukedima had served as the first headquarters of Naga Hills District of Assam during the British rule. The Department of Tourism is constructing a tourist village at a distance of 8 km from the highway also. A complete view of Dimapur as well as Karbi-Anglong of Assam can be experienced from here.

Waterfalls, located in this area, particularly Seithekima Triple Falls are also worth visiting. This three-tier waterfall plunges from a height of approximately 300 m and is a favorite spot for trekking enthusiast.

KOHIMA:

Kohima is the capital of Nagaland and is also one of the three Nagaland towns with Municipal council status along with Dimapur and Mokokchung. The word Kohima is derived from “Kew Hi” that is the name of a plant grown on the mountainside. “Kew Hi Ma” means “the men of the land where the flower Kew Hi grows”. Earlier, Kohima was known as “Thigoma”.

The initial British incursions into the Naga territory beginning in the 1840s met with stiff resistance from the independence loving Nagas who had never been conquered by any empire before. The stiffness of the resistance can be gauged by the fact that it took nearly four decades for the British to conquer a territory that is less than 10,000 square kilometers (the eastern region was left free). Under the erstwhile Assam state of British times, Kohima became the first seat of modern administration as the Headquarter of Naga Hills District with the appointment of G.H. Damant as Political Officer in 1879. When Nagaland became a full fledged state on 1st December 1963, Kohima was christened as the state capital.

‘Kohima village’ called ‘Bara Basti’ or ‘large village’, which is the largest village in Asia forms the northeastern part of Kohima urban area today. The Bara Basti is divided into ‘khels’ or localities. There are four of them, namely – Tsütuonuomia, Lhisemia, Dapfütsumia and Pfuchatsumia. They are termed shortly as T, L, D, and P khel respectively. The main indigenous inhabitants of Kohima district are the Angamis and the Rengmas. But today the town’s population composes of all the 16 tribes of Nagaland. The population of the Angami and Ao tribes is the largest in present day Kohima urban area.

THE WAR CEMETRY:

Kohima has a large cemetery for the Allied war dead of British 2nd division maintained by the Commonwealth Graves Commission. The cemetery lies on the slopes of Garrison Hill that was once the Deputy Commissioner’s tennis court and also the scene of intense fighting. During World War II, the Battle of Kohima along with the simultaneous Battle of Imphal was the turning point in the Burma Campaign, when for the first time in South-East Asia the Japanese lost the initiative to the Allies, which they then retained until the end of the war. The memorial remembers the Allied dead who repulsed the Japanese 15th Army, a force of 100,000 men, who had invaded India in March 1944 in Operation U-Go.

War_Mem_KohimaThe Memorial itself consists of a large monolith of Naga stone such as is used to mark the graves of dead Nagas. The stone is set upright on a dressed stone pedestal, the overall height being 15 feet. A small cross is carved at the top of the monolith and below this a bronze panel is inset. Two tall crosses stand at the lowest and highest points of the cemetery overlooking Kohima. Between them, and stretching all the way across this gently rising garrison hill, are stone markers with shining bronze plaques. Each commemorates the name of a single man who gave his life for freedom. At the base of the upper cross there is an inscription which reads:

“Here, around the tennis court of the deputy commissioner the men who fought in the battle of Kohima in which they and their comrades finally halted the invasion of India by the forces of Japan in Mar-Apr 1944”.

To one side of this memorial cross and often missed by visitors, there is a tree with a small plaque on it. The plaque says:

“This flowering cherry tree is of historical interest”.

The original tree was used as a sniper’s post by the Japanese and was destroyed in the fighting which raged round the tennis court and marked the limit of the Japanese advance into India. This hand-to-hand battle and slaughter prevented the Japanese from gaining a high base from which they might next roll across the extensive flatlands of India like a juggernaut. The present tree is from a branch from the old one.

Epitaph

“When You Go Home, Tell Them of Us and Say,

For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.”

These world famous lines written here on the epitaph are attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds (1875-1958), and are thought to have been inspired by the epitaph written by Simonides to honour the Greek, who fell at the battle of Thermopyle in 480 BC.

THE STATE MUSEUM:

The Nagaland State Museum is the one-stop treasure house where one can get a glimpse into rich Naga culture through history. The main items exhibited here are gateposts, statues, pillars, and jewelry. A ceremonial drum which looks like a dug-out war canoe is exhibited in a separate shed. The basement of the museum has birds and animals of the North-Eastern hill states.

Both the War Cemetry and the State Museum are situated along the National Highway Number 39, maintained by 15 BRTF itself.

Japfu Peak:

Japfu peak is situated about 15 km south of Kohima, at an altitude of 3048 m above sea level and is the second highest peak in Nagaland. From the top of the peak, one can get breathtaking scenes of the hills below as well as the panoramic view of sunrise and sunset – as the range gets covered by mist at the break of dusk and dawn, adding to its mystic beauty. It is an ideal place for adventure lovers and trekkers from November to March when visibility is at its best.

Dzukou Valley:

Dzukou valley is situated about 30 km south of Kohima at an altitude of approximately 2438 m above sea level, near the Japfu Peak. Overshadowed with a type of tough bamboo brush to make the place appear like a mown lawn, the entire valley is a very good trekking site. The serpentine rivulet that flows through Dzukou becomes frozen during winter but in summer, wild herbs sprout along the riverbanks including the world famous white rhododendrons of Asia, which incidentally finds a place in the Guinness book as the tallest rhododendron tree.

From Kohima, we take the NH-150, of which the Kohima-Jessami-Imphal part is being maintained by 89, 82 and 98 RCCs under 15 BRTF. This picturesque road full of mountain viewpoints leads us to the town of Jessami.

Jessami:

Jessami, in ukhrul district of manipur is the land of colorful Tangkhul tribe famous for the tangkhul cuisine. Apart from tangkhuls, kukis and other non-tribals like nepalese also coexist here.Though, now largely chrisitans, the ancestors of tangkhuls practised a sort of monotheistic religion ‘HAO’ and were governed by a type of hierarchical democracy.There used to be the king or chief of the village at the head, under whom the clan chiefs, who constituted the HANGVA – the village authority, worked. The collective wisdom of the Hangva used to govern the village administration. This is akin to the present division of subjects into the center and the state lists of modern governments. Jessami with its neighboring PHEK district of nagaland is situated on the NH 150.

PHEK:

Phek is derived from the word “Phekrekedze” meaning watch tower. Phek, with its four subdivisions – Phek, Pfutsero, Melrui and Chozuba, is home to mainly chakhesang and pochury tribes of nagas. the word “Chakhesang” is an amalgamation of the names of three sub-tribes – “cha” from “Chokri”, “khe” from “Khezha (Kuzha)” and “Sang” from “Sangtam (Pochury)”. There are atleast three main lingustic group in the district, namely, Chokri , Khezha and Pochury. The medium of communication among the people is mainly Tenyidie and Nagamese. There are three important rivers namely Tizu, Lanye, and Sedzu and three important lakes called Shilloi, Chida and Dzudu. Khezakeno, the legendary village here is famous for the “Spirit stone” called “Tso Tawo” locally. Footprint shaped Shilloi lake is believed to be created by the guardian angel of the village as per the village legends.

Zunheboto:

Zunheboto, situated along NH 61, is home to the Sumi Nagas, a warrior tribe of Nagaland. Zunheboto derives its name from two sets of words “Zunhebo” and “To” in Sumi dialect. “Zunhebo” is the name of a flowering shrub with white leaves which bear sponge like ears containing sweet juice and “To” means the top of a hill. Head hunting was practiced among them extensively till the advent of the American missionaries who converted the warriors to Christians and thus the gruesome practice was stopped. Today the people are peaceful and hardworking, practicing agriculture as their main occupation. A hilly place, Zunheboto is covered by evergreen forests and surrounded by small streams and rivers. Today it is home to the Nagaland University whose campus is situated in the village of Lumami in the sub division of Akuluto. This has become the cultural center for the people of Nagaland, as all the Nagas irrespective of tribes come in droves to study here

Kiphire:

Kiphire is a newly formed district of Nagaland carved out of the Tuensang District. This district is bound by Tuensang District in the north, Phek District in the west and Myanmar in the east. Headquartered at Kiphire town, at an altitude of 896 m above sea level, Kiphire is connected with jessami by Jessami-Kiphire-Tuensang part of NH 155. This road was built by Border roads and handed over to Nagaland PWD on 30th Aug 2007. The major cities of this district are Seyochung, Sitimi, Pungro and Kiphire. From Kiphire, roads emerge radially to Zuenhoboto (Zuenhoboto-Aghunato-Kiphire Road), to Lukami (Kiphire-Amhatse-Lukami Road), to Pungro (Kiphpire-Pungro Road). Pungro is the stopover to trek from Kiphire to the Saramati peak – the highest peak (at 3,841 m) in Nagaland. Kiphire also has an earth station. Kisatong heritage village, Fakim wild life sanctuary, caves at Salomi, Mimi and Wawade waterfalls are other tourist destination in the district. Sangtam(Eastern), Yimchunger and Sema are the predominant tribes.

MARAM:

Maram is situated in Senapati district of Manipur along the NH 39 at about 55 km from Kohima. The important tourist places here are Mao and Makhel. Mao is one of the oldest hill stations in Manipur and is located midway between Dimapur and Imphal. Makhel, the historic place of the dispersal of Nagas is also the place of origin of Meiteis and Nagas.

PEREN:

Peren is a new district and has been formed by the partition of Kohima District. It is bounded by the North Cachar Hills District, Karbi Anglong District and Dimapur District in the west and north-western part. Kohima District in the east, Tamenglong District of Manipur in the south is the other boundaries.

Peren District is headquartered at Peren (about 1,445 m above sea level). Tening and Peren are the major towns of the district. Most of the inhabitants belong to the Zeliang and Kuki tribes. Zeliang, Rongmei, Kuki, and Ao are the main languages spoken here Major point of attraction in Peren District is the Rani Gaidiliu’s caves and sites. Peren is being connected with Maram town by Maram-Peren Road. This road is being constructed by 98 RCC under 15 BRTF. Peren is also connected to Dimapur via road through Jaluke.

By whatever name people call this realm, hidden among the mountains of India’s northeast, Nagaland has always evoked a sense of mysticism and awe, intensified by the remoteness of its geographical location. Right from the days of Mahabharata, when Pandava prince Arjun married Ulupi from this region to the present day, Nagaland preserves man’s early animist culture, through its awe inspiring highlanders and their ancient traditions. This concludes our journey to the land where the terrain is as vivid and colorful as the people and their vibrant life styles.

nagaland_road

… Oh, She has changed so much!

Changes01

“… Oh, she has changed so much!”

“… It is beyond recognition now!”

“… He doesn’t look like his old self!”

“… The city is not what it used to be!”

… Why is it, that we don’t like the change to be there – to the person, place or thing that we once knew, once we associated with? Why don’t we appreciate the change – knowing fully well that change is inevitable?

THE CONTEXT

Just a few weeks back one of my friends returned after a tour to home town. As happens in all such cases, she complained about the home town, “… Patna is in ruins! It is hard to connect to it any more!” Since yours truly also comes from that same town, the comment was not taken well.

“Patna is in ruins?”

“…Ruins? Ruins of what kind? … Nalanda, Harappa or Babylonian kind of ruins?”

So, I shot back, “I disagree with you; the chaos that is apparent there to any superficial onlooker is part of rebuilding process only!”

Well, it may be part of the process of rebuilding or not – leave this matter to people who are aware of the geopolitical background and the history of the place, but what struck me through this dialogue was the rigidity to accept the inevitability of change.

WHAT IS CHANGE?

Change is defined as the process of becoming different in respect of time, person, place or thing. It also includes the social change as well as biological metamorphosis. Change is universal. Change is dynamic. Change is motion. Identity is static. Motion or Change and Identity or Rest is the basic secrets of the laws of nature – a kind of “mother of all the laws” of nature. Nothing endures but change.

There are many TYPES of change, like consistent or inconsistent, based on duration – short lived, long standing, permanent, related to the cause – Automatic or induced, related with object that is changing – change of Identity, change of personality etc. There can be definite change – like a baby growing to become adult, a seed growing to become a tree or it can be indefinite – like those of radioactive elements.

“… Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow;
Naught may endure but Mutability.”

WHAT & WHY WE CRIB ABOUT?

The problem with us human beings is that we have very high mental inertia and we start associating with the things as they are, at that particular time of observation, forgetting it wasn’t the same earlier than that. We make a picture of the person, place, thing or traits in respect to the time at that moment and keep this in our mind thinking that it will remain frozen in exact state for ever. But everything is in perpetual state of motion, it is always changing – It doesn’t remain the same any two given moments. It is our paranoid state of mourning – when we come across the same person, place, thing or trait a different time and don’t find it exactly the same, bound by the same descriptions – that produce this sense of loss or detachment or bereavement form previous picture – cause us to yearn for the old one and also causes the non acceptance of the new. May be it is because of our subconscious belief in the controversial theory of persistence of substance as put forth by Aristotle and others. Aristotle argued that change is distinct from time because change occurs at different rates, whereas time does not! We know this is simply not true and these are basically independent of each other also. By “Change” we don’t just mean “Temporal Change”!

CAMBRIDGE CHANGE

The phrase “Cambridge change” seems to be due to Geach (1969), who so named it to mark its employment by great Cambridge philosophers such as Russell and McTaggart. According to this theory, a Cambridge change in a thing is a change in the descriptions truly borne by the thing. Now this can be explained by following the analytical technique of re-casting philosophically important discussions and concepts in the meta-language. It is apparent that Cambridge change includes all cases ordinarily thought of as change, such as change of color, from “red” to “non-red.” But it also includes changes in the relational predicates of a thing, such as when you change from being “non-brother” type to being “brother” type, just when your mother gives birth to a second offspring. It might seem faintly paradoxical that there need be no other change in you (like – height, weight, color, memories, character, thoughts) in this circumstance, but it is simply a consequence of the above piece of meta-linguistic ascent – there was change in your mother and you are related to her so the change in her changed you too. It does point up, though, that in attempting to capture the object-language concept, one should take note of the distinction between the Monadic or Internal or Intrinsic properties of a thing, and its relations or External or Extrinsic features. Thus the natural view of change is that real, metaphysical change in a thing would be change in the monadic or internal or intrinsic properties of the thing only, where as in reality, it affects the external links also.

THE SHIP OF THESEUS

The “problem of change and identity” is generally explained with the story of the Ship of Theseus:-

In ancient times, there was a ship, called the “Theseus” after its famous former owner. As the years wore on, the Theseus started getting weak and creaky. The old boards were removed, put into a warehouse, and replaced with new ones. Then, the masts started tottering, and soon they, too, were replaced. And in this way, after fifty years, this ship now has all new boards, masts, and everything. The question now arises Is, whether the ship in the harbor – now called SHIP-02, the same ship as the ship that was in the harbor, fifty years ago – called SHIP-01, for convenience? In other words, is SHIP-02 really the “Theseus”? … Just think about it!

Changes02

WHY DO WE NOT RELATE WITH THE CITIES ANYMORE, WE DID EARLIER?

Any society, which has got a large superfluous population, has its own dynamics. The city has to adapt itself continuously to the demands of its population. The architecture may also change according to that requirement. We may cherish the memories of our friendly neighbourhood convenient store for long but if that is replaced by a mall, we should not complain about it. It is serving the requirements of the present generation. Just try to remember the skylines of Manhattan two centuries ago and compare that with today’s. It did not change without reason, did it? The cities were not static even then, when we used to dwell in, there. Just because then changes took place in front of our eyes, we adapted well to them – and now we cannot even relate! Community organizations and other service providers do change with time. Smart people generally stand free and unconstrained in nature; they change gracefully with the every change in the old picture. The old order gives way to the new order in every society. It is the mode of transition that affects our sentiments however. If the transition was smooth, we hardly notice it. If the transition was turbulent or abrupt, we do not forget it – because then, it does not conform to the old perceptions. The question also arises as to what sort of change take place after something looses existence or when all connections have been accepted as LOST. We never say, after the death of a person, “He just isn’t the same sort of guy since his death.”  Because we have accepted the loss of all the relations with the person after his death. Similarly, till the time a city ceases to exist or we have lost all connections with it, we can say, “… Oh, I do not relate with it any more!”

ACCEPTING THE CHANGE

“The key to change is … to let go of fear!”

The major cause for non acceptance of change is our fear for the unknown. We generally don’t want to be associated with something that is uncertain or something that can have unpleasant outcome.  But the city may change for good, or for bad – the change has to be accepted. He, who rejects the change, is the architect of decay and he, who accepts, understands and welcomes it is the messiah of progress. There are well known stages of acceptance of change and these are – Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance in this sequence. The denial of the change is in fact the denial of the very existence. It can also be said as a corollary to the preceding line here that the only place where change does not occur is in grave. Or is it so? We know now, even in graves, change takes place.

Even though we all have changed and we are all finding our places in the world, we all resent the perceived changes in others, though we know also that when the tears fall or the smiles spread across our face, we’ll come to each other only – because no matter where this crazy world takes us, nothing will ever change so much to the point where we are not all still friends.

… Are you listening, My dear friend? Continue reading “… Oh, She has changed so much!”

… SPIRIT OF NAGASAKI !

“… Hope is like a road in the country: there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence. …Maybe peace and love is also such a road!”

War001

Just yesterday I was going through the events regarding the 64th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. Japanese media was going gaga over the statement made by American president Obama in Prague in April regarding nuclear disarmament. I fail to believe the hypocrisy behind these activities. If we go through the books of history, the world-war two was in fact started by the trio of nations of Germany, Japan and Italy. It was a war to attempt to prove their so called supremacy over others and it was basically a war to annex more and more colonies and increase their empire in which many innocent civilians of nations – who otherwise would have chosen to remain non-alienated – were pushed into. These nations hardly had any cause in their interest to go to war, but for their colonial masters! I fail to believe what message they want to give by organizing such displays. Agreed, nuclear arsenal is dangerous, but so is conventional weapon also. The purpose of all of these is one only – that is to kill your enemy. But that enemy is another human being who had a right to his territory and a right to live his life peacefully just as you have to your own. So, if Japanese try to portray themselves as the only nation to become victim of nuclear bombings, just tell them plainly it was the punishment they had to receive any way for starting the war and pushing many nations like Korea, Cambodia, and Burma etc into it, committing war crimes against their civilians. And what about the American presidents’ babbling! It is like a serial rapist telling about the virtues of celibacy! How sick!

THE ROOT CAUSE OF WAR:-

In order to take responsibility for peace and for freedom, it is valuable to know that war like slavery, just doesn’t occur out of the blues, but rather out of chaos – as a curse, as punishment for original sin, or the likes.

Man is a SOCIAL animal, so social that it loves to make CLANS – when ever and where ever possible! With the formation of clan comes the natural tendency to project it superior to that of others. This makes man a naturally VIOLENT animal too. Earlier, wars used to be raids of one tribe or clan of people on other for material gains or capturing women or slaves only. With the advent of State system some 5000 years ago, the dynamics of local social systems were carried forward and the traits of aggression were transformed as bias and hatred against different race, Religion, Society and Nation. This was also fueled by militarization of the forces of these nations.

The Italian psychoanalyst Franco Fornari thought war to be the paranoid or projective elaboration of mourning, i.e., war and violence develops out of our love needs. It is our wish to preserve and defend the SACRED or CHERISHED objects, objects to which we are attached – namely our families, our land, our clan, our nation and our fixation with these.

Konrad Lorenz and others see the war as extension of animal behavior, such as territoriality and competition – as suggested by evolutionary psychology. Animals are naturally aggressive, and in humans this aggression manifests itself as warfare. However, while war has a natural cause, the development of technology has accelerated human destructiveness to a level that is irrational and damaging to the species itself. Demographic theories of war also point to the increased demand and less supply pattern, a la Malthus, that generates conflicts. More the number of youth there are in a demographic population of a nation, more prone it is to go to war also.

Yet some societies are less prone to go to war than others. Why is it that till middle era in history, we do not see any excursion or attack by armies from Indian states into neighboring states? Truth is that higher agricultural yield, low population and well fed youth prevented any such occurrence. So, in any society there are STRESS factors that make way for more aggressiveness there. Some of these are:-

  • Large population, especially migratory or demographically superfluous population
  • Low feeding capability or low per capita income of the nation
  • Prevalence of violent crimes. Genocide and conquest, etc
  • Too sharp attachment with nationalistic ideology
  • Limited or no access to legal sources of entertainment and sex
  • a spiritual disconnection/estrangement and lack of integrity in the society

whatever the cause may be, fact is, as Dwight D. Eisenhower said on April 16, 1953, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

RATIONALIZATION OF WAR:-

Although many people are not interested in REASONS for things that are undesirable, distasteful, horrific, or otherwise trigger an internalized pain, those who do so, merely confuse REASON with JUSTIFICATIONS and thus relegate them to re-experiencing the pain. To negate the causes of war is to negate its lasting solution.

War002

In modern days, war has only economic reason – you take any recent warfare for that matter. War can be seen as a growth of economic competition in a competitive international system and all wars begin as a pursuit of markets for natural resources and for wealth. This ironically is the same reason that led to aggressive behavior in pre-historic men. So, we can say, we have not developed in this context from our pre-historic predecessors, but our weapons have considerably, and so has the cost of warfare and human wastage also! We are the same old warmongers, megalomaniacs, and rapacious, envious, arrogant, prideful, greedy, fearful and hateful people as those cave-dwellers! We don’t think twice before starting a war, before killing each other, but when it comes to pay the price we certainly try to project ourselves as the VICTIM of aggression on some others’ part! In every war each side tries to project their JUST CAUSE! Ultimately that of the victorious persists but of the vanquished is lost in oblivion.

CONCLUSION:-

With the industrial revolution the Caucasian race invented many useful types of equipment for human populace, but they also developed weapons – first firearms and then much later weapons of mass destruction also. Last 500 years are testimony to the fact that when a group of men get access to such means of destructions it increases their egotistic, prideful feeling about their clan and generates the feeling of aggressiveness in them. Just think of Europe’s’ internal wars, war for colonial intentions, the two world wars, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan war and many small ones in between. There is no end. Or is it that, since man has inherent violent tendencies, he spends the war free time-period only in preparation to the next war? We have to stop and think now. … What next? Are we going to stop only after our own total annihilation?

… HERMAN PERRY: THE AMERICAN SOLDIER WHO MARRIED A NAGA PRINCESS !

PRELUDE:

This story is based on “Now the Hell Will Start,” – an epic World War II manhunt story written by Brendan I. Koerner, on the quest to apprehend Herman Perry, a black soldier who went to India to help build a road to China via Burma, shot and killed a white commanding officer, then disappeared into the jungles of Naga hills of Assam, where he joined a tribe of head-hunters and eluded capture for months. This story published as a book by Penguin-USA publications in 2008, is an amazing piece of reporting—part thriller & part history. It gets its start as a State “Explainer” (Explainer deals with offenses committed by military personnel, which are punishable by death). Koerner came across this story in 2003 while researching for an explainer about an Air Force translator who was charged with spying for Syria and on conviction of the spying charges; he could face the death penalty. While researching about this Koerner encountered the following titbit about “Pvt. Herman Perry, murderer who long evaded capture by living with Burmese tribe, 1944-1945.” Koerner’s curiosity was increased and he started to search for survivors where the action took place. He spent five years talking to the survivors of the road’s construction and poring over yellowed military documents to piece it all together. Most of the characters in this story are dead, except Earl Cullum, a Texan officer stationed in Burma at that time that was involved with Perry’s capture; it was he who committed much of his memories of the episode to paper in the hope of getting it published in the form of above mentioned book.

HERMAN PERRY – ORIGINS:

Herman Perry was a 19 year old meat cutter from Washington D.C. who was first made to undergo compulsory military service for giving a false birth date to his employers at the slaughter house in 1942. In July 1942, when Herman Perry came out of the training camp in South Carolina after induction into US Army, he donned his uniform for the first time and posed for the photograph (Fig -01)—a souvenir for his family and his girlfriend, a skinny-limbed black beauty named Alma Talbot.

He and scores of other black GIs were then packed into the crowded, poorly ventilated lower decks of a commandeered ocean liner and shipped around the Cape of Good Hope across half of world to work for the US Army throughout allies’ forces locations.

CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN MILITARY-SOCIAL STRUCTURE:

During the Second World War, the United States was clinging to a curious policy of racial stratification in its armed forces. The government used to make a concerted effort to make sure thousands and thousands of black men registered for the Army service. But the military brass bolstered by pseudoscience those days held the belief that, because the Afro-American skull undergoes ossification prior to that of Caucasian skull and hence has a low cranial capacity in comparison; black people were cowardly and dim-witted. Hence there was a desire also not to rile up white servicemen by forcing them to work alongside Negros – who supposedly were loath enough to be put into combat situations. Most of the Negro soldiers would find themselves in inferior positions compared to a white soldier and would only be inducted into supporting roles to the main combating army, behind the war’s front lines – more often to work as manual labours. Besides, those were the times when back in states, Negroes could have been lynched by angry white mobs with impunity. The vast majority of GIs, who like Herman Perry were African-American, were assigned to segregated labour battalions run by white officers. It was mostly because of the policies advocated by Jim Crow of the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner to the CIA, that the War Department wasted the talents of thousands of patriotic Americans.

THE AMERICANS AT THE INDO-BURMESE-CHINESE WAR THEATRE:

This almost forgotten theatre of World War-two where thousands of brave Americans, many of them black, toiled and died in virtual anonymity is at the famous trisection between India, Burma and China – while India was still under British control, Burma – newly independent but mostly under control of advancing Japanese Army and China, under control of dictator Chiang Kai-Shek – at loggerheads with Mao’s revolutionary army but having the support of allied forces.

Perry’s unit, the 849th Engineer Aviation Battalion, was dispatched to the Indo-Burmese wilderness to help build the Ledo Road. This road was named after the town near its mile zero in Assam and through Burma it was to terminate at the Chinese city of Kunming. The road, which is also known as Stilwell Road after allied forces’ General James Stillwell, was designed – as planned by allies’ strategists – to keep Nationalist China flush with supplies even after the Japanese forces had severed access to the more southerly Burma Road in 1942. But building the road was a far more arduous task than its planners had predicted. An aide to Chiang Kai-shek had initially estimated that the highway would take just three months to build. It instead took two and a half years and incurred so many of casualties that the Americans nicknamed it “the Man-a-Mile Road” on account of its lethality. As the war dragged on, the justifications for the road became looking increasingly flimsy. British PM Winston Churchill had said the road was “an immense, laborious task, unlikely to be finished until the need for it has passed.” But President Roosevelt and the military brass at the war Department in US dug in their heels. They never could bring themselves to curtail the road’s construction, even as its potential usefulness diminished with the increase in cargo flights between India and China. To halt the construction was to admit the defeat and they were probably too afraid of losing face, no matter how high the human toll was.

HARDSHIPS AT THE LEDO ROAD:

The Ledo Road had a low priority in Washington, so equipment was scarce. The Americans were assisted by thousands of indentured labourers, known as “coolies” in the politically incorrect lingo of the 1940s. Many had previously worked on the tea plantations of Assam, the remote Indian province where the town of Ledo was located. The coolies were forced to slash through the jungle with hoes, pickaxes, and even their bare hands (Fig -03).

The broiling Indo-Burmese jungle receives more than 400 cm of rain per year, so the soldiers’ huts were perpetually awash in mud. Vast arrays of ants and lice swarmed over the sleeping GIs, and Anopheles mosquitoes made malaria endemic. More often than not, the slimy annelids, red or green or chocolate brown in colour, would drop from trees or neck-high grass, waiting to gorge on the blood of passers-by. The leeches had a particular affinity for the body’s most sensitive areas like – the orifices, eyelids, nostrils, and especially the groins. Unexploded artillery shells would also every now and then detonate and rip men in half. Others were picked off by snipers. The monsoon rains drove tigers in the Jungle to higher ground, and in place of livestock they started preying on humans working on the road.

The food was rotten. And then there were the Naga, a group made up of jungle-dwelling tribes who took particular pleasure in headhunting. Several unfortunate souls working on that “quixotic” project perished while those who survived were usually paid the equivalent of four rupee a month, though sometimes their compensation amounted to nothing more than a few fistfuls of rice for some days. Many of the labourers thus supplemented their incomes by peddling “native intoxicants”—opium and marijuana—to GIs. Herman Perry was one of their most avid customers.

THE CRIME:

The jungle’s harsh conditions caused many soldiers to suffer mental breakdowns, and Herman Perry was among the afflicted ones. Perry’s drug habit further warped his already tattered psyche. Perry would smoke weed and opium to cope with the stresses of his miserable life in the jungle, and he slowly lost his grip on reality. He created an alternate world in his head in which he was back in D.C., married to his girlfriend in the States. On March 4, 1944, 21-year-old Perry was placed under arrest for insubordination as he had missed reveille after spending a night on an opium bender. But Perry, instead of facing the disciplinary committee, ran away from his captors – scared, with tears in his eyes, thinking he was innocent, wrongly framed but still armed and dangerous to people at large. Orders were given for his arrest but he continued to evade both his unit as well as MPs after him. He finally snapped, when his unarmed white Commanding Officer Lieutenant Harold Cady confronted him and tried to arrest him. He shot the officer to death by the side of the road and then things really went berserk. Running amok, Perry immediately fled into the jungle in a daze, with his military-issue carbine over his shoulder, fearing that he’d be lynched if captured by the military police. A dead-or-alive reward of 1,000 rupee was posted (Fig -05). He spent days roaming in and around the parts of the jungle that Westerners avoided at all costs.

While the MPs from 159th MP battalion combed the brothels of Calcutta, Perry ran deeper and deeper into the Patkais – the forested lower Himalayan mountain range that lines the Indo-Burmese border. He eventually stumbled upon a village inhabited by Nagas, members of a fierce ethnic group with proclivity for fights. Against all odds, the charming Perry managed to befriend the tribesmen.

THE EARLY AMERICAN EXPOSURE OF THE NAGAS:

Though the Nagas were historically suspicious of outsiders, the Americans turned many of them into allies during the war. Nagas were very fond of shiny tinned American foods and beverages – particularly syrupy fruit cocktails. A detachment of the Office of Strategic Services had even sent agents earlier into the jungle with gifts of tin and opium in order to win the Nagas’ loyalty. These bribes convinced some tribesmen to assist downed American pilots, who would otherwise have perished in the wilderness. Perry actually followed the OSS’s game plan to some extent: He tapped sympathetic black soldiers to help him by sneaking in and out of American camps to steal rations from Army depots and gave this cache of food to the Nagas. The Army, under the leadership of the then thirty year old Major Earl Cullum, continued to search Perry without any clue as to his whereabouts. The Army’s inability to catch Perry became an embarrassment for the military brass, but among the black GIs, he was a folk hero – The Jungle King. The black GIs, who would give him the tins of food (and also ammunition) before his slinking back into the opaque, forbidding jungle also knew, that his capture meant a hanging at the hands of angry white officers.

Yet even the ostensibly friendly Nagas could still be violent when provoked – especially if a GI dared get too close to one of their women. And as much as they adored opium, the Nagas prized skulls even more highly. Still, mysteriously, Herman Perry not only befriended them but he slowly became a revered member of his Naga village, so much so that, after some initial period of a ritual courtship he even managed to marry the fourteen year old daughter of the tribes’ headman, who bore him a son. He, then, started a small farm in the Patkais, raising rice and marijuana. From here, the tale of Perry’s flight and the Army’s ensuing manhunt is one of cruelty, madness, and survival.

THE ENDGAME:

During the Perry manhunt, work on the road continued. On Jan. 12, 1945, the road’s first ceremonial convoy set out from Ledo (Fig – 06, 07). Despite the racial makeup of the project’s work force, the convoy was an entirely white affair for its first 268 miles. But then, a reporter for the Chicago Defender, a black newspaper, complained about this when the convoy reached the town of Myitkyina in northern Burma. Ten African-American soldiers were thus brought in from India to ward off the negative publicity.

On Feb. 5, the convoy finally reached the Chinese city of Kunming, which was ruled by a one-eyed, opium-addicted warlord named Long Yun. To celebrate the convoy’s arrival, Long arranged a performance of music and dance by danseuse Lily Pons at his palace. The ten African -American GIs were not invited to the show; instead, they were sent back to India within 48 hours, as Madame Chiang Kai-shek had insisted that no blacks should ever set foot in China.

While the convoy advanced towards China, Perry was fleeing through the backwoods of Assam. He was captured in the summer of 1944, then court-martialled and sentenced to death by hanging on 04th September that year. But he escaped from the military prison just before Christmas—a jailbreak probably abetted by fellow inmates and black soldiers – who were divided over the issue of his hanging with their white superiors. Perry thought he could rely on the kindness of other African-American GIs to ultimately get him out of Assam, but he miscalculated—a pair of black soldiers eventually played a key role in the manhunt’s endgame. His death sentence was eventually carried out.

While the Perry drama played out in the wilderness, the road’s beleaguered workers kept plugging away. The highway didn’t officially open until May 20, 1945, twelve days after Nazi Germany’s surrender. Less than three months later, on the day of Japan’s final capitulation, word came down from Washington – The road was to be abandoned immediately and all the construction materials either scrapped or sold for whatever value those could fetch. Thousands of men had died for a project that contributed virtually nothing to the Allied war effort.

THE ROAD TODAY:

In 1946 itself, a reporter for the New Republic news paper visited the road. Most of it was then in bad shape and un-motorable. “The jungle, like a selfish woman, was stretching its green fingers out to take back the Road,” he wrote. “The rains had washed so much of the earth away that there were large bites in the Road, looking as if they had been made by some giant dinosaur.”

Even today things don’t look much better. Though the first few miles of the Ledo Road are now paved and well-trafficked, most of the highway is in dreadful shape (Fig -08) – particularly high in the Patkais, where Herman Perry lived among the Nagas. There have been sporadic attempts to make the road navigable once again, but they’ve all come to naught. Partly because of deep suspiciousness of military junta ruling Burma, which fears that a revitalized road would make life easier for ethnic freedom fighters, and partly by the Indian government’s fear of increase in insurgency and drug – trafficking.

A few miles short of the Indo-Myanmar border, even today is present this wartime cemetery, which is filled with cracked stone crypts and overgrown with jungle vines (Fig -09). No one knows how many bodies of the casualties of the construction army of Ledo road are buried there. Nor does anyone seem to know what happened to Herman Perry’s half-Naga son.

CONCLUSION:

This story, in the context of Border Roads is no different from the saga of our folks today – pioneers, CPLs and others. Many of the roads built by Border roads are testimony to the sheer grit and determination – exemplified by long hours of toiling by those unseen, un-honoured and long-forgotten Heroes who faced the same hardships of nature and Jungle, like the work force of the Ledo road, but gave their today for the region’s and nation’s better tomorrow. In part it may also explain the presence of vagabonds, discipline and alcohol cases like Herman Perry amidst us and why we need to have a different approach towards them – a slightly more empathic one.

REFERANCES:

  1. Koerner, Brendan I. ‘Now the Hell Will Start’: One Soldier’s Flight from the Greatest Manhunt of World War II. New York: Penguin Press, 2008: 142. ISBN 9781594201738
  2. The Herman Perry Saga. Proud Heritage Vol 3: by Dallas County Pioneer Association
  3. The Leopard men in Naga-Hills: By J. H. Hutton, Washington University Press


PICTURES:

… The Obstacles In Our Path !

… This is just a story folks, but so apt for present day situation.

BoulderOnRoad

… In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the road clear, but none did
anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.

Pushing Boulder

After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.

The peasant learned what many of us never understand…

“…EVERY OBSTACLE PRESENTS AN OPPORTUNITY TO IMPROVE OUR CONDITION !”