The North-East BlogKnow what leading academics, writers, poets, musicians, activists and journalists from the region have to say to develop an informed perspective on matters related to this part of India.
I have always loved animals, albeit a little less spicy. Once as I was travelling to Nagaland, I clearly remember, by the time we crossed Assam and entered Mokokchung district, it was already dusky and close to dinner time. I stopped the car near a Naga hamlet to answer the most important call of nature and to my surprise, at that compromising moment, all I could smell in the air was smoked pork and the famous Naga style fermented bamboo shoot.
That moment of course was the most unusual for my mouth to start salivating but it did. Smoked Pork cooked in fermented bamboo shoot is a delicacy in Nagaland and, it won't be an exaggeration if I said, in the entire Northeast India. In this preparation, the pork is smoked for at least a month and very simple herbs and spices like garlic and chillies are used. It, however, is not as simple or bland as it sounds. The chilly they use in this dish is the hottest in the world. It is known as "Raja Mirch" or " Bhoot jolokia". The heat of chillies is measured in Scoville heat units or SHU and this one measures a whopping 1,001,304 SHU. To compare, the Jalapeno measures around 10 000 SHU. Keeping the math aside, the chilly has a distinct buttery aroma and a lovely flavour which complements the smoky taste of the pork. Meat is such an integral part of the Naga cuisine that the Nagas have sadly chosen not to even spare the Tragopan Blythii - the state bird of Nagaland - from their carnivorous ways. They have hunted them down indiscriminately to the point of bringing the species close to extinction.
The Tragopan Blythii (Jerdon) is found only in Nagaland. I love Naga food for its sheer simplicity. I hate Naga food because if it weren't for Naga food, I'd be a vegetarian.
It was the day of Moatsu - an Ao tribe festival celebrated only for three days from May 1 to 3 after sowing is done in the fields. And I travelled from Mokokchung to a nearby village called Chuchuimlang, a very clean and vibrant village. It felt as if I was teleported back in time. People still lived in the traditional huts and dressed in their traditional garb for occasions like this. I was greeted with a tall bamboo mug or rather, a bamboo jug, of rice beer. And it was only 10 in the morning! Beautiful warrior songs and vibrant dances stole away my time there and by 12 noon, I was down ten mugs already.
There was a big grin pasted on my face but I was not the only one. The entire village seemed to be smiling under the spell of this rice nectar. My host, a pretty lady named Atula, made sure the booze kept flowing. The setting of the village was scenic with small huts scattered about the slopes with passion fruit creepers climbing up the walls to the thatched roofs. The hens in the frontyard roamed free, pecking at the soil within the bamboo enclosures surrounding the houses.
Mr Bendang, a village elder, took out a buffalo horn and blew out a blast of a war-like tune. I was captivated by the music and taken into a state of trance. That, however, did not last long enough. The moment was interrupted by my need to get a refill of the fresh brew that and the fact that there were too many things to witness and enjoy than to pass out in sheer bliss.
PS: Some of the tours and travel websites have a section highlighting "adventures in Nagaland" like trekking and camping. I would like to disagree. The journey to Nagaland itself is an adventure.
More about Raja Sharma Rymbai
Raja Sharma Rymbai, upon completing his degree in mass communication from St Anthony’s College, moved to Delhi and pursued his career for 8 years with various Indian and international media entities like NDTV, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Asian Pacific Post Canada and National Geographic Channel US. With claims of being tired of “Rajma Chawal and Kadi Chawal”, he moved back to the place he calls home - the northeast of India. He is a freelance filmmaker and contributor to international journals and broadcast corporations. His first film, ‘Fallen Angel,’ is the model film for child abuse for the Common Wealth Secretariat in London. He was also a part of the team that produced ‘Abandoned Brides,’ which won the Daniel Pearl Award for best journalism in New York.
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