I was on my way to Kohima from Dimapur. It was already 5:30 pm, the sunset time. My shuttle car was moving slowly through the mountain valleys and my phone ringing continuously. The network was pretty bad there. Still, I picked up the call and a hasty voice asked me about my whereabouts. “Call me when you reach Kohima. Me and my family waiting for you”, the voice yelled.
Finally, at 7:15 P.M I reached Kohima. I called him, and the network was a little better. He said that he had arranged for the car for me. His friend was the driver and owner of that car. He was waiting for me near the Kohima main bazaar. From Kohima to his house was another 40 minutes. He asked me not to worry as his driver friend would drop me safely and no payment required. On another side of the phone was Stany, my host in Nagaland.
When I decided to visit the Hornbill festival, It was mid-November. And the festival would be starting on 1st December. The hotels, homestays and tents were prior booked for the festival. Desperate me was randomly searching Naga people on Facebook, asking for a homestay near hornbill festival ground. Then someone contacted me and told me about Stany, his friend, who had started for the 1st time a new homestay business. Post my conversation with Stany had sent me a few pictures of his house. And I was a little worried, whether to book a 1st timer in a new strange place. It could turn to my nightmare. But I didn’t have any other option but to book his house. So I did.
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FAMILY HILL HOME STAY :
I found out the place was in a dense forest and surrounded by mountains. Post reaching there I saw the house was in the deep dark. It was freezing outside. The dimmest light was coming from a bulb which had no intention to spread the ray. Suddenly, a flood of light came on me. I was shocked by that sudden presence as a man was holding a torch. He was merely visible in the dark. Stany was waiting for my arrival. He gave me the warmest hug on our first meet. That was enough to defrost all the ice in my mind. An 8 years-old girl came to me with a smile and glass of hot water. It was so pleasing and overwhelming. I chose a mixed dormitory with 5 more beds in the room. My bed was beside a window. And I already loved my stay.
Next morning when I woke up, I heard children’s playing. That sound was enough to lift my mood. As I came out of my room, I saw the beautiful red and yellow house was lonely in between the valleys. In front of me, there was a huge ground. Wherein the children were playing football. The place was surrounded by greenery. And the same beautiful 8 years old, Angela, who gave me hot water last night, was playing with her beautiful small sister Marline. I could not stop myself from joining them. But 8 months old Marline did not welcome her unwanted guest.
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As I sat near her, she made a crying face. Instantly I made a safe distance. And she became normal. But she kept an eye on me. I utilised that to please her. Marline looked at her left, I did the same. She raised her hand and touched her cheek, I replicated her actions. Now she found it fun and started noticing me. I made funny faces, she smiled, and at a point, she laughed. Post her green signal, I sat near her and stretched a finger. She stretched her finger too and touched mine. Rest of the day she was on my lap.
MY EXTENDED NAGA FAMILY:
Stany made my stay beautiful in Nagaland. His village name is Kigwema village. And his sweet home was situated over a hilltop. As per my calculation, it was the tiniest hill, as his house was surrounded by the biggies. I never imagined to wake up to that breathtaking scenario. The festival ground was a 10-minute walk away. While I was playing with the kids, Stany’s wife came and greeted me with a hot cup of teas. Every day with the children I used to play a football match. Life seemed like a Bollywood film. Good morning Nagaland.
Aka, Stany’s wife, served me typical Naga breakfast, with some fried beans, pork bacon, 2 toasts, and a banana. During the breakfast Stany made me understand the way to the festival ground and the way back home. He mentioned specifically to come early from the festival and to have dinner with them. The menu for the dinner was pork curry, sticky rice along with some other things.
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One night I was very late and lost my way to Stany’s homestay. It was 11 pm. Due to the entire day’s activity, my phone was charged out too. It was pitch dark and lonely. After a point, I felt so helpless that sat on the road not knowing what to do. Suddenly a man was coming from a distance with a torch. I asked him eagerly about the way to Stany’s homestay. The man called my name, “Shuvo, I am Stany. I came out to look for you”. And I followed him home silently as sometimes gratitude can’t be expressed in words
The end of stories is always special to me. I met some Naga friends in hornbill festival and we bonded quickly. They forced me to join them at their place for the rest of my days in Nagaland. I did not want to leave Stany but their warmth was also unavoidable. Stany and Aka made me share their contact numbers, their addresses with them. I am not a kid, but I felt that was more of a family member’s concern.
Stany arranged a small party for my last night. He asked to join his few friends and my new friends as well. With rice beer, besides the warm bonfire, we celebrated the togetherness. While interacting with my new friends Stany found out a common thread between them. I just laughed as he was so relaxed post that. Next morning when I say goodbye to them, Angila and Roland asked me, “are we not playing today?”
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