written by - Rajat Chakraborty
The year was 2007 and I was invited to my friend’s house in Wokha, Nagaland. I had never been to Nagaland before and instantly felt excited about it. There are many good things about serving in the Indian Army and one of them is travel, to the remotest places in the country. Capt Lawrence, was a course-mate, a unit officer, a gentleman and a true warrior. He was from Wokha, a remote village about 4.5 hours from Kohima town. Capt Vineet was another highlander from Dehradun and me, though from the plains had an infinite affinity for the hills. Today, we were invited to a warrior’s house.
On one hazy afternoon, the three musketeers Capt Vineet, Capt Lawrence and myself kick-started from the unit on a 6 day leave to go to Pune for a 6-month long course. It would take us at least a little more than 6 days, to call our leave a genuine ‘leave’. Nevertheless, finding fun out of adversities had always been a part of life. So, the three musketeers decided to travel up North East, in an exactly opposite direction further into the Garo Hills, through the splendid green jungles, zigzag routes, and panoramic landscapes to the lesser explored Dimapur City.
With giant-size rucksacks which formed the major part of the luggage, we started our journey towards Nagaland on a four-wheeler. With Ceat powered wheels to boast of, we were less bothered of the bumps that came our way.
On the way, the Kaliabor Bridge is a structure that one cannot afford to miss out on. Spanning more than 4.5 km, this bridge spreads over the width of the Brahmaputra river. And needless to say, standing on top of the bridge, the view in front is breathtaking.
We reached Dimapur early morning. The night had been a tiring drive, and we pushed our limits, but the wheels kept us going. The roads were wet with some slippery patches in between, yet we moved on. Capt Vineet being a highlander was the one we could trust upon behind the wheels and he was a tough nut to crack. So was our jeep with the Ceat tyres, that seamlessly brushed across all the curves on the road.
By dawn, we were at Dimapur. We reached a palatial house in the heart of Dimapur city, where we took a small nap to rest our tiring legs for some time. When we got up around 09:00 am, the breakfast was served. In the Nagamese customs, food is generally preferred boiled, and that is the most healthy way to eat. But, neither the second musketeer Capt Vineet, nor I, were used to it. Maggi was still prevalent back then, but we never imagined having eaten it without the tastemaker. To our surprise, the maid had conveniently dumped the ‘Maggi tastemaker’ down the drain. How we ate it after that is a discussion we wish to keep within ourselves. The Maggi retreat still continues to be a hilarious discussion amongst the three.
After a tour of the Dimapur town, a small group of friends joined us for the evening. They welcomed us in the true Nagamese hospitality and spirit, a gesture we can never forget. There was immense respect for uniform, and from within, it made us feel proud.
Nagamese people cannot do without non-vegetarian. Same was with me. So, naturally, I felt at home. The best recipe I ever tasted in ages was the chicken cooked with tender bamboo shoots. Hmm, they have a royalty in their taste.
We bid goodbye to all the friends in the morning and started for Kohima. The music in the jeep was on full volume, and the songs were chosen to add taste to the moment as we travelled through nature’s abode. How we miss out on the subtle beauties of life! And I thanked God for blessing us with this moment. All the way, we could see smiling faces on the road bends, children waving their hands high up, welcoming us to their beautiful home. The U-bends sometimes took off our seats, but our wheels kept us together through everything.
We entered the historic Kohima War Cemetery, where rested the souls of thousands of valiant soldiers of the World War-II, who fought the bloodiest battle of that time – the Battle of Attrition; out of 85000 soldiers, only 20000 survived to tell the story.
The next spot was the Kisama Heritage Village in Kohima. Though it was not the season, but the place has sitting areas for the evenings and bonfire places. The entire Kohima town appeared over a splendid landscape, the evenings here have a distinct bluish tinge that instantly connects you with your inner self.
When we finally reached Maj Lawrence’s house, it was an eye-opener. The village of Wokha still tries to deal with problems of basic infrastructure – electricity, water supply, educational facilities; where Capt Lawrence started from and where he reached is a journey in itself. He became the only person in his town that time to be commissioned as an officer in the Indian Armed Forces. And through all the tough times, he rose to crack the toughest interviews the Indian continent has to offer- The Services Selection Board. We used to make fun of each other quite often, for all the humour that went on among us, but after this moment, our bonding and respect as friends deepened even further.s
We were welcomed by his father, at the door, a noble man, who at no point seemed to forget the value of the skin we chose to put on us- our uniform. As we spoke to his father, and it was a long chat, we realized the respect the Nagamese people have for the warriors; after all, they too are one, and every warrior has a code of honour. A sense of silent respectful gesture they extend to their kind. Finally, as we got up to leave, he gifted us a souvenir; a Nagamese scabbard which held the traditional sword upon an elaborately and intricately designed cross-strap. It was a gift from a warrior to a warrior, which always stays close to our hearts.
Any warrior who sees death from close knows the true value of life; they know the importance of those little things that matter a lot; those little things in life which we often tend to ignore until such things ignore us altogether. A warrior lives for the moment; for he knows the next moment may or may not belong to him. In these few moments, he lives limitless.
We boarded our jeep and started our journey out of Dimapur. This road-trip had brought many lessons to us. A lesson that we as new warriors would take home, for this will teach us to go beyond ourselves upon the call of duty for our country, whenever we are called upon for it. This was the essence of our journey.