Post Mortem

Roads to Destiny

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 7/5/2019 1:02:41 PM IST

 “You have stayed at this mountain long enough. It is time to break camp and move on.” Deuteronomy 1: 6-7

I watch the images flicker on the screen and I see a familiar face— that of my previous landlord and former pastor of Phek Town Baptist Church, the late Rev. D.N. Soho. A deep sense of loss fills me. 

In my early twenties, while teaching in a college in Phek, I was a tenant of the late Reverend. Twenty years later, he is no more and that I too am reaching the middle stages of my life. I see some more known faces on the screen, and they have aged visibly. Two things struck me immediately— time really does fly, and that keeping of memories or documentation of events is of utmost importance. These thoughts fill my mind as I attend a meeting called by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) on 9th March, 2019 to interact with the members of the Naga civil society.

As the meeting goes underway, and the members put their heads together to discuss various issues, different opinions are raised. The atmosphere is one of contemplation. Both the young and the old speak up and express their beliefs and experiences. The general feeling is that we seem to be stuck in an in-between space, having started the Journey of Common Hope ten years back with enthusiasm and we are yet to reach the destination. And therein lies the paradox- reconciliation is seen as a goal to be achieved by the public but the FNR sees it as a process. And the expectations that the people have of the FNR is sometimes overwhelming. I can sense the heaviness of the burden and cannot help but empathise with this group of devoted men and women who have taken it upon themselves to carry this collective burden. Surely, like Moses, they must have encountered a ‘burning bush’ to render their services to what may, at times, feel like a thankless job. Because we Nagas, with our penchant for forming groups and associations, strangely also have a dislike or contempt for authority and thus, along with other institutions, FNR has also become a lightning rod for our collective frustration.

I am also reminded of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to Canaan. The book of Exodus shows that just as the Israelites’ deliverance was a process, a journey that could be completed only one step at a time, God almost always leads us step-by-step instead of moving us instantly from one situation to the next. And just as the Israelites’ murmuring and complaining slowed them down on their journey, the same spirit of belligerence will also slow us down.

The culture of cynicism and ‘demands’ that has seeped into our society where we hold everyone else except ourselves responsible for the mess we are in coupled with what we read in Ezekiel 16: 49 as “pride, overabundance of food, prosperous ease and idleness” are some of the biggest hurdles facing us today. The Israelites’ pride, greed, idolatry, misuse of blessings, criticism of others, lack of faith, jealousy, and support of evildoers that is chronicled in the Bible should serve as a lesson for us. At one point of time the Israelites even got fed up of the daily manna they received from God and treated it contemptuously.

Today, are we treating the reconciliation process and its accompanying peace with contempt? Just because we have not seen the FNR post daily updates on social media, it does not mean they are not doing their work. But I also reiterate the need for documentation, not only to serve as evidence of work done but also to remind the younger generation of what it was like before the FNR was formed. And here I would like to quote Monalisa Changkija: “All tangible and non-tangible cultural activities are basically generational relays, not least literature and activities thereof… we are also inspired to write because at a very primal level there is this urge and the urgency to tell our stories and of those around us thereby we subconsciously continue the literary generational relay of not only story –telling but also of bringing to the cognizance of our generation and the ones that would follow about the many dimensions of the realities of our lives – thereby recording the several histories that happen simultaneously in any community, any society.” 

If the process of reconciliation is to continue without break, the youth should be brought on board. A young man stated in the meeting that 50 -60% youth are not aware nor convinced of the Naga Reconciliation process. “Youths”, he said, “do not talk about reconciliation but about settlement, agreement.” A young woman I spoke with in another conversation, told me about her frustration with the older generation, “30% of parents do not communicate with us, 30% have give already given up on us. We have very few mentors who can guide us. They brush away our queries saying that we will not understand such weighty matters. There are also some very traditional elders with whom you can never win an argument so we just pretend to agree with them and keep quiet.” Apart from opinions like these from youngsters trying to make sense of what is going on, we also notice that many have become apathetic to the issues in our society while they enjoy the latest tidbit of pop culture voraciously. This disconnect between young people and the older generation should be bridged if the ‘generational relay’ of stories, histories and processes is to continue.

In her latest book, Walking the Roadless Road, Easterine Kire emphasizes on the importance of listening. In the Prologue, she writes of how Niketu and Christine Iralu have turned their home Kerünyüki (or the Listening House) into a space where “groups in conflict with each other can come together to listen to one another, and find ways to coexist in peace.” Niketu, a member of FNR, is now in his eighties and he has devoted his life to making “individuals encounter truthfulness and peace and use them as tools in dealing with conflicts- both inner and outer- in their lives.” Kire calls him the “Naga bridge-builder.” Niketu is one of the humblest persons I have met and I think it requires humility to really listen to someone else’s opposing point of view. Elucidating on the title of her book in an interview, Kire further says that it is a phrase she has borrowed from Niketu who said that Nagas “are trying to walk the roadless road with hope for peace.” It is about carving out peace for future generations. It is making the choice to leave violence behind while valiantly trying to preserve our cultural values even when we are overtaken by modernity. It is also about the choices we make and the courage to walk out of choices whenever necessary.

Today, I stand in the same place where my elders stood many years ago - trying to make sense of issues I deemed too political or too intellectual for me. I have nothing to reply when the younger generations demand answers. And if we are to resume the journey, I am certain that, I too should start by listening.

A. Sentiyula

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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