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Day 91: Longwa

Longwa, Nagaland and Assam 
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The past and the future in Longwa village. Local Nagas, squeezed in between barbed wire and satellite dishes, cluster over a meal.
Michael Palin - HimalayaThe concrete walls of our rooms in the government guesthouse seem to attract and trap the cold. I get up early. Outside, the mist lies in the valleys, as thick as fresh snow. I walk around the chief's hut, in and out of India, measuring its circumference as 250 yards. I'm full of admiration that something on this scale is built entirely from leaf, stalk, bark, branch and trunk. Shingwong tells me the whole village helps in the construction of these longhouses.

A little further along the ridge, a cluster of tall stones rises from a grassy mound. It looks like a graveyard but is more of a trophy room. These stones represent the number of heads brought into the village.

A crudely dug, stone-stepped pathway runs down from the top of the ridge to a wide flat area with the white cross of a newly built church (by far the biggest building in Longwa) looming over the festival site.its Stalls have been set out round the side of it, selling antique gongs, rattan umbrellas, wooden figurines as well as essentials like clothes, cooking pots and local medicines such as cinnamon sticks for toothache. Food ranges from lemon grass and betel leaves to porcupine, bred for eating. Its strong, tangy, venison-like flavour is considered a delicacy round here, and the quills are cut up and made into necklaces.

In fashion, the generational difference is marked. The young favour saris, jeans and T-shirts but the grannies and grandfathers still go barefoot, their thin, spindly legs often pocked with sores and unhealed grazes.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 91: Longwa
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Longwa
  • Book page no: 211

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