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Day 90: Longwa

India-Myanmar border, Nagaland and Assam 
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Morning mist on the India-Myanmar border. Clouds cling to the mazy valleys of Nagaland.
Michael Palin - HimalayaThe people of Longwa are Konyak Nagas, the most numerous of 16 sub-tribes. They used to be known as the Naked Nagas, the title of a book by an Austrian anthropologist who worked here in the 1930s, some of whose observations, such as 'Virginity wins no halo in the Naga heaven', suggest reasons for his fascination with them.

Today, things are very different. Such has been the success of the American Baptist Church that 99 per cent of the Naga have been converted to Christianity. Nakedness is a thing of the past, as is the once common custom of head-hunting. (Though a recent National Geographic article reported evidence of active head-hunters as recently as 1991.)

We have come here with Shingwong, whose official title is Extra Assistant to the Deputy District Commissioner. He's a soft-spoken Konyak, with square, grave features, more Tibetan than Indian. He wears a Western jacket and trousers. Tomorrow there will be a big spring festival here and the guest of honour will be the local MP.

The MP has asked to meet us and after our meal tonight Shingwong takes us to see him, in a small, dark barn, with a hard earth floor. By the looks of things the MP's had a few. His eyes are unfocussed and his mouth seems to have collapsed at one side, making him look not only unattractive, but dangerous.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 90: Longwa
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Longwa
  • Book page no: 210

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