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Day 91: Longwa

Michael Palin - HimalayaThe chief doesn't look like a man who needs another bottle of rum at the moment. As I hand it over, his wide, bloodshot eyes meet mine for a moment, and I feel like someone who's arrived very late at a party.

He has been the Ang, as they call the local headman here, for 25 years. It is an hereditary title, and will pass to his son, provided that son is by the daughter of a fellow Ang, and not by one of the chief's concubines. I ask how many concubines he has. Ten, comes the answer, after a longish pause for calculation.

He will probably be the last Ang for whom head-hunting was a condition of office. He has taken five heads, he claims. He is now a Christian and was baptized, by total immersion, in a nearby stream. When he was young, he says, the village was ruled by fear; now it's ruled by the fear of God.

I still can't get used to hearing such Sunday School sentiments from a group of people who, with their bleary eyes, boar-tusk headdresses and monkey-fur decorations, look like every missionary's idea of the unapologetic heathen.

Tonight a huge thunderstorm breaks over Longwa. Torrential rain rakes the tin roof like machine-gun fire and a mighty rushing wind sets doors banging, dogs howling and curtains blowing. Good weather to lie in bed to.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 91: Longwa
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Longwa
  • Book page no: 214

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