Kohima – an oasis
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he road outside my house in Lower Forest Colony, Kohima, is unlike any other road: it leads to nowhere and everywhere! Just after a few meters walk down the road from my house, it stops at a dead-end. I remember I used to find this fascinating as a boy ’cause I always thought that roads must lead somewhere. That way dead-ends are rare, they signify something conclusive, and this particular one near my house continues to excite me even now, for beyond it lies a mystical place which my sister and I, inspired by a Robert Frost poem, call ‘The Woods’. Many an evening I find myself ambling through these woods, forgetting the day’s troubles and the world outside for a while. Often, I trek among the cavalcade of lush green pines that covers the hill, occasionally stopping to watch the birds fly back to their nests as the sun prepares to set. Then, during the day when the children are off to learn, the fathers earn, and the mothers gracefully go about performing their chores, I venture deep into the woods—down the stream to the rocky ravine where I can sit for hours and experience the tranquil unity of nature. The changing hues of the sky and the diverse symphony of the forest never fail to amaze me. I look at the small stream unquestioningly fulfilling its purpose, i.e., to feed a bigger river and provide shelter to the plants and animals living in and around it, and I can’t help but think that I too have a purpose to fulfill. ’The Woods’ has a mystical allure that beckons me and, of late, a walk in the woods has become a ritual.I first visited Kohima fifteen years ago, and my recollections are somewhat cloudy. Among the dying embers in my memory of that visit, I remember going to the zoo, which was then brimming with all kinds of birds and animals. Today, only a few dilapidated grey structures remain as grim reminders of the various animals they once sheltered. Everything looked different back then. The streets were cleaner and less congested. There were fewer people, fewer houses, and fewer problems. Yes, time changes everything and Kohima is no exception. Yet, its soul still speaks out to the people—it has passed the test of time and remained intact, and the indomitable spirit which withstood the British empire’s onslaught for nearly four decades—that is the essence of our land, and I pray it remains so forever. Even as a child I felt the warmth of this place but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this beautiful city of warmth and kindness will one day become my sanctuary. But then, Kohima, with its mysterious force and natural purity, draws you towards it and embraces you with its warmth, which I believe is its true charm.
Perhaps, by now, you might have guessed that I am unemployed. A recluse with no job, no money, and no car; I rarely go out. When I do have to go to town, I walk, negotiating the ubiquitous, and at times humongous, potholes along the BOC stretch from where I catch a bus. A pothole, according to Wikipedia, “is a type of failure in an asphalt pavement.” Well, Wikipedia is wrong. POTHOLES ARE A REMINDER OF OUR POLITICIANS’ FAILURE TO FULFILL THEIR PROMISES. But coming back to my story: shoes muddied and clothes dirtied, I somehow blend in with the motley crowd of punks, emos, metalheads, office goers, elegant couples, school kids, old folk in traditional attire, and happy shoppers who fill the city streets during the day. As I walk along the littered and cracked lanes I cannot help but notice the lack of civic sense in the otherwise wonderful city. As for the few popular hangouts and joints that I have been to, one worth mentioning is the famous, or rather infamous, Secretariat: a small patch of jungle surrounded by gigantic office buildings near the New Secretariat complex. A precious retreat in a city where there is limited space for youngsters. I had heard a lot about this place, but when I finally landed here, I was appalled by the mess of papers, polythene bags, chips packets, empty bottles, and what not. There and then, I vowed to never even throw a toffee wrapper on the street again. The way I see it, we Nagas are generally a clean lot, and since Kohima is a small city we don’t really need any path breaking ideas to keep the city clean. Of course, the government and the municipal body could help by installing a few more dustbins around the city, but in the end, it’s simple: DON’T LITTER!
It’s been just five months since I moved to Kohima, but how I love it! Every day feels like a repetition of the best day of my life. In this calm and bucolic part of the city where I live, the morning air feels like ambrosia, refreshing mind and body, invigorating soul and spirit. Waking up early used to be a task, a constant struggle, a failed resolution, but now, it forms the highlight of my day. Whether it is the mesmerizing view of the land flooded in gold on a sunny morning, or the cold and foggy mornings when the city wakes up engulfed in mist, Kohima never fails to captivate. The unpredictable but pleasant weather, the majestic landscape, the breathtaking greenery, the calm and cheerful people, the small but busy markets, the belching blue-and-green buses, the snarling traffic, the narrow, serpentine and sloping roads—everything about Kohima seems magic! As for the young ones, they are a fashionable lot and their clothes add a lively touch of colour to the city. Life here is a perpetual bliss.
Then, on to the night: everything comes to a standstill and the city goes to sleep. The colourful houses are replaced by bright lights forming a protective halo around them. Sitting on my terrace, a thousand thoughts in my head, I watch the procession of headlights on a distant highway, losing myself to the melancholy of the night. An owl hoots menacingly from the woods, as if to warn me of the impending dawn. On the way down, I see the distant light emanating from the cross on top of Pulie Badze peak—looking over us, protecting us, and guiding us through the night. I smile when I realize that, at last, my soul has found its oasis.
O Mhathung Jami
Lower Forest Colony, Kohima