Pig nesting in my village
MY grandmother would wake up early in the morning if her pregnant pig did not return home the previous evening. She would often ask one of my uncles to also get up and get ready to trace the pig.
In the 1970s, the village Langmei (Nchiang by the locals) near Tamei in Tamenglong district of Manipur enjoyed the thick forest areas.By nature, free pigs never give birth in the house. They choose to build their nests in thick jungle, often few kilometres away from the village. Locating the nest of a pig is a painful and highly tactful task. People who are swift and strong are heaped upon the responsibility by the elderly women of the village, irrespective of the family relation. One of my uncles, short and swift fitted the bill and so he was a super-star for the elderly women in the village when came to tracking the pig’s nest. However, random search of the pig’s nest is a herculean job in the vast, thick jungle.
A nesting pig normally comes to the house normally in the morning for food. My super-star uncle would pull up his loin while the pig was having its food. The pig would rush back to its nest immediately once it completes its bowl of food. In the blink of an eye, my uncle would run after the pig steep down the hill-lock braving the thorns, creepers and leeches with his eyes glueing to the pig. After the die-hard race with the pig for about a kilometre or more, he would see the pig disappears in a small thick bush. It is actually not a bush but twigs and leaves gathered by the pig to give birth.
An expectant pig bites off twigs and tender leafy branches and gather them in a favourable spot where it feels safe, usually under a big tree or nearby a huge stone. After gathering enough of them, the pig would bull-doze itself into the middle of the heap of leaves and branches and then twirls its body. Minutes later, it becomes a cosy cocoon of leaves and branches where the pig gives birth.
Nesting pigs are ferocious and the Liangmai tribe elders often compare the mercurial persons with the nesting pigs.
My uncle would observe the nest from a safe distance for few minutes and returns home and deliver the first hand report to my grandmother who would be listening the narration with relieving face and joy.
The job of my uncle would not complete there. He would be there again with my grandmother when the pig comes again for food, probably the following day. This time, the affairs would be bigger as more members of the family have to be involved.
The moment the pig comes home for food, my uncle and others would rush to the nest. The operation has to be fast and super-efficient. While the hungry mother pig is devouring its food the operation has to be completed—rushing to the nest with a basket and collect the piglets. After collecting the piglets, they have to choose a different route this time, for encountering with the fiery mother pig on the way back would be a big fatal.
The piglets would be kept in a make-shift cabin often made of logs. My joyous grandmother would be counting the piglets and also identifying their gender. This too, in short duration. Anyone around the piglets when the mother pig returns home looking for its babies, is in great danger for fiery mother pig would not compromise on anyone for ‘stealing’ its youngs from the natural nest.
My grandmother would serve boiled sweet potatoes or boiled tapioca along with red tea (without sugar and milk) to the family members as a token of appreciation and for their service.
Once this news got spread in the neighbourhood, villagers would come requesting my grandmother for the piglets.
A piglet, in those days worth at least three days of hard labour by a grown-up person in my grandmother’s paddy field. My grandfather had no affairs here for this was solely the ‘affairs of the home ministry’ of the family.
A male piglet’s value used to be higher than that of the female. So anyone going for a female piglet had to go and work in my grandparents’ paddy field for at least two days.
The piglets should not be separated immediately from the mother pig even though they are sold. One had to wait till the time the piglets are able to feed by themselves.
When the piglets got matured enough to be separated from the mother pig, my grandmother would inform the people who had bought the animals.
The following day, usually in the morning, the people would come with food in small containers and lure the piglets to their respective homes.
The writer is a Editor of Newmai News Network (NNN)
(NB—The writer is not highlighting the traditional aspect of the Liangmai tribe. He is recalling his childhood memories)