My maiden sojourn of enchanting North-east – Part 2

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By Kajal Chatterjee
Contd from previous issue
The speciality of Kohima was perhaps the supreme dominance of the youth brigade. In my 45 years of existence till date and travel across almost all corners of India and few neighbouring nations as well, I am yet to experience any city which is as youthful as Kohima. While many young men were seen to be playing football in an open stadium with utmost enthusiasm, others were zooming on  bikes with their partners and enjoying themselves in series of cafes and restaurants along the street playing Western music. Indeed Kohima had an unique charm and speciality of its own!
However another unique experience was waiting to happen! Before fall of dusk, we returned to our Hotel for a bit of rest. We had planned to go out for dinner at about 8 PM as our Hotel had lodging facility only. As we stepped out of the hotel, a strange silence and desolateness awaited us. Though we were near the heart of the city itself with the main bus terminus close by, yet the street was absolutely lifeless! Not a single person walking by, not a single shop or restaurant open! Does the city retire so early? Where would we have dinner? As we were passing through dimly-lit pavements, two trucks full of armed security personnel passed by. Suddenly the hard reality of grievance, guns and call of homeland  and its resistance dawned upon us! We got a bit apprehensive of the environment and immediately returned to our Hotel without exploring more. Few pieces of bread and biscuits, which we were carrying,  were utilised to have a working “dinner”! After all it was the matter of one and only night in Kohima as we would be in Imphal the following noon! How could we envisage that destiny was perhaps laughing as it had other ideas  for us!
Woke up in the Sunday morning. My father left for the bus stand to purchase tickets for Imphal, only to return a bit dejected after coming to know that no bus would be plying towards the Manipur capital for being a holiday! Again another novel experience! That means we would be stranded in Kohima itself for another 24 hours! No antipathy towards Kohima;  but we are bound by constraints of time, reservations and tickets. We were scheduled to fly for Kolkata from Imphal on Tuesday evening. So our Imphal tour was planned from Sunday noon to Tuesday noon (maximum 48 hours). If the full Sunday gets spent in Kohima again, we can’t allot more than 24 hours for Imphal and surrounding areas! No option but to resign to our fate! So we spent the whole day by revising the Kohima streets and churches and returned to our Hotel before dusk,  of course after  purchasing necessary food items so that we don’t have to almost starve as in previous night!
Next morning we confidently headed to the  bus terminus to avail an Imphal-bound bus as early as possible so as to make up the lost time a bit. But after waiting a couple of hours, we got hold of tickets for Imphal and at last the bus started indeed! As soon as we crossed over the Nagaland-Manipur border to reach a sleepy hamlet named Mao, our bus came to an abrupt stop. It was learnt that a mechanical defect has cropped up. So we will have to disembark as the bus will return to Kohima and again come back after necessary repairs! Hours continue to pass by, yet no sign of the bus’s return! Meanwhile I have criss-crossed the habitation countless number of times to kill time! However, Mao was no doubt beautiful! Surrounded by lofty ranges on all sides, it housed few eateries and a post office perched high on a hill top. We took a bird’s eye view of Mao and the scenic surroundings from there. Not only had we taken our lunch there, my father bought few post cards also  and started writing letters to his relatives revolving our tour and Durga Puja greetings! At last the bus reached from Kohima and onward journey started. But one thing is sure, again a whole day has got lost as we can’t reach Imphal before evening! That means we can spare only the morning to noon hours for our Manipur tour next day as our flight is scheduled at evening! Now let’s enjoy the path to Imphal! Through the dense green cover of Senapati district and negotiating  rains and slippery narrow roads, our bus came down from the hills to the valley and reached Imphal as the sun was setting. I can’t remember the location of the Hotel, but probably it was Thangal Bazar. Now I desire to narrate an amusing feeling. Right from our entry in Manipur at Mao, what struck me is the similarity between Bengali and Manipuri scripts. The script was similar in Assam also.
(To be contd)

The article was originally published in TSE.

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