Saturday, October 22, 2016


My fascination for bougainvillea is as old as my marriage, which is nearly 2 years old. I was able to make my wife fall for it too and we have been collecting as many varieties/colors as we can. This specimen is one of the prettiest, that it has multiple colours in one plant.

What we have come to understand about growing Bougainvillea is that it is easy to propagate (cuttings around June), low maintenance, loves sun, cannot tolerate freezing temperature, and doesn't like wet feet.

It can be grown in the ground or in pots, and is suitable for Bonsai. It can be grown for fencings, hung from pots in balconies, or as arch for gates.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Intellectuals arise

American cultural critic Chris Hedges said, “Cultures that endure carve out a protected space for those who question and challenge national myths. Artist, writers, poets, activists, philosophers, dancers, musicians, actors, directors and renegades must be tolerated if a culture is to be pulled back from disaster.” When Belarusian writer and journalist Svetlana Alexievich won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature, she started her Nobel Lecture at the Stockolm City Hall with the words: “I do not stand alone at this podium…there are voices around me, hundreds of voices.” Likewise, intellectuals in every society carry the voices of the people. Our own Naga writer, Easterine Kire who won The Hindu Literary Prize 2015 in her acceptance speech said, ‘This is not my book, but our book, because of the number that embrace it’. 

Our society like any other society is going through a transition which is anything but a smooth ride. We see failed institutions and weak leadership which are causing political and social regression in our State. Most of us are now frustrated and infuriated with the plight of our state. But times such as these demand more than our response of anger and frustration. In the midst of the mess we are in, one is tempted to ask the question, ‘Where are our intellectuals?’ In every society, the intellectuals are leaders and agents of change. They guide public opinion and enlighten members of the society about their rights and duties. But if intellectuals, a society’s conscience shapers and keepers, do not forward, how can real change take place?

It will be unfair to assume that our intellectuals today do nothing to address our societies’ problems or anxieties. But their engagement with the prevailing issues is still far from adequate. We are bombarded daily with conflicting ideologies which cannot be ignored or wished away. We need guidance to sort out the truth from the lie. We are in need of stronger ideas to counter or prevail over the false ones. Our society is long driven by norms and values which have become redundant, learning everything by rote and following the crowd without questioning or challenging the status quo. We are in need of change and transformation driven by enduring intellectual roots, firm principles and a clear vision. 

There is a need to create an open space where people realize that they have the freedom and power of the democratic spaces and institutions to talk and discuss about issues which matter. The intellectuals have to take the lead in preparing that viable space so that through it, all may participate and thereby come to a realization of what is happening in the society and what we need to do about it. On every issue that is confronting our society, we allow emotions to overtake reasoned debate. Public outcry and protest tend to get twisted along communal lines making it impossible for sober discussions. Simplistic linear thinking that allows no other view to co-exist and putting authoritative stamp on any issue are marks of an intolerant and regressive society. I believe that a society should create an environment where competing views can exist, where disagreements are addressed or resolved through reasoned debate. The intellectuals among us need to guide us towards that direction.

Thinking beyond a ‘stable government job’

The other word for a government job is ‘security’ because of which many seek for it. Times are changing; the old pension scheme is gone and it is being said that firing from government job for non-performance may become more common in the future. Some people speculate that government jobs in the future won’t be ‘regular’ anymore and every job will be ‘contractual’. In extreme cases (although not rare in Nagaland), government job means that one can get pay without work. I had a neighbor who I always see throughout the year. After several years, I came to know that he is a colleague in the same department posted in his village. When you travel to the small towns in the sub divisions, you see government offices being locked for most part of the year.

Search for government job plays a huge role in our electoral politics. We vote for candidates so that they can give us government jobs. When elected, the assistants (chamchas) of the elected representatives hunt in the departments for every vacancy, and even where there is no vacancy, somehow the candidates get adjusted with the help of a note from the minister’s writing pad. When government jobs are advertised, before the interviews are conducted candidates are already chosen. Therefore, the best people don’t get selected in several cases. The State is run with many people who are neither suited nor trained for the job.

The craze for government jobs cannot be totally explained by the security and the less workload. It is also because there is less employment opportunity, be it in primary sector (e.g. agriculture), industrial sector or services sector. It is said that economies progress from primary to industrial to services sectors. Although the Indian economy is still largely agriculture based, we have been moving from primary sector to services sector almost bypassing the industrial sector phase. In Nagaland, people move from villages to towns in search of a better life. But there are not much industries, enterprises, or companies for employment besides the government sector. After leaving behind the paddy fields in the villages, people move to towns in search of government jobs. 

But once employed in the government sector, the inside story may not be as bright as it seems. Although there is room for innovations, the job profiles are usually more routine and less exciting. So, job satisfaction quotient may not score very high in the government sector. Due to procedures, file movement and works can be very slow. There is always that element of disappointment from disinterested and insincere colleagues or corrupt bosses which can be demoralizing and de-motivating. For the adventurous and the free-spirited person, the operational guidelines and monotonous daily routines can become quite boring. For people who are talented in something else but caught in the wrong job, the purpose and meaning of life comes into question. So, although government sector is a crucial force to run our economy, push our society forward, and offer livelihood to many families, there is much more to life and ways to put food on the table than getting a government job.

With the increased interconnectedness of our world, the gate to the job market and means of livelihood has been swung wide open. In primary sector, we can think of producing from the good land that our dear Lord has blessed us with. It can be agriculture like our forefathers but with all the help from our modern world. It can be setting up our own small industrial or business unit, a conglomeration, or collaboration with bigger ones. It can be in the service sector, tapping the local human resources, and thereby not only earning our living but offering a source of livelihood to someone. Broadening our minds to the possibilities beyond a ‘stable government job’ can free us to live out how we were truly meant to live and fulfill our life’s purpose.


What I am about to describe here may be offensive to some, simply common knowledge not worth writing about to some, or disagreeable to some who may argue that it is only my private individual perception. How do we describe the generation of today? It is not easy because no two people are the same and we all have our own experiences which inform how we would generalize a generation. But as I look at the people around me and assess how people speak, behave, or think, I think a kind of pattern emerges which marks our generation. Although our interactions are limited to the people we come in contact with, the internet has provided a good platform where we can observe the behaviour of people that we don’t even know. What people post in facebook are not all true about them, but they surely tell something about the type of people they are. 

I think one emerging trend which is a matter of concern is that there is a group of young people who are very difficult to deal with. With the risk of offending, this is how I would describe the young generation. There is a generation of half-educated, middle-middle class, unemployed and angry young men and women who are turning into cynics, nihilists, and anarchists. They are educated enough to understand the news headlines and billboard signs, but not enough to critically analyze, weigh and measure, or think through the issues and factors beneath the surface. They are too restless to stay and listen to the various sides of an argument. They run wild in the internet demolishing the government, defaming the politicians, and unleashing their rage and frustration on others. The sun rises in the morning on them and sets in the evening leaving them behind with nothing being accomplished for the day, yet they won’t take any blame or responsibility. The problem is always something else (e.g. government), or someone else (e.g. politicians).  

In our Naga society, life is not easy except for a small privileged group. After having finished school and college, life is still uncertain for the majority of the people. In the past, it was more straightforward; you and everyone will be farmers. But the expectations of young people have changed. In competitive exams, there are limited seats and only the best will get selected. In the government sector, if you are not well connected, you cannot get even an assistant job. If you want to start a business, you need capital money but your parents can’t help you and you don’t want to start small. For the privileged, it is much easier. One can start well by going to a good school, ending up in a good college/university. For competitive exam, one can afford the best coaching centres. If one wants to start a business, there is huge resource to start with. Many times, everything is laid out on a platter by parents. The privileged group enjoys a lot of ‘indirect-Reservation’ in this sense. Although one may come out in a competitive examination in unreserved category, all the privileges in the background amounts to a position of advantage over other people. A competitive examination in this sense is actually not a level playing field for everyone. The opportunities and resources meant for the people are grabbed and siphoned off from the privileged at the top. All of these add up to the frustration of the average young men and women, turning them into critics and cynics. 

But despite the circumstances and where one is at the moment, it is time for the angry young men and women to face up to oneself and see what one is actually made of, and what one is going to do about it. The biggest problem may not be out there. The biggest battle may have to be fought within.

A brief recap of the year 2015

Nagaland woke up to the year 2015 with the news of its elected representatives being divided into 2 camps, one group based at Sovima and the other at de Oriental Grand Hotel. As a result, 7 NPF ministers and parliamentary secretaries were suspended and the crisis led to the ultimate showdown of the floor test on February 5. But it didn’t live up to the suspense as all the 59 legislators voted in support of the incumbent Chief Minister. Fast forward, in November the 8 congress legislators were merged into NPF and Nagaland created history by having the first ‘oppositionless’ government. The winter session of NLA as a result was finished in 30 minutes as there were no questions to discuss.  

Exactly a month after the tame floor test, Nagaland was shocked by the lynching incident in Dimapur which made news headline across the world. Neither the problem of illegal immigrants nor the morality angle of the issue could justify the horror of evil which unfolded. It was a testimony that we humans are capable of carrying out the darkest evil deed. It was a shameful incident and a total disgrace for Nagaland in the eyes of the world. The religious image of our Naga society took a severe beating.  

The signing of framework agreement on the 3rd August between NSCN (IM) and GOI interlocutor gathered much interest among the people. Everybody wanted to know what was being agreed upon. There were speculations amongst the Nagas and anxieties amongst the neighbors but it seemed to be devoid of any major detail. Although any concrete result which will come out of any following peace accord remains in the future, there is concern that so long as negotiations are with only a single group, the solution to the Naga political issue will not be final. The year 2015 saw bloodshed following ending of ceasefire between NSCN (K) and GOI on March 27. It is also the year when NSCN (Reformation) was born. Nagas have been longing for peace and the longing is about to be a year older. 

The above select incidents do not portray Nagaland in a positive light. But all things considered, we ought to be thankful and believe that we have inched forward. One positive thing to take from this year can be that there is increased consciousness of what ought to be. There were lots of protests and these are signs of hope as opposed to resignation to the fate which has befallen us. By protesting, we do not take things for granted; we demand and fight that things should become better. For example, the sorry state of Corruption that we live in is of our making, and so will be the struggle to come out of it. The voice against corruption has been growing louder and louder this year, not least through the initiative of ACAUT. Although people still get away with it, there is reason to hope that practicing corruption is going to become more and more difficult in the years to come. In corruption but also in other areas of our individual and collective lives, we ought to never lose hope but look forward to another year. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Local and a Tourist

A local and a tourist may be both interested in a place but it may be for very different reasons. A case in point is a commentary that this newspaper carried ‘Hornbill: The Grand Illusion’ written by a local, and a response called ‘A reader’s response’ by a tourist. One difference between a local and a tourist is that if the later does not like the place, he can pack and leave and never come again. But a local does not have that liberty because the place is his home and that is where he belongs. A tourist does not need to have any connection to the place. But not so for the local, everything that happens in the place affects him.   

The tourist here was not interested in the context. He was only interested in what he experienced during the 10 days festival period. It doesn’t concern him what lies behind or beneath the spectacle of Hornbill festival. But for the local, context matters and he spoke in the context of lived reality. He had the ability to connect the dots and create connections because he lives in that reality. He referred to the lack of opposition in a democracy, the implications of the socio-political and religious life of the Nagas, unpaid salaries of thousands of Government employees, CAG reports and unfulfilled projects running into thousands of crores of rupees, and the discontents of the people in the run-up to the festival. But from a hotel room, it is understandable that an outsider cannot create the connections. That is alright for a tourist (so long as he does not pass judgments). It is more of a concern that locals could lead schizophrenic lives and is as unable as a tourist to make the connections.   

For a tourist, it is not easy to identify ‘exhibitionism and commodification’ of culture that the local alluded to. Therefore, an outsider questioning a local’s analysis of his own culture and calling it ‘an exercise in intellectual snobbery’ speaks of who the real snob is. Some tourists read the history and culture of the people they will be visiting and are mindful of the sensibilities of the local people. A ‘cultural team’ comes in jeans and latest modern fashion and changes to a costume which covers only a fraction of the body, puts up a show for a price, and leaves as he came. And that is defined as ‘promotion of culture’. Perhaps against such things, the local spoke.

Locals speak out in the hope that things can be better. It is not criticism for the sake of criticism from a safe distance. Locals ought to raise uncomfortable questions and bear the responsibility of living with what one had said. ‘Why be so negative?’ some people who follow ‘positive attitude’ as a religion say when such uncomfortable issues are raised. But it is extremely important that there are voices of self-critique (without going into cynicism). That can be a positive sign, that people do care and they truly have a sense of belonging and responsibility to the place.