Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pain Killer Tablets in a Paan Shop

 Before 25th July, 2010, no medical doctor had set foot in Zanger village of Pungro Block, Kiphire district, Nagaland. The village is however fortunate to have a Health Sub Centre, a government school, connected by motorable road (since the last 3 years) and electricity.  In the region, it wasn't lagging behind when measured by these developmental parameters. Zanger is a small Yimchunger village which is about 45 minutes drive (could have been much less if the road conditions were better) from Pungro town. On 25th July, 2010, medical team from Pungro Community Health Centre and NMM staff Mr. Tangit Longkumer visited the village.

The villagers said the road was fine. But there was a landslide the night before. We weren't carrying spades, which every vehicle should be carrying in this region in summer. We used sticks to clear the road. The gun? It's sad people don't realize the importance of wild life preservation.

While the guys worked on the road, the two nurses posed as country singers. It was Sunday and were off work, but they volunteered to come along.
Today we are here...Tomorrow where shall we be?
The missionary friend proved to be a daredevil once again. We all got down as he drove through this patch....

Many Nagas do not know Zanger village. There aren't big government officers nor highly qualified intellectuals from this village. Those who can afford to go out have settled in Kiphire or Pungro town. In fact, it is saddening that even village leaders holding important posts do not actually stay in the village.The Village Health Committee Chairman, for God's sake, came to the village in our vehicle!!
The village church bell, one of my favorite pictures

Inside the Church...In Pungro area, there are only two Church buildings built with Concrete. Moya and Pungro village (2011)

Spicing up the Health Talk with a song. The best day to visit the villages around the region is Sunday. On week days, they can't afford to lose a day's work for a 'program'
The SubCentre doesn't even have a nurse. The Pharmacist also has been transferred recently.
My good friend, Dr. Imkong Sangtam (AYUSH) getting ready for the health camp after the Church service.
And as I posed.................

 energetic missionary friend made the arrangements

The energy-draining-but-enjoyable Health Camp in full swing
On our way back.... Despite our effort, it was also just a 'Hit and Run' situation. That is what medical camp approach is like. How do we provide health care that is accessible, affordable and available whenever the people need????????????
Something to cheer while reflecting soberly on this health care dilemma...This gate is no ordinary gate. If you pass through and don't close it behind you, you'll be fined Rs. 5000. It serves to separate Mithuns belonging to one village from escaping into another....
Back to Pungro. On a clear evening as this, you can see Mt. Saramati (flagged) from the MO quarter, Pungro CHC.

Now, what has 'Pain Killer Tablets in a Paan Shop' got to do with this trip? I didn't have the opportunity to capture it in Camera, but in Zanger village, there is a Paan shop where Diclofenac tablets are sold. What has this got to say about suffering and health care services? Official reports and studies do not capture these types of realities. And what if such a thing is reported? The interpretations may run as 'Irrational Drugs Use', 'Ignorance of the people', etc. Many people think that the poor people are ignorant and do not care about their health. But the reality is; in the absence of medical services people are doing all sorts of measures to relieve their sufferings. A Sub Centre is entitled to have a nurse, basic medicines, etc. What villages like Zanger need is not our pity; they need justice.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reliving Thanamir Village Trip

Thanamir Village of Pungro Block, Kiphire District is the last village in Nagaland bordering Myanmar.  Trekkers to Mt. Saramati hold the night at Thanamir and prepare for the climb the next day. The villagers provide the trekkers with Potters and Security Guards. Why Security? To protect the trekkers from wild Yaks. Recently Thanamir has also earned the 'Apple Village' title for the juicy apples that are grown in the village. In the middle of July, 2010, I made a trip to the village with a few friends from the Nagaland Missions Movement.

 Here's how it began: We filled our tanks at Pungro Town, my base

The road in this bend held us for almost an hour. You cannot see any house here, but this site is proposed for setting up a new town called Khongsa. Villagers from neighbouring villages will come and settle here. EAC office is the only house constructed so far.
While we were held up by mud, I clicked this double-peaked mountain. I think someone else clicked it too and put it in a government calendar. We have just crossed the NSCN(IM) designated camp at Salomi village, so, I'm sure the cadres at the camp will be enjoying this view everyday.

At last, the first sight of thanamir. On the upper left quadrant of the picture below, you can see some white specks. That's our destination village

But first, a river to cross and those winding roads to travel

The two missionary teachers, Rev. Amos and his son

Ambulance crossing the Likimro river
We made it

We wasted no time to climb the second Saramati

Blueberries to cheer us along the way
Very thick jungles...It's a good thing the village youth has banned plucking of orchids and wild plants
Medicinal plants at the top of the mountain
Dressed in their red Gaon Bura waistcoats, the villagers who took us up weren't tired at all
Jungles as thick as cauliflowers...those are jungles where wild yaks come for drinking salt water

                            Why I came to Thanamir.

Of course for this too. The most common health complaints were backpain and pain abdomen. Back pain because of heavy work and carrying heavy loads up and down the steep terrains; pain abdomen because of indiscrimate use of pain killers to relieve the backache and joints pain. Inter-related
Pigs roam freely with the kids. In my health talk in the church, I stressed on the importance of sanitation and urged them to enclose the pigs in sties. After some months when I visited the village again for apple festival, it was such a delight to see the village much cleaner and pigs all enclosed

The future

Couldn't go back....It rained the previous night and the river was flooded. So we climbed 2 hours back to the village 

It wasn't all that bad, we met this lovely couple. These two stones are said to be a couple
Next morning at 5, we walked down to the river, hoping and praying that the river level has gone down
Thank God, it didn't rain heavily the previous night. But crossing the river this time was much more difficult. The villagers came armed with ropes to pull the vehicle.
That is Fakim village...Fakim Wildlife Sanctuary. General Knowledge for competitive exam

 Lots of lime stone deposits too

Again held at the would-be-town

Finally back to Pungro..lovely flowers belonging to Mrs. Bendangla, wife of my esteemed missionary partner Tangit Longkumer, who took me on this memorable trip
Displaying my trophies: green wallnuts collected along the way
and a wood turning into stone, from way to Saramati

And finally, the man behind "Saramati Apple, Thanamir Village", Mr. J. Yungbokhiung. He moved out of the village years back to start a new village. But when he heard I was collecting stories of the apples in Thanamir, he visited me at my quarter in Pungro. The man who planted the first apple tree in Thanamir. Without him, there would be no 'Saramati Apple' and I wouldn't have published my apple story

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

10 Commandments on how to debate online

I wrote this for a discussion forum in facebook
1. If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything.

2. When you are about to comment, be careful to read all the other comments ahead of yours so that you do not needlessly repeat what has been said by others before.

3. When you are about to post a comment, especially on something that you disagree with; be careful to read even more carefully, so that you don’t misrepresent your opponent’s view. Worst of all is to contradict yourself and go round about yourself when no one’s arguing with you anymore.

4. Don’t use foul language or personally attack the person you are debating with and make it difficult for the two of you to meet in real life.

5. Going off topic may be necessary once in a while, but as far as possible, stick to the thread of the discussion.

6. Don’t complicate yourself by using high-sounding words that you are not comfortable with.

7. Let others know if what you are saying is a personal opinion or an established fact.

8. Be compassionate with those who know less than you.

9. Remember that you also carry a baggage behind your opinions. Your opinions are never totally objective/impartial.

10. If you have something to say, speak it out. Don’t be too humble.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

‘Go forth and blog’

‘Go forth and blog’ - Pope Benedict to his priests

You don’t have to be a writer or a scholar to be a blogger. To start with, you don’t even need to have good English. That can be learned in the process. The good part about blogging is that you can edit your blog posts anytime you want. You are the master of your own blog.

If you try to always write masterpiece articles, you won’t last long. After a few posts you will have nothing new to say and you will be fed up of blogging. If you have something that interests you, say, a picture, a video, or a passing thought, post it right away. This makes blogs more interesting than websites; that they are more informal, more open to discussion, and makes you sound more human.

Do you feel that nobody will want to visit your blog or hear what you have to say? Well, that’s something you need to work on. In my first year of blogging, hardly anybody visited my blog. The reason? I was too humble to advertise my blog. It’s the way you present yourself baby. Not to be a show-off or an attention-monger but to show up at the right places and at the right time and say, ‘Hey people, I have something genuine to say’. Your own Facebook Wall is a good site to place a link each time you post in your blog. And remember, no one would want to read a long and boring post unless her life depends on it.

If you love photography, you can start a photo blog. Post a picture and write something about what you were feeling when you took that picture. Fashion blogs are also quite common. We have some good Naga fashion bloggers. OK, so you are a zero in fashion sense. Great. Start a fashion blog and post the weirdest dress combinations in the world. In blogosphere, that may work wonders. If you are crazy about books, post a list of books you have read and grade them in a scale of 1 to 10. That can be a conversation starter. You may give 8/10 to a book while some friend may disagree, ‘8/10? Come on, I’d give it 3/10’. Then you defend why the book deserve 8 marks out of 10. If you are going to give a speech, posting the draft speech in your blog for open discussion can be quite helpful.

My blog has done wonders for me. My love for writing was there but blogging has deepened that love into an obsession!!! It was because of my blog that Eastern Mirror approached me to be a weekly columnist. I was paid a few hundreds per article. I quit because of some problems and lack of time, but the best part is: to date, the 7 articles in Mirror Website has been hit 6,848 times, i.e. in spite of my not being able to speak well, I have found a voice. Saramati Apple story is doing fine and it featured in a newspaper in Kolkata.

I was adamant to commercialize my blog for a long time, but I did it and now, I’ve started to earn from my blog. All you have to do is place advertisements (Adsense) in the corners of your blog, and when people click them, you get paid. To date, I have had 3001 visitors from about 15 countries. To start a blog is easy. Go to or (there are lots of others) and register for free. As Pope Benedict bids his priests to ‘go forth and blog’; so encourage I you.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Good Lyric

Good lyrics are hard to come by these days. Jibberish penned to fit into formulaic music abound. According to Theologian Ben Myers and wife, the worst first lines goes to Katie Perry's 'Firework'. Here's how it goes:

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind,
Wanting to start again?

To wikipedia, the song is 'a self-empowerment anthem with inspirational lyrics', but according to Myers, 'Katy Perry has achieved something that I never would have dreamed possible. She has managed to vulgarise that-than-which-nothing-more-vulgar-can-be-conceived: the plastic bag...Brothers and sisters, until I heard those lines I was seriously tempted to believe in universal salvation. But I have turned aside from my errors: nobody who writes like that will inherit the kingdom of heaven'.

It is no doubt difficult to write good lyrics, forget about making the lines to rhyme. But ooooooonce in a while, you come across some lyric that make you go, 'hey, that's the type of song I want to write'. The song lyric below is one of those. Not that I fully understand what it says, but it sure is interesting because of the style and the ambiguity of its meaning, that make one to imagine. Another attraction is that the music isn't one of Imbruglia's best. So, what gets one hooked to the song is not the music but the lyric. Now that's something!!

Butterflies: Natalie Imbruglia
Swallow purple terror candy
Don't forget to breathe
Sickened by the wanting
And drowning from the need
This dichromatic vision
Of one who does not care
To sipping cocktail sedatives
Two months to hide somewhere


Butterflies, Butterflies
Cut the stomach out and hand it over
Butterflies, Butterflies
My heart will be the bridge that-
you walk over


The wolf has caught the chicken
And now I feel unsteady
Emotions on the blink again
So kick me when you're ready
Here lies a violet coffin
The death of my control
Along with all my skeletons
They put them in the hole


Sickened by the notion
I give myself again
Choking on the bullet, the gun-
thats found a friend
So raise your glass to sorrow
And drink to all the pain
Tie a silver ribbon around
The pieces that remain


Butterflies, Butterflies
Cut the stomach out and hand it over
Butterflies, Butterflies
My heart will be the bridge that-
you walk over