Land of Contradictions
Morung Express Editorial
During the days of State Road Shows, Chief Minister Neipiu Rio would give titles to the districts as he saw them. To Phek he gave the title ‘Land of Tradition’; to Mokokchung ‘Land of Music’ and so on. Nagaland is showcased as ‘Land of Festivals’ while we see some car stickers saying ‘Land of Mission’. While they carry positive messages, there are undesirable titles which are also applicable: ‘Land of Taxation,’ ‘Land of Unions and Associations’, ‘Land of Potholes’, etc. Let me also propose, although there is nothing new about it, that Nagaland is a ‘Land of Contradictions’.
Padma Seth said in a health research report, ‘There are still people in our country some of whom are in the 2nd century India, 9th century and some others are knocking at the emerging 21st century India’. Professor Dipankar Gupta calls our modernity ‘mistaken’ because although we equate being modern with having the latest electronic gadgets and wearing branded clothes, we still carry a primitive mindset. So, although lifestyle has advanced, our minds have not modernized.
A friend clicked a picture of Ghaziabad which shows in a single frame, a five star hotel, a slum, and a multi-storey building complex under construction. This reminded me of a photo I clicked in Mon town which shows thatched houses, tin-roofed houses and RCC buildings existing side by side. I have written before of the ‘other’ Nagaland which we hardly see. When we, the urban-educated-salaried people, think that Nagas are all marching along on the road of progress, there are these other invisible Nagas in our midst who have stood still or are progressing too slowly. A few days back, I traveled to a remote district and what I witnessed re-enforced this notion that we live in a land of contradictions.
In one village which is very near the district headquarter; I talked to women who give birth, assisted only by their husbands. Taken by surprise, I asked, ‘not assisted even by traditional birth attendant, your mother, sister, or any women by your side?’ They replied that they don’t inform anyone while giving birth. How does your husband help? I inquired further. The husband helps in warming water, cleaning up, and taking care of the house. Does he touch the baby while delivering? No, he doesn’t do that. So, it is all done by the mother: delivering the baby, cutting the umbilical cord with a piece of bamboo, tying it up with a sewing thread, and removing the placenta! How many days, weeks, or months of rest do you take before and after delivery, I asked. There is no rest before birth, and one month after birth, they are back to their fields.
Certain women are choosing caesarian section as a normal method of delivery to avoid labor pain. But we have women who still deliver babies at home on their own. The greater irony is that in this village, there is a primary health centre with nurses who are present and willing to assist deliveries. The ASHAs who are community health workers go to these women educating them on the importance of safe delivery in the health centre and announcing that they will be given financial incentives. These women I talked to are aware of such provisions. But that awareness has not translated into action. There is still a big traditional belief and cultural practices barrier (and other factors too like female literacy, income, etc) which is obstructing that knowledge to be translated to behavior change.
The interview with the women was for a report which will come alongside the State Human Development Report. And it compels one to question, what type of development are we talking about? Are we counting the number of cars which have been increasing? Are we looking at the high-rise buildings in Kohima, Dimapur and some district headquarters? The progress we have made so far has not touched a huge section of our rural and some urban population, and we have marched ahead without them. The result is that some of us are knocking at the doors of the emerging 21st century while some are left behind. This blend of glaring contradictions and tragic-comedy situation can entitle Nagaland to be also called ‘Land of Contradictions’.