I have just returned from the north-eastern state of Nagaland, for long a state affected by political violence and underdevelopment. Even before I left, friends and family expressed concerns over my decision to explore this volatile region. The usual expression was, Why Nagaland? I could not answer this before I left, but now I can.
For starters, safety is currently a non-issue. And hope it stays that way. I spoke to Government officials, Army and Police personnel, locals and other tourists – they all gave a thumbs up. They were not wrong.
And the state is beautiful and largely untouched. It is mountainous, with clouds and mist enveloping the peaks all the time – and often coming down to hug the people too. It is lush green – like any tropical forest. It is like the Himalayas meeting the Malabar coastline. And it was cold but not freezing – just the right kind to make it enjoyable.
The cherry on the top are the people – they are warm, fun loving and still leading very innocent and simple lives. The kind you will want as your friends. Yes, language is a barrier – but it never came in the way of my exchanging sweets for oranges from a street vendor. Or bananas with a lady weaving cloth at home in Khonoma.
Other places may have music, but Nagaland has the rhythm. Watch them dance to their traditional beats or to those from the west and you will know what I mean.
Infrastructure for travellers is still woefully lacking though: accommodation is basic at best. Roads can be bumpy in parts. Hiring cabs during peak season has to be planned in advance. If you are a vegetarian like me, food will figure in the plans only to keep you going. Of course, those with fewer qualms can choose from a variety of options unheard of in many other parts of India. But for the all roughs, Nagaland is more than worth all the effort.
I will be writing more about my experiences in the coming days and weeks – watch this space.