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Along with the Hill Miris and Apatanis, the Nyishis are one of the main tribes of the Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh. And like others, they too have their annual festivals. The main one is ‘Nyokum Yullo’ which I was lucky to witness in Boasimla, a village on the way from Ziro to Daporijo.
The event was held in what looked like a village playground cum stadium. Apparently the complete populations of Boasimla and neighbouring villages had turned up to join in the festivities, most of them dressed in their traditional best. Hundreds – from children to youth and some older too – had been got together to perform their dances for the audience and the chief guests who included the local legislator. Some of these dances go by the names of ‘Rikham Pada,’ ‘Buya’ and ‘Ropi.’
While the dances and music were attractive, something seemed to be missing. One, the setting was too stage managed. Many of the dancers were partially dressed in their traditional and partly in modern. And there was too much attention being paid to the politicians and Government officials present. But to their credit, the performers were full of enthusiasm and cheer, just as any of us would be for our main festivals. I got a chance to chat up many, and wish I had more time to spend with them. They all came across as people who would make great friends. One of the girls even proposed to me on the spot. Whoops!
When I reached my car to leave, I noticed someone had tied some leaves to the side view mirror. It looked like one of their symbols to keep the spirits away. I left it there, and it stayed that way till I reached Delhi even though the leaves had dried up. Challenges awaited me ahead in the journey, and I would attribute my safe return to this symbol.