This is from my brief work stint at Kohima. Disclaimer: I love the people & the place. This is not to written to offend the people or culture of Nagaland (I hold both in high regard) but just how a veggie gujju would view things there. Peace
The kitchen needed onions. On our way back from the Kohima Municipal Council, we asked Gopal, our cheerful and super punctual (especially while dropping us back) Nepali driver, to stop by any local market for a quick purchase. There are many markets enroute to our new ‘home’ on The New Ministers Hill, a tony (read: pretentious) address, and like the name would suggest, lording over the valley, overlooking the cloud kissed hills on the other side, and the city and its subjects. Gopal chose for us a market with enough space near it to squeeze in his Omni.
Markets in Kohima are almost always on the ground floor of an open multi-storey complex with open booths in an inverted U shape with a narrow aisle presumably so that the buyers can have a good look at their purchase and smell them, and also narrow enough, I suppose, to enable buyers to look deep into the eyes of “thee-who-would-soon-be-devoured”. Needless to say, the markets of Nagaland are not for the queasy
Here is my exaggerated (only slightly) and entirely skewed impression of my first visit inside the Naga market.
FROGS: Alive, well, almost alive. Idling in broad shallow plastic tubs half filled with water, looking disaffected and in quiet contemplation of things to come. Betraying not an iota of interest in the worldly goings on of the bazaar, they seemed to project a calm that can be attributed to either a lifetime of rigorous spiritual practice or the one portrayed after a pipeful of the best Himalayan Pot. You might be mistaken in thinking that the plucky ones, with strong hind legs, could easily jump out of the shallow buckets to attain freedom, but I could see no such ambition in any one of them. As if they were reached complete indifference between being fried or freed. Those emancipated souls…those!
RATS: White Mice, actually. Kept in cages hanging on the post. Unlike their frog brethren, with whom they share a common fate, these mice were hyperventilating (meth?) jumping around nonstop in their cages like kids minutes before their picnic bus is due to arrive. They seem to be looking forward to the whole dying-and-being-served-up-in-a dish thing actually. As if they have been indoctrinated into believing the glories of the rewards of the afterlife (Heaven is made of Cheese, my dear children).
GRASSHOPPERS: Dead, but all of them had their eyes closed. One had to look really close to locate the sockets actually. As they the entire community of grasshoppers had unanimously decided to shut their eyes tight before death approaches, so that they may ‘attain’ the look of fibrous leafy vegetables, perhaps believing that it was their cardinal duty to reduce the guilt of the one who buys them by looking like, well, an innocent leafy veggie. It was very clear to me from all this that these grasshoppers must have never met pigs, cows, frogs, sparrows, or mice in their entire lives.
SPARROWS: I think they were sparrows. Very difficult to identify the species. A bloody mess of feathers and flesh tied together at the legs to be sold in bundles, perhaps. An ornithologist’s nightmare.
EELS Dried, smoked (how else do you blacken them?) neatly arranged. Each forming a perfect round (face touching the tail) given an symbolic expression of having ‘attained a full circle’ in a certain yogic terminology. For the more western minded they looked like Olympic rings, as if celebrating the 100 day countdown from Kohima. Poor things, they have been piped to the post by death.