One extra day this year
(This is the first in the regular series of updates from the Hornbill Festival, 2011. I am trying to make this daily for the 500 and counting subscribers of Wanderink.com. Did I say daily? Got to see if I can push my 8pm deadline…)The setting sun was sending out jagged rays through the cotton clouds floating in festival disarray. I could smell the gaiety in the air. And the rice wine, of course. My watch said two o’clock in the afternoon. With disbelief confounded by intoxication, I asked my local buddy the time.
“Your watch is right,” he said with a sneer. Alright, these guys really need a different time zone. I decided to speak to whoever concerned. Like now. Celebrations had begun to waft right in front of my nose during the train ride from Guwahati to Dimapur. Suddenly out of nowhere, a bunch of silk-clad singing males and dancing damsels popped on to the platform. The train had stopped for tea. The dames were a dream and I fell in love twice all over again – with both the girls. The performance was akin to angels appearing as you lie brushing with death, bringing you sputtering back to the world. The dreary train journey suddenly sprang with a newfound passion. And life. I was so happy I shut off ‘The Naked Gun’ I was watching and restarted brooding through the window at the gibbous moon-washed landscape. At the Dimapur railway station, the cheer got contagious. The guy who finally got to transport me and Sahil, my director of photography, had undercut. He was being slapped around by the others. Though he tried to laugh it off, I asked him whether he would like some help. He assured us that they were all friends and managed to scram before we had to scrape him off the ground. Breathing hard, he assured me it was their usual banter, a manner of friendly ribbing. Probably a customary farewell for whoever who gets the last trip out to Kohima. The mirth just didn’t let go of us. En route, we were stopped by army jawans who asked our driver about us. “Who are these guys?”
“They are passengers,” Ali replied matter-of-fact.
“Sir, myself..,” I began to proffer, my usual helpful self.
“Not you, I asked him.” The army man was keener than a game show host.
Apart from stopping by numerous hotels and asking for soda – nobody had even heard of shoda? – we reached Kohima without much event. The house of my friend Zhavi at Naga Bazaar where I had camped much younger and sober during the Hornbill festival the previous year was waiting for me. The only thing I remember about checking in that night was his mom coming to my room with tea and asking after my wife. I told her that my bike was fine. Or maybe it was the other way around. The reason I love coming to Hornbill is the people – every turn you meet someone who turns out to be nicer than the last one. I was here for the entire seven festival days last year, this year I decided to film the last moment preparations as well, making it a merry eight days. The first morning and I met Nakhro, the event director of the rockfest, who assured me I could film anywhere I wanted to. “Technically the government has made the show copyright free for another three more years,” he said. Sahil filmed the stage being set up – reminiscent of the Woodstock, director’s cut.
A fire engine was spraying rain over the ceremony ground at Kisama, the festival venue. The giant black pig looked happy to be carted away pole-bound. Flowers were spruced by sprightly women for the big day. Stalls were being varnished and nails banged in for the red-feathered daos.
I immersed myself with a quality check of the rice wines; tomorrow onwards I was going to be busy.