The Kohima Drift
(This is the third update from the Hornbill Festival, 2011.)In Nagaland there are no bad drivers; there are only good drivers and there are those who don’t drive. This is a terrain where simple manoeuvring calls for exceptional skill at the wheel. The adrenaline rush is everyday. For some, it is a living. For others, it is passing youth. For everybody, it becomes the cause de celebre during the Hornbill rally. This is probably the only rally where your steering skills rub shoulders with your punk quotient. Or your pride factor depending on how you look at it. The car driven by two Sumi lads, besides the obvious ‘Warrior’ bold on the windscreen also had a spear, dao and a leather shield screwed painstakingly to the body. The ideation and imagination winner from last year did a rerun this time with his anti aircraft gun and AK-47, the focus of many flashes. Plastic replica, but. Besides the vrooming imagination, the event is high on igniting young minds. Really young, while at it. By the flag-off sidelines, where the media stood with attentive cameras, was this just-ex-toddler playing with a colourful coupe. For her, the rally had already begun. In addition to the warrior and the gunner, there was the usual line-up: the elderly lady from Thailand whose abandon made you suspect she was on a bucket list. Her car sputtered twice before the start much to the embarrassment of her much younger navigator. She told me her name which sounded like some dish made from sea anemones; I didn’t tell her mine. There was the amiable Richard Murray from the UK, driving a Pajero, married to a petite Naga who doubled up as his navigator. “I loaned this car from a friend here,” he replied with typical English frankness when I pointed out that his was the most ‘potential’ machine in the fray. What do you do to have friends like that – who lends you a Pajero – I wondered aloud and he laughed with good humour. No, marrying was no longer an option. At least not anytime soon. Zhavi, my friend from last year’s Hornbill, had agreed to spend the day with us and took us to Jotsoma, a village 13km from Kohima, through which the cars would be passing. Waiting for the kickers of dust, I befriended some villagers including one really adorable old lady. Through Zhavi, I asked her whether she knew that the car rally was on the way. She replied with a wrinkly smile. Had she ever seen a car rally?
Did she know the Hornbill Festival was on?
Had she ever been to the Hornbill Festival?
Smile. One of the best things about Kohima is the many vantage points from where you can get great views of the town. During my last year’s trip to Hornbill, I trekked up a hill called Puliebadze, just eight kilometres from Kohima. The view from here was breathtaking; the climb up took me three hours. Now, as we headed towards town from Jotsoma, we passed by a small cemetery, where a Naga freedom fighter, killed by the ‘Indian’ lay buried. Kohima could be seen from here too – sprawling concrete crawling over verdant undulations. The police headquarters and churches towered over the rest.