Many years ago when I was a 14 year old boy my parents painstakingly dressed me as a Naga Warrior for a fancy dress competition.
I didn't roar as loud as I was trained by my parents at the competition and I only earned a mention for the best make up - the warpaint my mother put on me impressed the judges not my roar which was a squeal because I was intimidated by all that I saw and those eyes staring at me.
My parents were quite dismayed at my performance and my father said to me that I was a not fit to be a Nair- a clan of warriors. He admonished me and said Fear No One My Son No One is better than You - Never underestimate your own power to be the best where you are. Give your best and leave the rest to God he said. Don't lose yourself before the battle - He said when I squealed I had already lost the confidence before the show.
14 years later I went to a Naga Village - this time hunting for real Naga warriors and in real warpaint and with real weapons. God chose to give me a second chance to prove to my father that I rose to the occasion. To prove to my father that I am a true warrior against all odds and under fire....
Again the twist - last month the Village Chairman of the Village seeing the Picture exclaimed and said that the dress I wore is that of his tribe and laughed and said I squealed like a Girl because I also wore beads that only women wear .
He then offered me the title of the village Headmans younger brother Pillay Pamei. And so I am now a real Naga from Luangdi pabram Village of Tamenglong
Lifes strange ways
If we can connect the dots that make up our lives then each life is a masterpiece
Defence investiture ceremonies are held every year in March . I had mine in 1996 March- a good 15 years ago. It is an extremely sombre and formal affair in which the President of India confers the Military awards. The President is welcomed with bugles playing the fanfare and is accompanied by the Presidents Bodyguard dressed in full regalia complete with lances and riding breeches as they march majestically into the Ashoka Hall. In the audience sit the Prime Minister, the defence minister, chiefs of the armed forces and many other cabinet ministers who think it necessary to spare their time for this event.
Then of course there are the recipients - on one side - the left side of the President are all those generals, admirals and air marshals who turn out with all their medals and families to receive one of the seva medals - invariably being the recipient of this award - usually coming their way after having become generals .
The young officers, JCOS, other ranks and grieving widows and parents sit on the other side. They are present here with tales to tell of heroism - some are alive to receive the awards, pieces of metal that hardly shine but which has colorful little ribbons to make it look nice. In the same quiet corner there are the wives and mothers - the next of Kin as they are called carrying memories of their lost kin. When the next of kin of posthumous awardees are presented with the medal it invariably leads to tears and sobs when one hears the word “displayed indomitable courage, conspicuous bravery and made the supreme sacrifice while fighting the enemy"
Among the audience in Ashoka Hall, there will be many who empathised with those who lost their loved ones - I realise the varying emotions of such awards and ceremonies - I swelled with pride as I received mine - i was being honored for having killed a few " bad guys"- I thought of a few extra promotions and what not but next to me sat a widow of a young captain - for whom it meant a life time of loneliness as she would now pick up the strings of her life back from where it ended in this metal.
I looked back at the several years that have gone by since March 1996 when I received the award for the encounter as I lay in the hospital bed - the way I lay after I was wounded for a long- long time - I realised how hollow my pride was - The guy who was killed and whose co-conspirators were my friends now and my life’s purpose. They traveled all the way from Manipur and looked me up in the hospital where I am still nursing the wounds of those days. - Promotions that I thought - none of it came my way - but like my father told me- a rank does not make a man but a man enhances a rank- I have no regrets no amount of stars on your shoulder can outshine those of the stars descend down to shine on you if you do a good deed.
Thank you my father for teaching me what it means to be a man true to my salt.