The first stop we made on our way to Kiphire was at a little chai place that also had some roti-subzi for food. What surprised us immediately was the fact that we were getting roti-subzi on a highway in the middle of Nagaland. This made sense once we realized that the place was run by a Bihari family that had been around for a few years. It is then that one related the fact with the larger idea that at its heart, Nagaland is one of the most liberal and accepting states in the country. This fact was reinforced during our field visits and various other interactions with people around the state. The general sense of acceptance that Nagas have for “outsiders” is very remarkable. Their level of social maturity in interacting with migrants from other parts of the country, irrespective of region or religion, is really something that the rest of the country can learn from.
The most striking thing about the state, however, is the behavior of the police personnel. While travelling through Nagaland, you encounter a lot of police check-posts, where more often than not, you are expected to prove your identity and have your belongings checked by the police. Keeping police behavior in other parts of the country in mind and considering the security situation in Nagaland, one would imagine that the police would generally be curt, rude and even ruthless at times. However, it was refreshing to see that the police, having stopped you for checking, make the effort to come across as friendly and working for the security of the people. They usually apologise for having stopped you and explain why they need to go through your bags. I think it was my first experience in the country where I felt comfortable with a cop scrutinizing my identification documents and going through my bags. There was a strong sense that they understood and respected their people, making an effort to be nice to them in the otherwise unpleasant task of security checks.
With single lane roads where you do not cross a single vehicle in the opposite direction for kilometers, to mouth-watering pork and rice in almost every little town and habitation on the way, a road trip in Nagaland added more to my work trip than I could ever have asked for. Travelling in the state made me deeply appreciate its people, and their warm culture of respecting people for who they are and believing in and practicing the idea of being ‘human’.