Sunday, November 21, 2004


The service had already begun when we got to the Kabui Naga village in Chingmeirong. It is a lovely morning. There are loads of shoes outside on the steps. Must be a lot of people here today.

It is a spanking new community hall. It is large, airy and filled with light. The windows are of stained glass, plain green and blue panes. About a hundred worshippers are sitting in the congregation, women on the left, men on the right. The men wear white scarves. The women are in black and white striped phanek sarongs. They have plain black borders, not embroidered, I point out to Zette. She wants one. She wants everything she sees. I should talk, for I want a white scarf myself.

Tamo Gangmumei comes up to me and we seat the women with the rest. Les and I sit with the men. A young man is at the pulpit. A man behind me whispers that he is announcing the successful end to a religious course some young men and women have taken. Tamo Gangmumei leans across Les and asks me to go up and introduce the group. I do so, taking Les with me to speak on behalf of the group. I worry I might appear sexist to the rest.

After my intro, Les speaks. But they want more, so I call the rest up one by one and they speak to the crowd. The choir then sings, a lilting song, a Capella, accompanied only by a large brass gong. Tinkao Ragwang looks on from the altar above, wreathed in scarves and flowers, and swirled with incense. I cannot make out what the deity looks like but there is an abstract brass tic-tac-toe design with a sun and a moon in the top and bottom segments. We go up to the shrine and offer flowers. Everyone kowtows gamely to Tinkao Ragwang, bad knee or not. Lovely. I become a devout atheist.

We have tea afterwards on the lawn. Putting all good manners aside, I ask if I can buy some scarves. I am delighted we can buy them for 50 rupees each. One dollar. But they refuse to take money so I give an additional offering on behalf of the group. But can we get some of the traditional ones with the borders I ask? Mike wants some as gifts. A handsome woman who knew my mother and brother promises to round up a few. You can’t really buy these, I gather.

Dave and I rush off to pick up Yoshiko. The others stay on for a walk through the village. The Rongmei elders want to meet them, Tamo Gangmumei tells me.

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