In December 2021, I booked an impromptu one-way ticket to Dimapur, Nagaland, to surprise my friend on Christmas. In small part as I hadn’t seen her in two years. Mostly because she’d offered to help me explore the untapped parts of the Land of Festivals and Folklore, which for me was a mystical place and let me tell you why.
This same friend also introduced me to Easterine Kire‘s writings. In part because I feast on fantasy and would constantly badger her to tell me the folklores that revolved around indigenous beliefs. Mostly because she wanted to promote a Naga woman author.
Before reading Kire’s books, I was under the impression that literature from the NorthEast was homogeneous, a discussion of the political landscape, equally informative and insightful. But Kire gave me a glimpse of the cultural and traditional roots of the hills and their people. She painted a beautiful picture of the state in my mind and heart.
Journeys and adventures are an integral part of the magical world of the indigenous people of Nagaland in Kire’s novels. The first one I read, Don’t Run, My Love, is about a were-tiger falling in love with a young girl. Using a legend as a backdrop, it is a profound commentary on human nature woven in a compelling tale of love and the demons it sometimes conjures.
Heavily driven by local folklore and beliefs, Kire offers a portrait of the deep interiors of the state sketched with masterful strokes and pastel hues. Its many rhythms, how news spreads in a small community, and the struggle to keep hunger at bay.
You had me at Magic, Kire. My next was When the River Sleeps (winner of the 2015 Hindu Literary Prize). It is, hands-down, a fest for fantasy-witchcraft junkies. The story of a lone hunter on a dangerous quest to find the river of his dreams so he can wrest a stone that will give him untold power.
Son of the Thundercloud is a beautifully crafted tale of myths and legends. Immersing readers into Naga culture and history, Kire wields her formidable literary chops. The story of a man who loses his family in a terrible famine sets off on a voyage and ends up fulfilling a prophecy.
Kire’s work changed my perception of Nagaland as a strife-torn hotbed of conflict. She successfully cast an innocent yet firm light on the beauty the land exudes. Idyllic villages, vast mountains, deep forests and a deep connection to mystical supernaturalism.
But her stories aren’t mere folktales – each addresses crucial behavioural and social issues that show you just how skilful a storyteller she is.
My visit to Nagaland was an immersive experience. I left a piece of my soul back in Longkhum Village; I’ll have to return for it someday.
“…because the people sought to be free whenever they heard the stories.”
P.S. Tell a friend about Just One Thing? If you want to know more about Nagaland, write to me. I’ll do one about my Naga food journey soon.