An Assam tigress hooked on livestock too intelligent to be caught

Tigress F03CATCHING A Royal Bengal tiger is tough. Catching an intelligent tigress “addicted” to livestock is tougher, forest officials and veterinarians in Assam are finding out.

F03, the female tigress that strayed out of the 78.81 sq km Orang National Park in November 2017, has given her potential capturers armed with tranquilliser guns the slip at least a dozen times since. Officials said she could even be out-thinking their moves.

Nothing that the officials have tried – from building an isolated cattle shed with live food inside to using baits in a camouflaged cage – has worked so far. To make things worse, one of the veterinarians on the job fractured his leg on Sunday morning after falling from the back of an elephant startled by the presence of the tigress nearby.

As the patience of people in seven villages covering a 6 sq km area wears thin, wildlife experts fear the tigress could be too smart for her own safety.

A tiger that took the same route as the tigress to prey on livestock of farmers last year, was poisoned. We need to do something fast for the safety of the tigress as well as the villagers, but she seems to be always a step ahead of us,” Orang’s divisional forest officer Ramesh Gogoi said.

F03 is one of 24 striped cats estimated in Orang National Park after a tiger census in 2017. She followed the Dhansiri River that flows down from Bhutan through Udalguri district before entering Orang on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra.

Park officials said she has made a cluster of villages 3 km upstream of National Highway 52 on the northern edge of Orang her hunting ground.

Tigers are territorial animals and there is a possibility F03 lost her space in Orang to a stronger tiger or tigress. For a park that has the highest density of tigers in the country, space is hard to come by. This could be a reason why she has ventured out for easier kills,” Mr. Gogoi said.

A machan for observing the tigressNocturnal turn

The tigress made her first kill – a pig – in Udalguri’s Borobazar village on November 11. From the last camera-trap images, wildlife officials suspected it to be female feline number 03.

We put up cameras along the route the tigress kept using. Image from one of the cameras last Friday night confirmed the tigress to be F03. She was captured from near where a pig was tied as a bait not far from one of three machans (treetop platform to keep a watch on animals below) in her prowling area. But she avoided the pig, travelled 2km to a village beyond the Dhansiri river to eat another pig,” the Assam Forest Department’s Dhansiri division DFO Madhurjya K. Sarma said.

The pig was the tigress’s 42nd kill comprising domesticated pigs, goats, cows and buffaloes belonging to Garo and Bodo tribal people. “We are interacting regularly with the villagers who have shown remarkable restraint so far,” Mr. Sarma said.

Tigers in the wild hunt during the day. But F03, officials said, has taken a nocturnal turn preferring to prey on animals when the villagers are asleep.

A team of about 25 people and two elephants – Chandra Bahadur and Arjun – from Orang have been following F03’s trail. The tigress’s movement has been monitored on the ground and from atop the three machans places strategically.

F03 is operating from a safe haven in an expansive grassland and oak plantation on the western bank of the Dhansiri river. The grasses are taller than the elephants, and since tigers can leap as high or more than the height of an adult elephant, it is risky to venture too deep into its domain,” Mr. Sarma said.

Elephants on tigress capture missionScared jumbos

The two elephants are used to smells of tigers in the wild. But there’s something about F03 that is holding them back during the latest operation to capture her. The operation started on August 28, a day after the arrival of two veterinarians, Bhaskar Choudhury from Wildlife Trust of India and Samsul Ali from Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation at Kaziranga.

Dr. Ali fell from the back of Arjun about 6 am on Sunday. “Arjun, the elephant, got scared by the scent of fresh excreta of the tigress and the screaming of the pig tied as bait nearby. He stood up as Dr. Ali had mounted, and the accident happened,” Mr. Sarma said.

Dr. Ali was taken to the civil hospital at Darrang district headquarters Mangaldoi, where an X-ray was done. But doctors there said his fracture below the knee was beyond them. He was taken to a private hospital near Guwahati.

Mosquitoes and bugs are making it difficult to keep watch at night. But this is a job that needs to be done. Hopefully, we will be able to tranquillise her soon and take her back to where she belongs,” Mr. Sarma said.

But, Orang officials said, that could be easier said than done. “She has gotten used to easy kills. She does not need much effort for food, unlike in the wild. There is no guarantee that she, after being brought back to the park, won’t venture out again,” Mr. Gogoi said.

That’s a call senior wildlife officials would be taking when they meet at Orang soon.

(A truncated version appeared in The Hindu on September 3, 2018)

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New heroes make northeast India a good sport

THE FLAG-BEARER of independent India’s first Olympic (London, 1948) contingent was Talimeren Ao. He was also the captain of the Indian football team that went down 2-1 to France in the second match.

In the 1966 Bangkok Asiad, Assamese sprinter Bhogeswar Baruah shaved three seconds off the record that Japan’s Y Marawi had set in the earlier edition of the Games.

Ao, son of a Naga reverend, was perhaps the ideal icon of nationalism that India overlooked at a time when the seeds of separatism were being sown across Naga-inhabited areas. And Baruah, many felt, was no ‘mainstream’ Milkha Singh to be a national celebrity.

Then MC Mary Kom happened, a star enough for Bollywood to make an eponymous biopic.

“The northeast has always produced quality sportspersons. But the spotlight on everything negative about the region made them non-entities. There was also this psychological divide between people on either side of the Chicken’s Neck (narrow strip in West Bengal linking the northeast to the rest of the country). Mary Kom changed that, allaying the feeling of alienation in the region and making others accept we are as Indian as they are despite our looks and cultural differences,” sports organiser Balen Chakraborty said.

Chakraborty organises the annual Abhiruchi Sports Day on September 23 to celebrate Baruah’s birthday.

“Much of the region’s problems are linked to joblessness. Our youth are physically endowed to excel in various sports that ensure employment. This is why sports infrastructure is our priority,” said Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla.

The region has at least 1,200 sportspersons employed in the public sector besides the state police and central armed forces. Besides, some 150 footballers from Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Assam are regulars in India’s top soccer clubs.

“The time for the northeast to be India’s sporting superpower has arrived, and it will change the perception people elsewhere in the country and beyond have about the region,” sports journalist Subodh Malla Barua said.

The region’s sporting strength was clear in the 2010 Guangjhou Asian Games that had 59 athletes besides six coaches and officials from Manipur. And in the recently concluded Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Manipuri athletes won eight medals.

Here is a list of new sporting heroes of the northeast.

Jeje Lalpheklua Fanai, 23: This striker from Mizoram is tipped to be the next big thing in Indian football, and the Indian Super League is expected to showcase his talent

Chekrovolu Swuro, 32: This archer from Nagaland didn’t just win a silver medal in the 2011 World Archery Championships in Turin; the state took pride when she qualified to represent India in the 2012 London Olympics.

Jayanta Talukdar, 28: Seeded No 1 in the 2009 Copenhagen World Cup, this archer from Assam made it to the Indian men’s recurve team in the 2012 Olympics.

Shiva Thapa, 21: Third in the bantamweight category in AIBA Men’s world ranking, this boxer from Assam is the third Indian to win an Asian Games gold and is tipped for greater glory in the 2016 Olympics.

Anshu Jamsenpa, 35: World’s first mother to scale Mt Everest twice in 10 days, this mountaineer from Arunachal Pradesh is often cited as an example of sheer grit and determination.

Yumnam Sanathoi, 27: This Manipuri might have lost her semifinal bout to China’s Zhang Luan in Sanda 52kg category in the ongoing Asian Games, but she is one of the reasons behind wushu’s popularity in India.

Laishram Devendro Singh, 24: One of Manipur’s many international boxers, he won a silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games but lost his semifinal bout at the Incheon Asian Games amid controversy.

Laishram Sarita Devi, 29: Also a victim of controversy at Incheon, this Manipuri boxer is a world champion.

Sanjita Khumukcham, 21: This weightlifter from Manipur won gold in the 48kg category at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Tarundeep Rai, 30: This archer from Sikkim made his international debut in the Asian Archery Championship 2003 in Myanmar, and went on to become the first Indian to win an individual archery medal (silver) at the Guangzhou Asian Games, 2010.

(A truncated version appeared in the Hindustan Times today)

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Indian rhinos have skewed sex ratio

Photos by Rajibaksha Rakshit

THE ONE-HORNED rhino has defecated its way to a worrisome revelation – its sex ratio is more skewed than that of humans in India.

The first ever rhino census through genetic analysis of dung samples collected from Gorumara National Park in West Bengal in April 2011 put the number of the armour-plated herbivore at 43. More importantly, it confirmed what error-prone conventional animal census methods said earlier this year – rhinos have a male-female sex ratio of 4:1.

The census was carried out by Assam-based NGO Aaranyak, which developed the technique of DNA fingerprinting by analysing dung over a year. The NGO has also provided technical support to genetic population estimation of Javan and Sumatran rhinos, the other two species of Asian rhinos.

“Dung provides the source of DNA sample of every individual and find out its sex. Besides being error-free,this method negates catching of animals which is easier said than done,” UdayanBorthakur, Aaranyak’s dung analysis expert said. “The only thing we cannot estimate is the animal’s age.”

The conventional method – headcount by field workers – applied by the West Bengal forest department at Gorumara almost matched with the genetic method. It revealed the park had one female for 3.5 males.

“The conventional method is suspect because it is not easy to ascertain the sex of rhinos in the field, particularly the sub-adults whose genitals are difficult to notice,” Borthakur said.

According to Assam chief wildlife warden Suresh Chand, the skewed sex ratio is a matter of concern since it could impact the animal’s reproduction. “The dung route to DNA fingerprinting will be taken for rhino habitats in Assam too,” he said.

Assam has 55% of the world’s one-horned rhinos, the bulk of them in Kaziranga National Park followed by Orang National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. These three habitats together have 2,483 rhinos.

“We hope the rhino population in these preserves do not turn out to be as skewed as in Gorumara,”Aaranyak secretary Bibhab K Talukdar said.

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Crap concept 2: Mathematical

  • Trash is jabor in Assamese
  • In Bengali it’s jabra
  • Arabs found it doubly apt
  • And called their stuff Algebra
  • Tri is three, gund buttock
  • And friendship is maitri
  • So gay triangular love
  • Did sire Trigonometry
  • Butt naturally comes anus
  • And all that it releases
  • Brains who shat in the fields
  • Found in crap the plusses
  • The pyramids they left behind
  • And cylinders and pellets
  • Shaped shitty Geometry
  • Thrust down our gullets
  • A chap with semi-loose motion
  • Studied his spherical goo
  • “All I ate has come to nought”
  • The Zero he thus gave you
  • Zero’s the greatest invention
  • Despite Stats and Calculus
  • If it butts in, into your sum
  • You’re left holding your phallus
  • What zero tells us is so plain:
  • “Math is crap, you bum
  • It screws up your budget –
  • The income-outgo sum”
  • What you add up in life
  • They multiply with zero
  • So just crap your ass off
  • Not be a calculating hero
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The cow strikes back

Netted from

COWS GIVE us gobar. Bulls shit.

We weren’t aware of this gendered faecal fact when we wrote those essays in school. Heck, we didn’t even know a cow wasn’t a ‘he’ that gave us milk. Until we were old enough to find out writing on ‘The cow’ for 10 marks was basically bullshitting.

If you consider half the children on this planet went to school since 1912, the cow is the most written about earthling. This assertion is based on those who opted for ‘Our school’ but ended up writing on the cow that ate grass on the field behind/beside their school and possessed a range of assets from the grass swallower to the gobar ejector.

Before we could master B for bull – oops, ball – and C for cow (cat?), we knew the creature in old McDonald’s farm that moo-mooed everywhere and the one that jumped over the moon because the cat was in the fiddle. We could make no head or tail of those nursery rhymes, but the teachers ensured they were moosic to our ears.

As we grew older, books told us pigs, horses, dogs, cats and donkeys – rats and cockroaches too – were more equal than cows. George Orwell didn’t live long enough in his Bihar birthplace to make the Animal Farm cows ruminate on fictitious chara, but those bechara bovines were traumatised by Napoleon’s milk-pinching pigs. Walter Wangerin’s Dun Cow was more fortunate as a riddle-happy messenger god sent to help a rooster king battle the forces of evil.

Cows presumably began calling the shots after Dana Lyons and Jeff Sinclair gave us Cows with Guns, which a website said was a sure-shot Bullitzer winner. Another site listed the top 10 limericks on cows, the only printable among them being:

  • There lived a young cow in MA
  • He always had his own say
  • On the grass he would chew
  • Saying merrily moo-moo
  • He often even ate hay

Only a gai – the ‘he’ is a giveaway – could have written this limerick. He presumably hadn’t heard about Mangala’s academic appetite. If you didn’t know, Mangala is the cow that ate some 150 class 10 exam answer sheets in the western Assam town of Goalpara in March 2012.

Mangala probably chewed on Assamese answer papers to cownter decades of sexist exaggeration about her tribe. And on history to find out, in this land of holy cows, if the celestial Nandi and Kamdhenu were her ancestors. But experts couldn’t fathom why she also made a meal of science, if not to learn the art of making synthetic milk or to discover how security is beefed up in a rebel region.

For those bullish on education, Mangala’s was the final cowntdown for a system that has apparently discarded its archaic bovine craft to board the RTE flight. Her progeny will eventually find out if it is powered by gobar gas.

Let’s fasten the cow belt and wait until the cows come home.

(This appeared as a ‘middle’ on the edit page of Hindustan Times on 26 April 2012; RTE is Right To Education)

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Chunavi chhichhorapan

(A nonsense apolitical rhyme in anglicised Hindi)

Election hai yeh LoSa
EVM pe hai bharosa?
Hai toh bhagwa BhaJaPa
Nahi toh INCa MaKaPa!

Hungama hai kyun BaSaPa
Thodi SaPa jo lee hai?
Kyun ho TriMoonh phulaye
Dharam ghoont hi toh pee hai!

Ukhadoge BiJaD se
Toh RaJaDand paaoge
Kate pankh JaDaU si
Phadphadate reh jaaoge!

Share kiye AIMIeMe toh
BhaKaPa machaoonga
Purane jhol RaLoD kiye toh
ShiSe se katwaoonga!

JhaMuMora kabhi toh
TeDePate rahoonga
Ranga KCR bane toh
AAPe se baahar aaoonga!

Woh jeetenge bole toh
NCPitoonga, shapath Ma Durga!
Hum jeetenge bole toh
Tere DraMuKh me daaru murga!

(LoSa: Lok Sabha; MaKaPa: CPI-M, or Marxwadi Communist Party, as used in Hindi; TriMoo: Poetic liberty taken for Trinamool; BhaKaPa: CPI, or Bharatiya Communist Party; ShiSe: Shiv Sena, poetic liberty again; JhaMuMo: Jharkhand Mukti Morcha; DraMuK: Dravida Munnetra Kazagam)

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No phool stop in #Bengal

  • Made of Bengal’s maati*, Ma Durga is now gone
  • Leaving the field to maanush* post-bisharjon*
  • The Devi and the demon have had their share of war
  • It’s now time for two flowers to jostle and to spar
  • One blooms in muck, the other blooms unseen
  • Saffron is one’s credo, the other swears by green
  • It’s the battle of the lotus, or Nelumbo nucifera
  • And of the ben* in blue, wielding ghaashphool jora*
  • But before the story begins, let’s go back in time
  • When dal-tomato cost an aanaa*, fuel just a dime;
  • When grass was just cow fodder or durba* for the gods
  • Or cousin of the kaash* that rides the breeze and nods
  • When flowers moved the bards, or bees for pollination
  • Were plucked for love and prayers, or festive celebration
  • Then came along a sahib, Curzon was his name
  • Armed with viceregal knife, for slicing was his game
  • He sowed the seeds of split that flowered decades hence
  • As shiuli* in the West and shapla* across the fence
  • Two brown sahibs took over to carve out their spaces
  • They learnt law in London, were same coin two faces
  • One said to the other: “Ab to Jinnah tere bin!
  • The other replied: “Rule the Nehroost, aameen!”
  • Before stroke of midnight, when Hindustan was born
  • Bengal paid a heavy price, ripped apart and torn
  • Madhabi*, Karabi*, and Champa* and Chameli*
  • Bled red like hibiscus offered to Ma Kali
  • But picking up the pieces was in the Bong khoon*
  • They ploughed flower beds to turn their fortune
  • That was when the man in his Jawahar coat
  • Thought it was his right to rock the Bengal boat
  • From a policy on freight to the Berubari* deal
  • The wounds that he inflicted did not seem to heal
  • The rose that he wore appeared to be a thorn
  • Here BC Roy felt pricked, there Jan Sangh was born
  • The lamp* that Syama* lit, into lotus turned
  • Long after West Bengal in Naxalism burned
  • Lal gulaab* wilted as lal salaam* reigned
  • Jyoti shone, Buddha smiled but Bangla still was pained
  • A painter-writer-poet from Kalighat rose
  • She soared like a Biman and grounded the Bose
  • She crooned like a Singur on Nandigramophone
  • Comrades faced the music with broken backbone
  • The grass the Marxists mowed, sickle in hand
  • Sprouted and swayed, to the tune of Didi Band
  • Blue-and-white swamped red in Poriborton*
  • The grass flower blossomed as acres were won
  • Far away in Delhi, the change happened too
  • Mitron,” he said, “Ek mann ki baat kahoon…”
  • Flower of the flock, or snake in the grass?
  • Is he empty vessel, or really made of brass?
  • To size up motabhai*, you need not be a ben
  • All you need is hyperbole and a bit of gau ken
  • Didi-Superdada did try to sew the cleft
  • But Right was taking over what was left of Left
  • Kalaichak, Dhulagarh were just the stuff it needed
  • And grass flower mukul* no longer heeded
  • But ghaashphool has no petals, just the bracts
  • And lords over the plains, less on hilly tracts
  • The petals of the lotus are elements of earth
  • Anchored in the mud, they represent rebirth
  • They need muddy waters to appear bimal*
  • And revive the Curzons to re-slice Bengal
  • Some lotuses have sau petals, as has marigold,
  • Or sayapatri divine of the Gorkha bold
  • Wait… there’s a grass that grows on paahaad*
  • Bambusa vulgaris – it’s handy at times of war
  • Let us not worry about who gives whom baansh*
  • Fan the festive mood and sway with the kaash
  • Bamboo, by the way, is vital for a witch
  • To fly to the hills or touchdown on a beach.

(This was written for the post-Durga Puja issue of a Kolkata-based magazine in 2017)

(* Maati: land; Maanush: human; Bisharjon: immersion of idolGhaashphool jora: pair of grass flowers; Aanaa: discontinued unit of Indian currency; Durba: type of grass offered to deities; Kaash: type of autumnal grass associated with Durga Puja; Ben: Sister/elder sister in Gujarati; Shiuli: State Flower of West Bengal; Shapla: National Flower of Bangladesh; Madhabi, Karabi, Champa, Chameli: names of flowers; Khoon: blood; Berubari: West Bengal territory ceded to East Pakistan despite stiff opposition from locals and BC Roy’s government; Lamp: Symbol of Bharatiya Jan Sangh; Syama: Syama Prasad Mookerjee, founder of BJS, precursor of BJP; Lal gulaab: Categorisation for Nehru-Indira Gandhi fans at that time; Lal salaam: Allegiance to Leftist ideology; Poriborton: Change, slogan of Trinamool Congress; Motabhai: Elder brother in Gujarati; Mukul: Bud of a flower; Bimal: Transparent; Paahaad: hills; Baansh: Bamboo)

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Prateek Hajela: The man behind Assam’s NRC updating exercise

Prateek HajelaFew bureaucrats in Assam, including J.P. Rajkhowa who had a controversial tenure as Governor of Arunachal Pradesh post-retirement, have made headlines as much as Prateek Hajela, Principal Secretary Home and the State Coordinator for the never-before exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of 1951. He has received bouquets and brickbats in almost equal measure. But both admirers and critics agree he has the unenviable task of delivering an error-free NRC, work on which will continue after the July 30 deadline set by the Supreme Court for publishing the second and final draft.
What is his background?
Mr. Hajela, 48, comes from an illustrious family in Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal. His father S.P. Hajela was an MP civil service officer and his elder brother Anoop Hajela is a leading doctor in Bhopal. His uncle P.D. Hajela was a renowned economist who served as Vice Chancellor of Allahabad University and Sagar University in MP. A 1995 batch IAS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, he had acquired his B. Tech in Electronics from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi in 1992. As Home Commissioner, he had handled the aftermath of an ethnic cleansing in 2013, and was later appointed Special Commissioner for emergency operations. He received the Chief Minister’s award for transparency for the recruitment of more than 5,000 police constables. But these did not attract as much attention as during his stewardship of the NRC updating exercise since September 5, 2013.
What challenges did he face?
Mr. Hajela and his team had to create their own model of updating the NRC as there was no precedent anywhere in India apart from a failed pilot project in Assam’s Barpeta and Chhaygaon undertaken in 2010. The problem faced with the 1951 NRC was that it was a reproduction of that year’s census without any citizenship check. Besides, rule 4A – Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules of 2003 – for Assam meant people had to apply unlike other states where officers go house-to-house to enumerate. He created the mechanism to be implemented, and the first major step was the development of the legacy data where applicants have to submit the 1971 NRC or pre-1971 electoral roll (mandated by the Assam Accord that sets March 24, 1971 as cut-off date for detecting and deporting illegal migrants) that they would search for. Digitisation of the exercise was the next hurdle followed by building a team of 68,000 government officials and contractual workers and specialists to run the NRC Secretariat in Guwahati and some 2,500 Nagarik Seva Kendras across the State. Forming the base took almost two years before the verification process began from September 1, 2015. He claims the entire exercise is technology-driven and transparent with enough safeguard for Indian citizens and a grievance addressing mechanism.
Why has he courted controversy?
Detractors have likened Mr. Hajela to the Reserve Bank of India that used to issue a string of notifications during demonetisation. He was first accused of pruning the list of admissible documents after the partial draft containing names of 1.9 crore out of 3.29 applicants was published on December 31, 2017. On May 1 this year, he issued a notice saying documents such as court affidavits, village head certificates and birth certificates with delayed registration would not be considered legally admissible for NRC. And on May 2, he issued another notice directing the centres not to include names of siblings of a person detected as an illegal citizen. While indigenous groups appreciated these steps, communities such as Bengali Muslims and Hindus – often ‘suspected Bangladeshis’ – sniffed a “predetermined” move to make millions stateless. His submission before the Supreme Court on July 2 that names of 1.5 lakh people would be deleted from the first draft has strengthened the statelessness scare. Mr. Hajela insists there is no communal agenda behind a transparent exercise that propagandists have targeted as being anti-minorities and designed to snatch citizenship from millions of Indian Muslims. People not listed will be given opportunities to prove citizenship through claims and objections, he says.
(This appeared in The Hindu)
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Nagaland’s Japanese subculture

Nagaland Otakus

The Nagaland Anime Junkies gang: (Anti-clockwise from right) Founder Biebe Natso, Akumtemsu Jamir, Angutobi Shohe, Alo Semy, and graphic designer Ayim Longkumer; they religiously sport dresses with anime characters or the logo of Otaku, meaning Japanese geeks.

The church in Christian-majority Nagaland is wary of satanic cults. And when Nagaland Anime Junkies (NAJ) organised the State’s first cosplay event in 2013, they were presumed to be anti-Christ.
Cosplay (‘costume play’) is a hobby-turned-global-event where participants wear costumes and accessories to represent comic book characters, specifically Japanese anime and manga.
“It was a time when gravediggers and church-raiders (who left behind signs of the ‘Devil’ with the blood of sacrificed animals) were troubling Nagaland. Some 500 cosplayers were believed to be anti-Christ because of their face paint and fancy get-up,” says Biebe Natso, the founder of NAJ.

After their ‘initial suspicion’, the church is no longer wary of cosplayers. And the State’s new groups — Otaku (Japanese geeks who wear graphic tees and sport spiky hair) and Wapanase (who follow the fashion trends of Japanese film stars) — are forging ahead, populating manga and anime content with home-grown superheroes and villains.

A series of events starting in the early 2000s opened doors to the new subculture riding on comic books and animation films. In 2002, a group of Japanese religious leaders visited Nagaland to apologise for the invasion of 1944 that led to the Battle of Kohima. In 2009, Japanese musicians performed in Kohima and in 2011, Nagaland’s popular rock bands organised a fundraising event for Japan’s earthquake and tsunami victims.
NAJ, the anime lovers group, was formed in 2011, the year the cult Japanese film Crows Zero series revolving around high school delinquents, took Nagaland’s teenagers and pre-teens by storm. Major retail outlets set up exclusive manga and Japanese film kiosks and anime clubs were formed in schools and colleges. “Club members kept to themselves, demarcated areas and even fought,” says Akemtemsu Jamir, an Otaku and cosplay fanatic. Crows Zero led to formation of school gangs too, forcing the government to ban its CDs and DVDs.
Thejakhrienuo Yhome

Thejakhrienuo Yhome: Now based in Bengaluru, she produced the first ‘local’ digital manga series in the Northeast, titled Carnaby Black.

But a decade before Japanese culture made inroads into Nagaland, it was Korean pop culture, or K-pop, that ruled. “It is not that the Japanese tide has replaced the Korean hallyu (wave). But while K-pop has stuck to standard Korean music and television series, action-packed manga and anime and the range of issues they cover is more appealing to the younger generations,” says Ayim Longkumer, NAJ’s graphic designer. Natso who graduated in political science in 2008, also does event management besides organising cosplay contests. Longkumer has an M.Tech degree, Jamir is a final year student in a Bachelor of Dental Science course in Wardha, and Alo Semy, another NAJ member, is an engineering gaduate.

“We are just passionate about manga, anime and cosplay. It’s a hobby. Slowly, the perception that our tribe is wasting its time or is good-for-nothing is changing,” says Angutobi Shohe, NAJ member and a geology graduate. Indeed, parents have tended to discourage the Otakus while elders of community-based organisations in Nagaland have been sceptical about their intentions.
“Some may think we are crazy or not conforming to what society deems normal,” agrees Semy, but points out that they consciously shun habits such as smoking and drugs besides promoting local handicraft with an anime twist at events.
But not all elders are discouraging. Thejakhrienuo Yhome, who created Carnaby Black, the first digital manga comic series from the Northeast, was fortunate in her teachers who put up with her obsessive sketching during classes; and her parents who let her pursue her passion. A self-taught artist, the 24-year-old Yhome is a production artist based in Bengaluru. Her job requires her to conceptualise and draw settings where stories take place and create character designs.
Abhishek Choudhury“Nagas generally assimilate sub-cultures with ease. And the artistic freedom I was allowed at home helped me work on Carnaby Black, which is about whimsical magic. It was after watching an episode of Pokemon that I began drawing,” she says.
She was halfway through the story — on characters dealing with terminal illnesses, growing up, and their relationships, all cocooned in a sense of mystery — when NAJ proposed to sponsor and print it in 2013. She is now working on the next in the series.
Carnaby Black’s ‘global theme’ involving elves and wizards spurred the desire to produce comic strips with local content. Kohima-based construction entrepreneur Imtizulu Jamir owns the manga and anime studio Basement Empire, which is producing a series set in a futuristic Nagaland — a Nagaland that was never colonised, and has kept pace with science while preserving tradition. The story revolves around two friends Anouk and Helozu. The Naga villages are the last oases on an Earth ravaged by wars with robots. The series is created by Assam’s Abhishek Choudhury, now working as an art director with an ad agency in Delhi. The second volume came out last year.
HOPS4422“It is an effort to tell a story with local symbols, elements of history, the culture of the region and blending it with cyber punk. There is a craze in the Northeast for Japanese characters but a vacuum in terms of local content by local creators for local people,” says the 27-year-old Choudhury.
One of the worries for local content developers is the possibility of offending tribal organisations by using Naga legendary figures and folk characters such as Ghothali, a Sumi Naga warrior princess, to tell contemporary and futuristic stories. “But it could be a way of making children and youngsters read and learn about our own culture. I mean, they know Japanese history, economy, politics and everything else through manga and anime,” says Natso.
Theja A. Therie, secretary of Naga Tribes Council, says he doesn’t see any reason for discouraging such experimentation “as long as the content is not defamatory or Naga symbols and motifs are not misrepresented.”
Imlisunep, undergrad and hardcore Otaku, goes by the name of Tsuyoshi Shiba, his Japanese alias. Like many Otakus, he peppers his conversations with Japanese words such as kudasai (please), jaa mata (see you) and shimatta (damn). He is keen on getting into animation. “There is a lot of scope to go professional. Cosplayers have become models, fashion designers and digital artists, since it involves a certain degree of specialisation,” he says, a glint of hope in his eyes.
Hotaru Juno Pinggam

Hotaru Juno Pinggam, a cosplay star of Arunachal Pradesh

Japanese aliases are in vogue in Arunachal Pradesh too, where anime and cosplay have become a rage. Itanagar-based manager of Arunachal Cosplay Club Juno Pinggam, for instance, calls herself Hotaru. She had dressed up as Kurimi Tokisaki from the Date a Live series to represent India at an international cosplay event in 2017.

Whether or not it translates into a career, fans agree their passion keeps them young at heart and in mind. And that matters more than anything else.  

(This appeared in the Hindu Sunday magazine)

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On China frontier, old men handle law and order in India’s Arunachal Pradesh

gb-teamGADGETS DO the job these days. But the armed forces often rely on a 78-year-old’s eyes and ears for information on the China frontier.

As a long-time gaonbura (GB, village elder) of Mangang village, Dorjee Purba Chukla’s primary job is to ensure law and order locally. He also has to update the army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, intelligence agencies and the local administration on any suspicious Chinese activity on the border.

Reason: Mangang, in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Siang district, is the village closest to India’s border with China-occupied Tibet.

Mangang is northeast of Mechukha, a sub-divisional headquarter 492 km from state capital Itanagar but just 29 km from the nearest point of the McMahon Line that separates India and China.

Arunachal Pradesh’s border with Tibet is 1080 km long.

“Our men are vital for the armed forces as guides and informants. They also keep a watch on the border while collecting yarje gomu (a high-altitude insect believed to have medicinal properties), which people from across the border also treasure,” Chukla said.

ramo-tribal-centurionChukla is one of 75 GBs in Mechukha sub-division who are the faces of the government in 112 villages. They are judges too, settling family and social disputes with punishments for the guilty such as fines or community service.

“We try to use our wisdom and settle minor cases. The police and magistrates take care of major law and order issues such as murder, rape and communal clashes but only after we refer these incidents to them,” Kesang Goiba, the GBs’ president, told Hindustan Times.

The GBs are a vital cog in the administrative wheel in a difficult eastern Himalayan subdivision where many villages have to be covered by foot over four-five days, said additional deputy commissioner Tungge Loya.

“We need their help in ensuring peaceful co-existence among five major tribes of the area,” Loya said. These tribes are the Buddhist Menpa or Memba, Bokar, Ramo, Pailibo and Tagin.

The Bokar, Ramo, Pailibo and Tagin are sub-tribes of the Adi community while Membas have 23 clans.

mechukhaThe GBs’ assistance is also crucial because there are barely 15 policemen for the entire subdivision straddling 83,743 sq. m of mountains at an average altitude of 6,500ft.

An army officer of a frontier unit, declining to be quoted, said the GBs are important for civic action programmes besides strategic help on a treacherous terrain. “We need the support of the local people as much as they need ours for emergency medical aid and supplies,” he said.

Goiba, 60, insists the GBs are impartial in their discharge of duties despite the fact that they are selected by a few, not elected. The all-male GBs try to be fair with cases involving women too.

“Many of the cases of crimes against girls and women we have handled have gone against males,” Goiba, who was selected GB president eight years ago, said.

A GB gets an honorarium of R200-250 from the government. It is a pittance for the trouble they take, but the social status that comes with the job is more than worth it, the GBs say.

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Confidence versus humility

“If I only had a little humility, I’d be perfect,” the media mogul Ted Turner supposedly said sometime in the 1990s, in a moment of narcissistic exuberance. While Turner has been much humbler since, today’s breed of tech entrepreneurs often display a similar arrogance. Why be humble? After all, Aristotle said: “All men by nature…

via In overvaluing confidence, we’ve forgotten the power of humility — Quartz

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Teacher: Greater than the greatest of the greats


By Rutajeet Karmakar

THE WORLD regards Alexander, king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, as The Great. But Alexander believed his teacher, the philosopher Aristotle, was Greater.

The legendary Greek ruler, referring to Aristotle, said: “I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.”

Alexander died young, but lived well as he conquered kingdom after kingdom all the way to India, where teachers have had a place above parents since ancient times.

Alexander was perhaps unaware that multi-cultural India was a land of great teachers – from the spiritualist Buddha, Sanskrit grammarian Panini, astronomer-mathematician Aryabhatta and economist Chanakya to the unknown shapers of mind in ancient universities such as Nalanda and Taxila.

This tradition of qualitative teaching beyond textbooks has carried on through Srimanta Sankardeva, Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Vivekanda, Ishwar Chandra Bidyasagar, APJ Abdul Kalam and Amartya Sen, to name a few.

In this line of illustrious teachers was Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a great scholar and India’s second President, whose date of birth we celebrate as Teachers’ Day every year.

More than 100 countries honour their teachers on October 5, timed with World Teachers’ Day designated by UNESCO. This is exactly a month after we celebrate Teachers’ Day, perhaps an acknowledgement that teaching in India was once ahead of the times.

But there are countries that celebrate this day earlier in the year. Neighbour Bhutan, for instance, celebrates it on May 2 to mark the birth anniversary of Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the Himalayan country’s third king. And Guatemala marks June 25, the day in 1944 when teacher Maria Chinchilla Recinos died protesting against an oppressive military government.

In countries such as Estonia, Teachers’ Day on October 5 is a brief affair with students granting leave to teachers in the last class and conducting lessons themselves. Others such as Saint Lucia celebrate it for a week from October 4.

Whatever the duration, Teachers’ Day is an universal acceptance that teachers – as American writer-journalist Jeannette Walls wrote – are like angels leading their flocks out of the darkness. We are fortunate to have the angels of Gurukul holding our hands in the journey towards light.

American writer William Arthur Ward classified teachers into four categories. He said: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

Our teachers inspire as they demonstrate, explain and tell with the objective of moulding us into achievers to live life well. Whether or not we become great, our teachers will always be greater.

On this great day, dear teachers, I salute your greatness.

(Son’s Teacher’s Day speech in school, doctored a bit by the father)


Mohammad Ali was not the greatest sportsman

Greatest boxer, yes.

But Mohammad Ali wasn’t the greatest sportsman though he claimed to be.

Every kid with an anger issue has thrown punches, but not everyone does the long jump or makes the football sing or throws the javelin and discus.

The greatest in my list are:
1. Jesse Owens, because he also crushed Hitler’s Aryan supremacy myth single-handed.
2. Pele, because he was…well… Pele and Edson Arantes do Nascimento sounds so un-soccer.
3. Daley Thompson, because he was 10 sportsmen in one.

Ali is probably the fourth, because I cannot think of anyone greater right now.


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They paved the way for Tripura’s gymnast wonder Dipa Karmakar


Dipa Karmakar with coach Bisweshwar Nandi at their Tripura Sports Council office

DIPA KARMAKAR is 25% short of perfection in the Produnova, considered the riskiest vault in gymnastics. Behind the 75% she has mastered is an invisible hand from Haryana.

As in the epic Mahabharata, every Arjun of Indian sports is moulded by a Dronacharya, not all – like Dipa’s coach Bisweshwar Nandi – recognised officially. Nandi’s Dronacharya was Dalip Singh, from village Bewal in Haryana’s Mahendragarh district.

Singh couldn’t quite produce an Arjun, for he had an army of gymnasts to give attention to. But Nandi, one of his better disciples, did an Arjun after donning the guru’s garb; he concentrated on and hit the eye of the bird.

That eye, gymnast Dipa, has now caught everyone’s eyes with an Olympics berth, the first for an Indian woman.

Super scout

Singh, an instructor at Pune-based Army Institute of Physical Training, came to Tripura capital Agartala in 1965 via the National Institute of Sports in Patiala, Punjab. That year, Bharat Kishosre Debbarman became Tripura’s first to win a gymnastics gold at the national championship.

“Dalip Sir was a man possessed. He would go from house to house, scouting for boys and girls who would hop, skip, jump and run about, and convincing parents that their wards have a future in sports,” 62-year-old Montu Debnath, former gymnast and Tripura’s first Arjuna awardee in 1975, said.

Tripura has only three Arjuna award winners, all gymnasts. The other two are Kalpana Debnath (2000) and Dipa (2015).

“Tripura’s journey to gymnastics glory with Dipa has to be credited to Dalipji. He was a fountain of inspiration, a legend who had unconventional ideas that helped overcome hurdles,” Manik Saha, founder vice-president of Tripura Gymnastics Association, said.


Former Tripura gymnast Balaram Shil, now DIG of CRPF

Former gymnast Balaram Shil, now DIG of CRPF, recalled how Singh would purchase logs and shape them into parallel bars for training, or gather grass to help his trainees land relatively safely. Those were the days when gymnastics meant working out in a tin shed.

The state government eventually acquired the expansive house of one Gedu Mian and turned it into a passable gymnasium.

“Whatever I am today is because of my guru (Singh). I have just added value to the skills acquired from him to train Dipa,” Nandi said.

Gouri Karmakar attributes daughter Dipa’s success to her dedication, discipline and Nandi’s unwavering attention to details. But she also believes in the power of ‘aashirwad’ (blessings) from people in India, more importantly from someone “up there” – not God but the Father of Gymnastics in Tripura.

That father is Singh, who died six years before Dipa was born in August 1993.

Bridging the gap

For 21 years since 1968, Tripura’s gymnasts swept the sub-junior, junior and senior national championships. Singh’s death in 1987 changed all that.

“Besides shaping gymnasts, Dalipji readied generations of coaches but Tripura just could not match the level of excellence achieved while he was alive,” Shil said.

Niyoti Debnath, who as physical instructor spotted Dipa’s talent as a second-grader in Agartala’s Nazrul Smriti Vidyalaya, blames it on the “job flood” in the 1980s. “All athletes got jobs in far-flung schools, in the armed forces, railways and there was hardly anyone left to train the next crop of gymnasts properly,” she said.

Tripura’s first woman gymnast, Niyoti Debnath hopes Dipa’s feat will help bridge the gap.

“What gap?” asked Dilip Chakraborty, secretary of Tripura Sports Council. The state’s gymnasts and other sportspersons have never ever dropped the intensity, he said.

Sporting parents and teacher

Parents are the biggest hurdle to talent-scouting, Nandi says. “Most athletes come from poor background. The government runs a sports school for potential athletes, but parents want regular schooling because they want their children to have 9-5 jobs.”

Dipa with parents Gouri and Dulal Karmakar

Dipa feels she is lucky to have weightlifter Dulal Karmakar as her father, a mother who understands a sportsperson’s needs, and relatives who are into one sport or the other.

“We let her do what she wanted to do, but there are many others responsible for what she is today,” the father said.

One of them is Shobhana Dutta, who retired a few years ago as headmistress of Dipa’s school. She let Dipa practice after attending only four out of seven periods every day, and miss exams if the schedule clashed with her exams.

“Dipa was academically quite good. She had the required aggregate even if she missed a few exams. That was possibly because she was as serious in studies as in pursuing per passion,” Dutta said.

Then there’s the spiritual inspiration – from Dalip Singh – whose house in Ujan Abhaynagar is barely 50 metres from the Karmakars’ two-storey building on a 1,600 sq ft plot.

Salam Susheela, wife of Dalip Singh, Tripura's Father of Gymnastics

“It feels good that Tripura’s future in gymnastics has not forgotten the past. My husband was the spirit behind many a gymnast, but it needs a spirited person like Dipa to attain new heights,” pathologist Salam Susheela, Singh’s widow, said. Hailing from Manipur, she married Singh after meeting him in Agartala in 1968.

Dipa resents the celebrity status at home because “I have miles to go”. But she has in a decade inspired many girls and boys.

“After Rio, my focus would be on eight girls who have the potential to equal or better Dipa. I am hopeful about three – Asmita Pal, Priyanka Dasgupta and Rishita Saha,” Nandi said.

Another responsibility is to train the next set of gurus for the next set of shishyas (pupils). This is something Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar wants done as much as providing a foam pit so that Dipa can hone the Produnova at home.

“I have 25% more to go for a perfect Produnova. I will train 22-23 times a day after I reach Delhi to prepare for Rio,” Dipa said.

If the hard work pays, her mother will have to find some space to showcase the medal. She had pushed her husband’s weightlifting medals and trophies some time ago to accommodate the daughter’s.

The father does not mind the memories of his flyweight and featherweight days going into trunks or the storeroom. “I want every father in India to see his child outdo his achievements,” he said.


  1. Dipa Karmakar with coach Bisweshwar Nandi at their Tripura Sports Council office in Agartala.
  2. Former gymnast Balaram Shil, now Deputy Inspector General of Central Reserved Police Force.
  3. Dipa with parents Gouri and Dulal Karmakar at their Ujan Abhaynagar home in Agartala. (This pic by Abhishek Saha)
  4. Pathologist Salam Susheela beside the photo of her late husband Dalip Singh, who came to Tripura from Haryana in 1965 to become the landlocked northeast Indian state’s Father of Gymnastics.

(A variant appeared in the Hindustan Times on 24 April 2016)


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