Notes for UnOther: Easterine Kire’s ‘When the River Sleeps’ by Anidrita Saikia

Please visit Belongg’s UnOther app to access the full piece on Easterine Kire’s When the River Sleeps by Anidrita Saikia, and many more.

When the River Sleeps was published in 2014 and has many references to Naga and Angami culture, traditions, and history. To provide more context and information on the same, Anidrita Saikia has some notes to help your reading, and recommends further reflection and research on the same.

  1. Examples of contemporary Naga writers on the topics of identity, state, and conflict would incl,ude Temsula Ao, Monalisa Changkija, and Dolly Kikon. Even the earlier works of Easterine Kire like Bitter Wormwood and Mari have many of these themes.

  2. “Mithun”: A large bovine animal found in the hills of Northeast India. In Nagaland, mithuns are kept in a herd away from the village perimeters and special caretakers are appointed by the village to look after them.

  3. Symbolism of the tiger: From “On the discursive and material context of the first handwritten Lushai newspaper ‘Mizo Chanchin Laishuih,’ 1988″ by P. Thirumal and C. Lalrozami (2010). The authors of this piece write about how hunting the tiger was a sacred act which British colonial officials did not understand, instead transforming it into a paid occupation to clear away jungles.

  4. Vilie’s foraging skills in the forest: Dried meat is one preserved food of the Northeast that is now seen as a staple of the region, found in many Northeast grocery shops across India. It was a food borne out of necessity in the hills, when access to fresh meat and fish proved difficult, and during bad weather, communication between the hills and the plains proved impossible.Alcohol plays an important role in the different cultures of Northeastern tribes. However, inebriation and laziness are attributed to the foreign drinks of whisky and rum, which is seen to encourage violence. The traditional alcohol made out of fermented rice, on the other hand, is consumed locally and is known as a brew of hospitality and nourishment.

  5. On conversation to Christianity: Please refer to Conversion and Christianity among the Nagas, 1876 -1971 by Richard Eaton (1984); Being Mizo, Identity and Belonging In North East India by Joy Pachau (2014); and Evangelizing the Nation: Religion and Formation of Naga Political Identity by John Thomas (2015).The Morung: This is a traditional long-house dormitory, where young boys are enrolled to be taught the ways of indigenous life through customs and rituals, including hunting with their elders and looking out for raiders, which also served as an act of protection for the village. The missionaries from the 1850s made it almost obsolete as young boys were encouraged to attend schools and not the Morung.

  6. “Where is your placenta buried?” Refer to ‘Where is your placenta buried?’ by Mini Krishnan, The Hindu; Circling the Red Tent, pp 104-113, by Alison Bastien; and Placenta Wit: Mother Stories, Rituals, and Research, edited by Nané Jordan (2017).


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