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Joy in Differences

Zeena Singh

On the road again; journeying, traveling from one state into another. One not very dissimilar from the other in terrain or layout, yet traces and smidgens of differences lie subtly smoke screened.

My passage shifts from valley to mountain and into the plain, where each inhabitant is linked with a common likeness − the features; so alike, hardly can it be distinguished  and told apart but ascertained by the keen eye of another native and her ‘live-in’ neighbor of the same realm.

A wide assortment of dialects and a distinction in the array of colors in woven designs set out the wide diversity of these our neighboring tribes and the vast expanse of their ethnicity.

Each mile traveled, reveals a shift from one culture to another through the least and slightest of differences though so present.

From the valley of lotus lakes, lilies and carpeted rice fields, through soft verdant rolling hills I ascend from Manipur, to cross into Kohima, set at 1,444 meters  (4,738 feet), land of varied and intriguing indigenous Naga tribes, the state capital of Nagaland.  My course is through four of the seven sisters of the North-Eastern States of India along AH1 the Asian Highway Network now a link with what is also known to be the route through which  National Highway (NH 36, 37, 39 and 40) or NH 2 runs.

Suddenly an immense Joy engulfs me; as I delight in the sighting and perceiving of these negligible variations, the feeblest of   disparities which make the world this side of town so much more remarkably, fascinatingly appealing.

Wicker-basket-loads of wood logs on their backs they tread a step at a time in rhythm, keeping time and measure chanting a heave-ho as they trudge up-hill. Ruddy and glowing, rosy-cheeked flushes, a natural healthy blush on every face cannot be missed even from afar as the road takes me through the cool and refreshing mountainous crag and hill.

At a closeness of just seventy kilometers, twisting loops, and meandering curved bends, at length relent to the wide expanse of vastness called the plains. Soon weaving through floral boulevards, rambling past forests speckled with areas of tea bushes, the path now acquaints us to adroit hands. Hands sun-bronzed, deeply tanned under the scorch of a stifling summer, competently capable in their occupation, picking leaves selectively.

Being voyagers on a journey, fellow travelers cannot be snubbed, more so their means of transport- taxis and their assisting cousins (the auto rickshaws); uniformly in yellow and black across almost the entire country, may however be markedly told apart by model, appearance and design, singled out distinctly  in each different region.

Noting all the variations in occupation, and appearances, I am now taken over and onto the undulating road without barriers or boundaries fluidly flowing, permitting me to grasp these minute hints of change as I travel from province to province.

Cozy log cabins, curtained country side houses instantly alter to high-rising modern concrete constructions in complete contrast to cool light-weight thatched mud and sun-baked abodes.

Leaving behind the foothills of Nagaland and vast stretch of the plains of Assam, once more my journey takes a wind and turn as I climb very gradually but surely the winding and weaving wide refurbished four-lane roads of Meghalaya, Shillong, which was titled once ‘Scotland of the East’.

Differences persist even though the vein of similarity fastens the bind. The approach in mannerism; the fashion of a baby carried; the tastes in food and adornment; the impeccably attempted get up of lipstick painted belles, with feet  perfectly shod to the indifferent carefree loveliness of a naturally gilded body; each presage and signify a typical admirable characteristic, stereotyped of a people and their roots.

Intriguing and captivating is the realization that this is but part of one nation regardless and in the face of its varied range of multiplicity.