Certainly, unwittingly I tend to come back to journalism. After all it has been my constant companion – amid all seasons. As I have said earlier, hundreds of people have helped during my career. They are of course, not responsible in any way, for the person and journalist I have turned out to be, particularly for the negative straits. But the charismatic Naga lady Chipeni is one exception who should get some credit for little of what I have achieved for myself. She was always a good-humuored soul ready to befriend all kinds of people. But undoubtedly, our friendship just clicked, something that would defy definitions and reasons.
A class mate of my English lecturer, she has been the best of the lot. A middle-aged soft-spoken, senior in profession and age and in a way a linguist (who knew English, Hindi, Assamese, Nagamese and Bangla to an extent). Her Thatcher like feature and curious eyes gave no clue that she was an information department official, the Editor of the government mouth-piece ‘Warrior’.
It would be hard to believe for others as equally I could not believe it then. She was afraid, concerned and also anguished to know that I received an anonymous letter of threat. We journalists in Nagaland had given a pun to that calling such missives as ‘Love Letters”.
Actually, it was my mistake that I could not believe her. Loyalty to friendship – if they had committed – has been always a great Naga virtue.
There is no offence meant when I say, unlike most communities including our own Bengalis and even other northeastern people, the Nagas have a very sense of gratitude for friendship. In many places I have seen life-long friends turned against them overnight evidently in self-protection. I have first hand experience of such instances – and quite a few during Gujarat riots of 2002. I would have possibly done that myself. But Nagas would not; just as they would not forgive any act of betrayal – even wrongfully perceived one.
Many others who have studied and grown up in Nagaland would testify that class mates have been always invaluable friendship than anyone else.
In professional world today, I am sure many would find their career hampered merely because of openly befriending a man who had fallen from the management grace. Well, I am personally a testimony to that. In May 2001, I found myself in that situation the moment words spread at 4 Parliament Street that I had fallen from the boss M K Razdan’s grace.
Not long ago, all my colleagues would be impressed as I was flattered by his use of the phrase, “ND is a man for all seasons”. (Wow!)
But the moment it spread like wildfire that I had spoken against the boss and had some kind of argument in his ‘closed’ chamber, my colleague and supposedly the best of friends and colleagues initially whispered and then slowly thought it was best for them not to speak to me.
Even outside PTI; I found as I negotiated my way through the ruthless world of the working atmosphere of Delhi, or in general the so called world of achievers and winners – I am sorry to say, I often had to cope with the mean. Somehow I thought, one should get isolation from the self-seeking lot!
Compare this with Chipeni’s reactions at my misery.
I had said earlier even other Naga friends Charles and Lelie kept their friendship and assured me that nothing adverse would happen. With regard to Chipeni, whom I also jokingly called Madam Merry, on one occasion I confided in her about my parental pressure and that I too was planning to quit Nagaland; she immediately screamed that I was wrong.
She promised me that I would be constantly tailed by her. “You should no go. This is your place. I am here,” she shouted. Such words from someone whose relation with me was hardly few years’ and that too platonic would not be understood by many.
Ironically, some months later, I don’t know what came to her mind; she encouraged me to try move out of Nagaland and look for greener and bigger pastures in the national media scene. Again, she was so thoughtful and committed that at one point of time, she screamed rather rudely, “You rot here”. Not surprisingly, when I had to rush to Delhi from Kohima for interview with PTI on a very short notice, it was she yet again who handed over Rs 5000 to her cash-starved friend.