“This year, because of the whims of the weather and pests, there were not enough paddy seedlings for transplanting. Then the neighbours chipped in, they shared their seedlings despite the risk of running short themselves. The different colours, heights and maturity of the paddies is a testament of continuing the tradition and social support system of helping each other which our ancestors breathed”
The story goes that the Luiyaonao clan of Hunphun (Ukhrul) was asked by the then Hunphunwo (Chief of Hunphun) to establish paddy fields in the northern periphery of the village land. An underlying reason for such a request—odd at best as the paddy fields are extremely far from the village—was apparently to place the Luiyaonao clan as sentinels of that area.
How true the story is or how long ago this was is now lost in the turning of time. What we do know is that in Khaiyur, Yira, and Lungko—all places at the extreme northeast of Hunphun—almost all the original owners of the paddy fields are from the Luiyaonao clan. In the case of my maternal grandfather, who was the patriarch of the Luiyainao Shimrah clan, what we know is that his paddy field in Lungko has been with his family for centuries.
This is a partial view of the same paddy field today.
Today I am once again reminded of the awe-inspiring grit, strength, determination, and most of all, the incredible cooperation among our ancestors that enabled them to tame such a wild mountainous landscape into arable, friendly cultivable fields. Without these, I simply would not be; there will be no me.
This year, because of the whims of the weather and pests, there were not enough paddy seedlings for transplanting. Then the neighbours chipped in, they shared their seedlings despite the risk of running short themselves. The different colours, heights and maturity of the paddies is a testament of continuing the tradition and social support system of helping each other which our ancestors breathed.
The shorter yellow rice in the foreground is “mashima” (literally short paddy), the greener taller one is “Tallama” (paddy from Talla, a village), then there are patches of “Udeipi”, “Haosir”(don’t know what these means) and “Machang” (literally translatable to real or worthy rice), and towards the right edge, in the shaded area with a slightly more brownish tint is “Makrei”(sticky rice).
As I think of all these, I am deeply reminded of how intimately we are tied to our land. And how that intimacy is the history, and vice versa, of our people. Our story has been of the land; our imagination for the future should be, too, of the land.
So to plant a field is not just about a bountiful harvest but an acknowledgement and reaffirmation of an intimacy shared with the land that goes beyond the here and now. It is about the timelessness and, at the same time, mutability of the land that is a reflection of our own existence. It is about gratitude for and to our ancestors; it is about honouring all those who came before us and blessing all those who will come after. It is about webbing stories of the past with those that will come in the future. Most of all, it is about ensuring humility that comes with remembering all these.
Written by Chingya Luithui
Lungko, Hunphun. Sept. 2018.