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A Saga of the Valorous Wanchos

Mady Menon
Mady Menon Author Interview

NINU tells the saga of the Wanchos of Arunachal Pradesh and helps readers learn about North East India. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I am an Army Officer and I was posted to Tirap in November 1982. The area was still backward in terms of infrastructure and almost all activity in the villages necessitated active Army assistance. The area was very close to the core areas of the militant Naga Insurgent Group, the Naga Socialist Council of Nagaland. This insurgent organization had been formed in December 1979 and was declared an independent Naga Group in February 1980. This they announced to the world by carrying out the raid on Indian Army’s Kunsa Post as mentioned in my book. The Civil Administration was also dependent on the Army for routine activity in the villages. We thus became very close to the villagers who looked up to us for all kinds of assistance. Despite their disadvantages and dependencies, I found them to be very proud and actually very fiercely independent. They dressed in just an ordinary loincloth and beads. Some of them wore a coat. The Village Chiefs wore a red coat over the loincloth but that did not deter them from sitting in front of us and talking to us man to man. On their request to travel by air, our Brigade Commander sent two of them on a round trip from Dibrugarh to Tezu and back in a regular Indian Airlines regular flight. They were not shy to travel in their traditional dress. Besides the tribes of Tirap we had to travel to other areas of Arunachal Pradesh too. The State has over 40 tribes co existing peacefully and working towards development. Most followed their animist or Buddhist religions. Christianity has made rapid gains recently. I developed a very healthy respect for them. I felt that the world should come to know of these wonderful people. With the beginning I have made I do hope more people will write about these wonderful people and visit their villages. Arunachal Pradesh has opened its doors to tourism in a big way and eagerly welcomes anyone who desires to enjoy their beautiful land. Of Course, today the infrastructure is very good.

What kind of research did you undertake to ensure the historical aspects of the book were accurate?

I began this book as a historical narrative in 1986. Over a period of time, I collected all the material required for the book. History books on Assam are available aplenty. There are books on the society and culture too. The Government Gazetteers on Arunachal Pradesh and its Districts are priceless. However, my work in the Army and in the Corporate Companies precluded me from devoting time to begin writing. It was only in 2015 that I got down to collating the material into a book form. I then realized that the bland historical format may not appeal to the common reader. So I decided to add a little bit of fiction into it. This is a first historical fiction on Northeast India. I believe that this has lightened the book enough to enable an easy read. As I wrote, I included a lot of details of the area which may not essentially about the tribes. For example the information of the origin of Badminton in Thanjavur in South India; or Bamboo Flowering once I 12 to 20 years resulting in widespread famines; or the construction of the famous Stilwell Road from Ledo in India to Kunming in China by Afro American Troop Labor and Indian Labor; or the Naga Insurgency; or the advent of Catholicism in Tirap. All information is accurate besides adding interest to the original story. I can proudly state that with my extensive research, my book is a veritable reference book useful not only to the general reader, but to the Government Administrators and Armed Forces Personnel serving in the Area but also to tourists and general public to understand the area. The book also has a number of stories that could appeal to filmmakers.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?

I wish that more people come to know about Arunachal Pradesh both in India and all over the world and to respect all cultures equally and learn from them.

Do you plan to write more books on this subject?

I plan to write military fiction based on my experience in the army. My next book, based in Kashmir is on the way, but it will be very different from this book. I do not plan to write on Northeast India now, but I do hope more of my friends from the army write about their experience in the area.

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A Saga of the Wanchos of Arunachal Pradesh; A proud tribe of head hunters.

An attack at Ninu in 1875 left many of a British Survey team dead. The British totally isolated the Wanchos until India gained independence. Today these tribals are a proud, modern and vibrant society. This is their story; a historical story never told before. A tale of beautiful Arunachal Pradesh, its evolution as a state; and of ts many tribes. Shawang is the fictitious protagonist. He and his wife, Chanyo, tell you of Wancho life and how they progressed. The people went from primitivity to prosperity; from animism to Christianity. Stories of Bamboo Flowering, Badminton, Assam Rifles, the Naga rebels and of the Stillwell Road to China add interest. These are all woven into this unique story. For better understanding, the story covers Assam’s incredible history in brief. This story is a historical treasure to understand the North East. It is invaluable for teachers, school students and historians.

It will interest Army men and administrators, both in Arunachal and all over India. Do wait for the twist at the end to travel back in history.
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