Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Between rice and millet beer

This time I had reached the entrance to the northernmost national park in the north-east, the Mouling National park. Mouling in local Adi means red blood that signifies one of the tree species found in the park that has red latex. The villagers and department officials have horrid stories of people being bitten by poisonous snakes, chased by pythons, etc. etc. and I was getting more and more excited! The park is remote and few surveys have been undertaken by the Forest Department and a single herpetofaunal survey in 2002 by Samrat Pawar. However the two days I spent were outside the national park discussing with the villagers about shifting cultivation. A hunting festival was on in the village during my visit; each Adi (the local tribe) hunts as many animals as he can and gifts the meat to his in-laws. During an evening rice-beer session with the Adis, the village leader invited me over to his house for some millet beer, so went, happily. Soon as I got to his home, I saw skulls of many wild animals, amongst the ones I could recognize; few monkeys, few barking deers and many wild boar. Then I was offered millet beer and was slightly tipsy already!

Then, the gaam leader brought a monkey and kept it in front of me; I was startled but quickly gathered myself and tried to identify the species. I was hoping it wasn’t one of the rarer species such as pig-tailed, stump-tailed or assamese macaques and was glad it wasn’t one of them. It was a rhesus macaque male. The next thing the Miok (the leader, in Adi) dunked the body in fire and slowly roasted the monkey part by part. I was shocked but was trying to remain calm and kept swigging the beer. I soon figured I was invited actually to taste the meat and I admittedly told the leader that I can’t eat it because it looks too much like a human and he obliged me by not forcing further.

Later we got back to the ramsing camp and cooked our meal and slept. This memory will remain fresh in my mind. This trip was made without a camera but for me it didn’t seem like I need one!

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