Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Against all odds


The yellow-throated marten is called 'Sikki' by the Adis here in the Upper Siang district. Today, I went to a 50-year old abandoned shifting cultivated field and saw several trees. Almost as many as I saw earlier in the adjoining patch which was abandoned following cultivation 100 years ago. Field work this time was a pain Align Leftsince February-end/March is the beginning of the cultivation cycle and everyone is busy. To top that, the day I landed here, there was some festival, called 'Mithun' puja, when Mithuns are slaughtered and meat distributed among the clans. If they talk to any outsiders, referred to as 'Ayings' here, their Mithuns and pigs may get killed by wild animals. I could immediately see the connection here. And one last detail, its raining cats and dogs here, in February that too!

So three days later, it turned out this way. Due to rains, the festival was cancelled and therefore i could meet people and the sun generously came out yesterday and ahoy field work began. This time, I am here to enumerate trees in different aged abandoned shifting cultivation fields, which brings me right back to martens. I was tired after the first field day after several months and was wondering why I chose such a remote and difficult to work in place. I took a few more heavy steps and heard movement in the undergrowth. This was so close to the village and at mid-day that I was expecting domestic pigs. But they were martens! One runs away, the other chases, the third, while passing turns around for a second or two and gives me a 'what are youdoing here' look. My field assistant Durik told me that they were probably fighting and that martens are against odds. Let me explain.


The Adis think/know that martens are never comfortable in groups of 3,5,7 and so on. If there are 3 or 5 or 7, one will get definitely eaten by the others. So I asked Durik if anyone has seen this happening and he said many people have and its for sure! And people from another village down the Siang river, Ramsing, told me the same too. Wonder whats going on! Another detail is that they never eat the marten meat here, but they do kill it when they see one, since martenskills chicken in the village. Anyways, for me after a tiring day in the field, I was happy to see three, although perhaps fighting with each other, martens!

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