I had to wait for many years, but I eventually made it to the remote district of Mon in Nagaland – and met the Konyaks, the Headhunters.
I timed my visit with the Aoling Festival, the annual ‘Spring Festival’ of the tribe. With the sowing season over, it is a time to celebrate, make merry and welcome the spring season. Drinking locally brewed rice beer (there is no alternative anyway; Nagaland is ‘officially’ a dry state), smoking opium and eating heartily are acceptable in excess during the weeklong festival – all work naturally stops during this period. Guns fire (with real gunpowder) all day and night to serve as reminder of the hunting past of an otherwise peaceful tribe.
It is as authentic as it gets. I was with real people living in their real world celebrating their real occasions; it felt good to be only one of a handful of outsiders witnessing the festivities. Join me in the celebrations.