Zutsa Müzatilü was an old grey woman nearing a good century of hard living. Her crinkly face was going a shade of leathery brown with splotches of mouldy blue from the many years in the cruel mountain sun and the harsh winter winds that blew this side of the Naga hills. 
She sat perched on the weathered seat, fashioned out of a heap of rocks in her frontyard overlooking the village, sipping her Hezo (rice beer) from a huge Kürahe (bamboo mug). People were at work in the fields, little children too young to work were being babysat by some sickly neighbour who hadn’t gone to the field or some old lady like herself too old to work in the fields. The village was deserted except for the fowls, pigs and dogs that strolled about with gay abandon.
The old lady had seen a lot in life, having borne eight children to a husband who didn’t have much. And now her husband had been gone for nearly three decades. Her children had married and borne children and she was greatgrandmother to twenty or thirty unruly children of all ages and sizes. Now she was almost blind in one eye and the other had been of no use for how long she couldn’t remember, perhaps for the last five or six years.
Life was no longer worth living now that she was too old to do anything. Living wearied her no end. Forget about preparing a meal for herself, eating was in itself, a major task. Thankfully, one of her granddaughters, Nyine had taken it upon herself to look after her. Her only pleasure these days was sipping the excellent Hezo she no longer brewed herself but was gifted by her many well wishers
Her days were spent sitting in the warm sun with the children of the village and watching the village come to life every evening. People would stream in through the village gates, tired but still full of purpose. Smoke would rise from the tall chimneys nestled in the thatch and her nostrils would be filled with the aroma of meat and vegetables stewing- things she no longer enjoyed, but whose memory she savoured. Music and laughter and happy banter would fill the air and then the silence of blissful rest after a hard day’s work. 
It was a lonely life for her now. Too old to do the things she had always done. Her arthritis would only get worse as winter was about to set in. She hadn’t been able to step outside the village gates since many springs ago when everyone participated in the annual cleansing rituals of Sükrünye*. She had barely kept up with the rest even then. Most of her friends and peers were long gone. Now it was time for her to let go and move on too. She was already a burden on her family though they were too kind to mention it.  She was embarrassed no end by the charity of her fellow villagers. As her seniority ensured that everyone brought gifts of all kinds for her every now and then.
Sitting in front of the fire one evening, she spoke out loud in a clear voice. “Chepothüru*(Spirit Lord)…come and take me away. I’m tired and done with this life.” Nyine was mortified. “Zutsa (Grandma), you shouldn’t make a death wish. What if it comes true?” 
Zutsa Muzatilu chuckled “A wish is a wish. Young one, you wouldn’t understand what it’s like to be living this way.” She bent to put out the fire and this simple task left her out of breath. Nyine looked at her kindly. Slowly she made her way to the cold pekhü (a massive raised board where rice is pounded) which was her bed.
Morning came. Nyine had already started the fire and something was boiling in a pot over the fire. “Zutsa, I’m going down all the way to the Khudarü fields (a distant part of the fields requiring at least 5 hours walking to & fro) with my Lemi (work group) today. Better eat properly. I might be a little late. Come inside earlier as it’s getting colder.” Off she went with her friends.
The sun was already high in the sky when Zutsa Muzatilu came out and took her usual place in the sun, sipping her Hezo. And then she spoke out loud in a clear voice. “Chepothüru…come and take me away. I’m tired and done with this life. Today is as good as any other day for you to pay me a visit.” Silence. And then she started weeping.
A group of little girls and boys were playing in their neighbour’s yard, facing Zutsa Muzatilu’s house when they saw a strange sight. Three giant fowls were pecking away at Zutsa while she was screaming helplessly and trying to ward them off. The children were frightened and ran away to find someone who could help.
In the evening when the villagers returned from the fields, all they could find was a few specks of blood and Zutsa’s beads scattered all over her courtyard but no sign of the old lady.
Nyine shook her head sadly saying, “They took her away. It was what she wanted.” The elders gathered the frightened children and took them home chanting prayers of protection.


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2 comments:

pika says:
at: 18 August 2011 at 03:12 said...

wounderfulll lyk it... nagas wealth

Tetseo Sisters says:
at: 19 August 2011 at 00:12 said...

Hey Pika,

We Nagas have awesome history and wonderful tales.
Glad to hear you liked it.
Keep visiting and sharing.

Thank you.