NINU: A Saga of the Valorous Wanchos Paperback – August 3, 2020
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NINU: A Saga of the Valorous Wanchos by Mady Menon is a historical and military fiction story about a real tribe (the Wanchos) in North East India, told by a fictional character. Peter Atamkhung Shawang is a student studying at Trinity College in London, but he plans to return to India to work on his thesis. Peter's family is part of a tribe of headhunters who live in the village of Ninu. He shares the region's history with fellow classmates and tells the story of his father's childhood and career. Will the young man be able to hold on to his tribe's traditions while living in an increasingly modern world?
Mady Menon has added a touch of authenticity to the story by including real historical events. The map at the beginning of the book helped me to better picture the region. You learn a lot about the history of North East India, from the constant struggles to maintain the Ahom kingdom for 600 years, to the native tribes living under British rule, to India becoming an independent republic and the many improvements made to the infrastructure in the area. I had little previous knowledge of the native people of this country, and it was interesting to read about the tribal structure and daily life in the villages. The author provided good descriptions of the setting, especially the village layout, the Naga Army headquarters, and Shawang's mission school.
The historical information that was conveyed in the first part of the book, where Peter was relaying the history of the region reads a little like a professor giving a lecture. This slowed the pace of the story but it is all worth it in the end. There were portions where some of the historical details were repeated from previous chapters. The pace picks up when Peter was retelling his father's life experiences and an overview of historical events was given while Shawang was visiting significant sites during his class trips and while working as a Circle Officer. I found the vocabulary definitions at the end of the book very helpful to clarify Indian terms used in the story. Ninu is an insightful and beautiful read that I highly recommend to readers looking to be immersed in an exotic and intriguing culture.
Pages: 272 | ASIN: B08GQYZ8BY
From the Author
- Publisher : Notion Press (August 3, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 350 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1649199317
- ISBN-13 : 978-1649199317
- Item Weight : 13.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 0.88 x 8 inches
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from other countries
Truly a masterpiece by a soldier scholar. The tremendous amount of research that has gone in into this work is mind boggling. Mady's style and command of the language is an added advantage.
Have visited the North East for ten days in 1990. But reading this book has given new insights. Realised how shallow my understanding of the region was (like most Indians). Would recommend all to read this book.
Hope Mady will keep writing - more power to his pen!
I must commend Madhavan Parappil for his highly informative book on a far corner of India little known to most of us. I briefly visited Namrup in Assam in 1984 on a day’s visit, returning to Kolkata the same day. I remember seeing the awesome Brahmaputra River at Dibrugarh. I admit that I know nothing about that part of India.
The progress made by the North Eastern States is impressive. It is in a large measure due to an empathetic civil administration with excellent support from the Army and Assam Rifles. The setting up of schools and universities and improvement in literacy are amazing. They have gone ahead of big states like UP and Bihar, despite forbidding terrain, difficulty in communications and widely divergent tribal populations and cultures.
India owes a great debt of gratitude to then Governor Jairam Das Daulat Ram for giving a free hand to the Army to take over Tawang, despite PM Nehru’s hesitation. Tawang is now a major center of Buddhism and gave refuge to Dalai Lama when he escaped from Tibet after the Chinese occupation. It is a sore point for China that Tawang is in India.
Mady’s book is a mine of information of tribal origins, movements, customs and cultures. I guess Army officers by the very nature of their deployment get to interact with the locals much more than the Navy and the Air Force. I was intrigued by ‘wet canteens’ run by intrepid Marwari businessmen. I first came across the word in a recent post from General Raj Mehta. Mady explains how the canteen served Burmese Army across the border also. I have always held Marwaris in high esteem. This book has reinforced my views.
The author bravely attempts to trace the history of the region spanning centuries, starting from the visit of the Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang. There is even a reference our mythology- King Bhishmak father of Rukmini (wife of Lord Krishna) is believed have ruled in the area. I also learnt how Christian missionaries succeeded in conversions unlike the Ramakrishna Mutt schools, which scrupulously followed the diktat of the Freedom of Religion Act.
Mady has skillfully woven the personal story of a progressive Wancho tribal couple who got educated and ended up senior officials in Arunachal Pradesh Government. Their children ended up as Rhodes Scholar and MD in medicine. Their personal history is enchanting reading. His love for the local people and deep understanding of tribal cultures comes shining in the narrative.
The book, however, ends up falling s between two stools- a history of Wanchos and North East tribals on one hand and the personal story of a tribal young man coming to terms with modern society and coming out on top. Is it a biography or a history? I believe in trying to attempt both, the author has made the book more difficult to read for a lay reader not familiar with the army or the north east. The passages on tribal migrations and history overpower the reade at times.
It is not clear whom the book addresses- an anthropologist, a military analyst or the general public. The author cannot do all three, especially for a new writer.
There is considerable repetition, for example the story of Rukmini and Krishna is repeated twice and King Bhismak mentioned many times in the book. Editing and removing duplications can make it shorter and more readable. The book needs photographs of the colorful region, lot more maps and a short diagram showing the different tribes, origins and locations.
These comments notwithstanding, the book is an impressive attempt to portray changes in a remote corner of India, by someone who clearly loves the place and its people.
Strongly recommended reading
Reviewed in India on September 25, 2020
The history portion is highly compacted and functions like a mini encyclopaedia. North East history mired in fair obscurity and yet reflects many events in world history. A queen meted out punishment like Mary Antonette in French Revolution. Commoners usurping power and the Kings adorning themselves with divine powers to exact respect from their subjects like what the Pharohs of Egypt did or the Mysore Kings did in India. An event similar to Helen of Troy and Prince Paris spinning tumultous fall outs. North East India history is truly fascinating.
Were Communism and Socialism modern concepts? No...... Read Ninu and be shocked to know that North East has discovered and practiced the concepts.
The Paik system practiced in the North East was very much practiced long before Karl Marx was born.
Mady Menon makes an excellent effort to showcase the rich history of North East, dating back to Ghatothkach and Hidambi of Mahabharat and descendent of Yayati. The interaction of the people with Myanmar, Tibet, China and South East Asia are explored.
The second part of the book is fiction woven by Mady Menon and Menon has succeeded in capturing the essence of children growing up thru various stages of their life which makes a fascinating read. The fiction can suitably be abridged and adapted for schools as part of English non-detailed text, which shall enable children to understand and appreciate their rich culture.
What makes this book interesting apart from being a fine rich blend of history and fiction?
The twist in the tale towards the end, which brings back the reader to the beginning of the tale.
Overall an excellent maiden effort by the author in a painstaking attempt to get under the skin of North East and present it, in a ultra novel form; educative, informative and yet enthralling.