The Sumo started right on dot and soon we were ascending the hills. The road was curvy, rocky and the higher we went worse it became. The rains had made it slushier. The Subansiri River flowing below looked muddy with strong rapids. At a few places there were landslides too. It should have taken about three hours to reach Ziro, but the condition of the road, the slush and our driver getting down to help another Sumo driver whose car had a break down made the entire journey close to five and half hours.
Mr. Tam who was hosting us kept calling me to keep a track. At one point I felt I had completely lost it. I just wanted to get down from the Sumo and start walking.
But things did not take such a bad turn. We reached Ziro at three thirty in the afternoon and Mr. Tam came to receive us. As we hopped in his car, the first thing we asked him, “How far is your home from the Fest Site”?
“Oh! Don’t you people worry! It’s just a kilometer”!
That was perhaps the best thing we heard during this back breaking ride!
So there we were, in Hong Village. We followed Mr. Tam’s footsteps and finally reached his home. I was super thrilled to realize that I’d be staying the next three days in a stilt house made of bamboo and wood. It was small. But neat and clean. What could more one ask for? It was a typical Apatani home with a huge fire place in the middle of the living room, which they use it to warm water, smoke meat and keep the house warm.
Mr. Tam seemed more eager than us. He asked us to freshen up as quickly as we could so that he could drive us to the Fest Site. And like obedient children we exactly did as he told us.
There was a sense of euphoria in the site. The party was just about to begin and would get bigger and better. Once we were given our fest blue bands, we were inside. We looked around the stalls, checked the food and other stalls selling memorabilia.
The ZFM (Ziro Festival of Music) officially kicked off by seven and the first band Dayglocrazie was a bit disappointing. Not only me, I heard people standing close to me sipping their beers saying the kick off should have been with a peppy band, not with someone who was singing such mushy mushy songs. But after that Yesterdrive and later followed by Omak Komut Collective took matters in their able and responsible hands and they literally set the Fest on fire and sent the audience into a frenzy.
And I knew this was the beginning of some serious tripping on good music.
The next two days that followed, we saw some of the finest and most talented people performing in front of us, from one in the afternoon till about ten at night.
MenWhoPause, Barmer Boys, Takar Nabam, Neel & The Lighbulbs, Tetseo Sisters, Run It’s the Kid, North, Side Effect, Alisha Batth and my favourite Prateek Kuhad were the most awesomest (only if the dictionary permits me to use such a word!).
Disappointment came when on the third day of the fest (which was my high point) we saw a huge white chart paper with this written and I quote, “Dualist Inquiry CANCELLED L P.S. He could not make it because he was injured.”
I was a sore miffed. Felt like a rejected lover. But then there were too many things that made up for that one disappointment. I was around with friends with whom I could be me and feel good and secure. Then there where the newer set of friends, we talked, laughed, sipped Apong and clicked selfies, exchanged numbers, added each other in Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp too. We devoured on Apong (which is a local wine made from fermented rice and millet seeds). Out of all the Apongs the Apong made by the Adi tribe is the one to die for. Its sweet. It keeps you warm and gives you a happy high. The Adi Apong was served to us in slim bamboo hollows with bamboo leaves used as a cover.
The best thing about the ZFM was off course the music. But also it was about people I was with, the ones I connected after years that mattered a lot.
It’s a week now that I am back home. But I am still hung over. About everything that is Ziro. The green and golden paddy fields, the sunshine, the clear blue skies, the clouds, the rains, the fog, the slush, the long walks along the paddy fields and pine trees, the music, the happy and unknown faces, the familiar strangers. I came back home full of wonderful memories. I don’t know if I will go to Ziro again. Just feel that the excitement would not be as it was this time.
I told my host I can stay in Ziro for the rest of my life happily working in paddy fields, drinking Adi Apong, walking around not having a care about meeting deadlines and con calls!
Thank you Ziro Festival of Music, Ziro, Hong Village, Mr. Tam (my host) and most importantly Bobby Hano the organizer!
Its truly the “Journey of your Life”!