After a lucky ride to get to Pfutsero in Phek district (what? where’s that!) of Nagaland, and sleeping soundly in the tourist home, we were roaming around town. I’d spotted a nice green valley and we were all keen on just walking around and knowing more about life in rural Nagaland. Then someone threw the name Tsupheme at us. He also took us inside a home and gave us a huge mug of sticky rice beer (or zutho) to drink. What he didn’t tell us though was about the beauty of cherry blossoms that was to unfold throughout the course of the day!!
The walking trail to Tsupheme passed through Pfutsero town and was all of 6-7 kms. The gentleman also told us his name and suggested that there may be a possibility for us to stay at a local’s home in Tsupheme. We started walking at around 11 am after having had breakfast in a chai dhaba. Village kids played in their usual carefree manner; the landscapes were vivid as we passed the grassy meadow to our left. After about an hour of walking, we came across the first cherry blossoms. Pink and white flowers, on a big tree standing tall on the left side of the road.
Not one vehicle had passed us on this road and for a minute all four of us wondered if we were not on a wild goose chase! I was accompanied by Jita, Johann and Devesh on this memorable trip. And suddenly it did not matter any more; what lay next on the road was the stuff of dreams!
There were cherry blossoms galore. As the road took a turn, I counted three trees laden with cherry blossoms. Against the backdrop of the blue skies, the pink white flowers looked very pretty! The light wasn’t perfect for photography and after spending 10 odd minutes gawking at the beauty surrounding us, we resumed our walk to Tsupheme again.
“The significance of the cherry blossom tree in Japanese culture goes back hundreds of years. In their country, the cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life. It’s a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is also tragically short.” ~ Homaro Cantu
Cherry blossoms are widely associated with Japan and there they are known as sakura flowers. Hanami (meaning flower watching) is actually a tradition in Japan and the custom is more than a thousand years old. Families go to picnics during the sakura blossom season in Japan. The cherry blossom season in Japan typically happens during March-April. It is also a significant reminder of the impermanence of things because the cherry blossom season is very short and lasts only for around 2 weeks.
On this lonely stretch in Nagaland, it was the first week of December and we had the cherry blossoms to ourselves. A stiff breeze welcomed us when the sunshine gave way to some shade on the road. Tsupheme village was another 2 kilometres away and an even more prettier view awaited us. The next part of our path was lined up with cherry trees; and they were laden with cherry blossoms. If the earlier sight was pretty, then I was in heaven with these cherry blossoms.
It was nothing like I had ever seen before. I’d seen cherry blossoms earlier in Himachal Pradesh but this was on a different level altogether! Cherry blossoms in Nagaland were totally unexpected and this walk to an unknown village had turned out to be one of the best memories of my north east trips. I clicked pictures of the cherry blossoms with my iPhone for some time, and then realised that it was worth taking the trouble of taking out the dslr from the backpack.
Some of us posed with the cherry blossoms; once we tried taking a selfie. It was such a happy feel and even though clicking all these pictures meant we were getting really late to reach the village but who cared… After all, the pleasure of a journey lies in on the way moments; chance discoveries – and what better discovery than finding cherry blossoms on the way to an obscure, unknown village in Nagaland!
People talk about offbeat; and we had found the epitome of offbeat!
We sat and chilled under the cherry trees like they would do in Japan; on the other side there were lush green fields and a house in the midst of it. The light wasn’t perfect to click that shot and as it is, my mind was preoccupied with the cherry blossoms. I took some close-up photographs of the cherry flowers. I tried to smell them and see if there was any aroma from these beautiful flowers, but there was none.
Pablo Neruda’s lines crossed my mind once or twice :
“I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”
I was being asked to hurry up and when I did not stop my newfound obsession of clicking cherry blossom pictures; everyone else moved ahead. I wondered if there was a female model there in that setting, would the pictures have a classy quality to it? But there was no possibility of the same and by that time it was necessary that I pack my backpack and start off again if I wanted to catch-up with the others.
It was as if a goldmine had been unearthed that day; within 10 minutes of resuming my walk; there were more cherry trees to our left. The cherry blossoms on these trees were not in the same pink and white colour though; these looked a little bit dull and maybe had blossomed earlier than the ones that we stopped at earlier.
Tsupheme village was now within touching distance and I dare not bother with my dslr; it would just mean taking more time when we were already running quite behind schedule. In my mind I briefly thought about clicking some more pictures but realised that it was better to look at the cherry blossoms without the lens of a camera to keep the memory vivid forever.
Once we reached the village; it was a different story. Even though the locals welcomed us after we had mentioned the name of the person from Pfutsero who sent us; after quite a lot of to and fro the village seniors decided that there was no place for us to stay and they asked us to immediately return to Pfutsero. We were given chairs to sit inside the community hall of Tsupheme village till the time the decision was taken.
We were all a little sad at the outcome but also wanted to rush back to Pfutsero since the sun sets in Northeast earlier than in other parts of India, and we clearly didn’t want to lose our way in the dark. We walked on the same trail on our way back to Pfutsero and the cherry trees swayed in the breeze. The sun had already set and the light was poor for photography. I was glad to have taken the chance and clicked photographs to my heart’s content, when I could!
In hindsight – like so many instances on a road trip where we come across majestic views and not get a chance to click pictures; I was glad we hadn’t found a ride to get us to Tsupheme. Life really sometimes finds a way to make things happen! And that day was only and only about cherry blossoms in this remote corner of Nagaland.
At the Hornbill Festival, someone had remarked that they had gone to Shillong for the Cherry Blossom Festival and came back very disappointed because there were no cherry blossoms blooming during the time of the festival in Meghalaya. And here were we, enjoying our tryst with the sakura flowers when we had no inkling of them even existing in Nagaland!
It did not matter that when we walked back to Pfutsero, a fierce wind blew and we shivered in the cold. It did not matter that we saw insanely pretty sunset colours and could not photograph them because we still had not found a place to stay. It did not matter that we had more trouble finding food because the entire town was shut by 6 in the evening!
Life had found a reason to smile; a local took us to a drinking den in Pfutsero and over conversations he narrated to us the charms of Pfutsero and the Japanese caves from World War II. We drank the famed Naga sticky rice beer (also called zutho) in huge mugs that instantly reminded me of the Germans and their love for beer. The beer mugs held more than a litre of beer each and cost only 30 Rupees!
There were a few walks that we did in and around Pfutsero and I think that calls for a separate post. This one is about cherry blossoms and it should remain that way.
“The cherry blossom tree is truly a sight to behold, especially when it is in full riotous bloom. There are several varieties of the cherry blossom tree, and while most of them produce flowering branches full of small pinkish-hued flowers, some of them produce actual cherries.” ~ Homaro Cantu
Also, while I am strictly not comparing the cherry blossom sightings that we had in Nagaland with the cherry blossoms of Japan; but you see there is a possibility of seeing cherry blossoms minus the crowds in our very own country – India. What it also means is that Nagaland can also try and plant cherry trees in a synchronised manner in a forest so that the cherry blossoms phenomena may be replicated.
The possibilities are immense. Do you want to travel to Nagaland to see the cherry blossoms?