Coming of age: Monalisa Changkija


Whoever sows a seed normally claims ownership of the tree that bursts out of the seed. That is the way of the world ~ but that has not always been the way of the world. That became the way of the world after the seeds of “yours” and “mine” were planted in the heart of humankind, giving rise to a tree with numerous branches, each of which humankind came to believe existed autonomously. The rest is history — a history of discrimination, a history of denial, a history of deprivation, a history of desolation, a history of discord, a history of discontent and a history of demarcations. And it is against this history that humankind has sought and striven for change but this much-aspired change cannot occur till humankind acknowledges that all the branches of the tree have only one root — the tree then is so much more than the trunk. So it stands to reason that the crux of human discontent is necessarily the issue of ownership.

No, this is not a re-hash on the virtues of Marxism, socialism or communism — this is just a way of cogitating or thinking aloud if you will, to understand that ownership was never the humankind’s mandate. Our mandate was to sow, to nurture, to reap, to prudently partake of our labour and to embark on a quest to create legacies and leave them for the generations that would follow us — as did our fore-parents, however wanting all legacies may be. Ours is also to acknowledge our dependence on Mother Nature from which life emanates — all forms of life, not least what we do in our day-to-day lives. And in our day-to-day lives we plant seeds and nurture them hoping that one day trees with bountiful fruits would burst forth and we would be owners of that bounty. Sometimes this hope is realized and sometimes not ~ because trees have a life of their own. But most importantly, humankind was never meant to be sole owners of trees they plant ~ how then would the birds and other creatures survive? How then would weary travellers seek shade to rest their weary bones under?

How do we ensnare and confine the breeze and the wind to make them do our bidding? How do we determine where the fruit shall fall and prevent the Squirrel from making a meal of it? How do we dictate living organisms from making a home of our trees ~ oh, how do we claim ownership of a gift of Nature? The least we can do is plant seeds, nurture them and hope that Nature would smile kindly on them ~ therefore we can never claim ownership of trees over which we have minimal control. But one of the controls at our disposal is to create in those around us and those who come after us the sense of belonging to the tree because we must know that we belong to the tree, not the tree to us ~ for the tree actually will owns us.

This is a perspective and a paradigm we could apply to all human efforts and endeavours, not least the institutions we set up and nurture to make our lives comfortable and convenient, better and productive, and perhaps enlightened. We may have sown their seeds and nurtured them but their growth and their ability to grow, be of utility and service to individuals and groups of individuals depend on factors beyond our control ~ for which a sense of belonging in us, these institutions are envisaged to serve, is paramount. These institutions belong to society at large and so society at large must own stewardship of these institutions ~ only then can the fruits of these trees will satiate the hunger of, and for, evolution.

Today, as Nagaland Page observes its 18th anniversary and comes of age, our prayer is that all of you, who have belonged to this humble institution of the Fourth Estate and have claimed stewardship over it, would continue to do so, however uncertain the days before us may appear, for uncertainty has always been the attribute of unborn days. But at 18, there is confidence that emanates from maturity ~ and maturity because we have been baptized by fire over and over again and will prevail because perseverance is a prize rare and precious.

Monalisa Changkija is Founder-Editor, Nagaland Page