By Easterine Kire

Released :10/10/2020

Reviewed :01/10/2020

Reviewed by: Denita Chungkham

Easterine Kire, an esteemed poet and novelist, is the first Naga to pen down her poems and
stories in the English language. Her latest book,” A Respectable Woman” is a splendid war
fiction, which depicts the terrifying consequences of the Second World War and its catastrophic
effects on the people of Nagaland, through exploration of the life of the narrator and her
mother. It took Khonuo, the narrator’s mother, 45 years to gather enough courage to recount the
horrifying war of 1944.
Kire breaks down the narrative broadly into two sections- firstly, the story revolves around
Khonuo’s traumatic experiences of the war. Secondly, it narrates the life of her daughter, Kevinuo,
who is the main protagonist of the story.
The Overcoming
Kire writes, “We were not interested in the military strategies used to oust the Japanese from
their positions. But the human struggles that our people endured- those things were more
interesting to us.” The author wants to show how much wars destroy people and how hard
the survivors of wars struggle to live on with the painful, unforgettable memories of countless
deaths, desperate cries, endless gunshots, violent bombings and bloodshed. She demonstrates
how a war-torn state desperately grapples to rebuild itself and how life will never be the same.
Kire tries to instill in her audience, a feeling of encouragement and bravery, even when one is
faced with the worst nightmare: when we lose someone whom we love dearly. Khunuo, a dutiful
mother, had to carry on with her life, even when she didn’t have the slightest will to live on, but
solely for her children. The excruciating pain that Khunuo had to undergo when her husband died
is bound to leave everyone with teary eyes. She was utterly devastated at her husband’s demise
that, just at the age of 37 years, her hair had turned grey overnight.
“I could not help that feeling when my father died, I lost my mother too. It was as though
she couldn’t be bothered to be a mother anymore.” Khonuo’s sister, Zeu, pulled her out of her
grief-stricken world and put her back into reality.
One can find that the people of Nagaland, the British administrators and the Indian Government,
had an inexplicable relation. The people of Nagaland protested intensely and fiercely to the forceful annexation to the new Indian Nation. So, the Indian Government ordered the
missionaries to leave the country as soon as possible. However, when they left India, almost all
the Naga villagers were devastated. The British Missionaries had become an important part of
their community. Hence, it was very hard for them to bid them farewell. When the British finally
took their departure, a large number of the Nagas felt that they had been abandoned by their
Nonetheless, everything is not always gloomy. Even if there were endless clashes between
the Naga insurgencies and the Indian Government, people still find ways to be hopeful to lead
a normal and peaceful life. They tried their best to reopen schools and to resume classes, to
conduct marriages, and remarkably in the midst of all these uncertainties and chaos, Kevinuo’s
parents got married.
Of Monsters and Men, Of Customs and Marriages
Kevinuo and her best friend, Beinuo are brave, independent, hard-working and strong-willed
women. When Kevinuo asked- “What would you do if your husband beat you?” “I would beat him
right back. He has no right to beat me. I won’t let him.\” Unfortunately, Beinuo changed drastically
right after her marriage. Her husband, Meselhou, beats her for one thing or the other, and she
kept silent all these years. She wanted to hide this from her best friend so, she avoided hanging
out with her.
Here, Kire brings attention to her readers, the unquestioned inhumane norms of culture and the
society. She addressed the controversial question, whether a woman, if once she is married,
should be considered as her husband’s property or not. In addition, she also wants us to reflect
who is at fault- the alcohol, or the individual who is consuming it- for the beatings of women and
The Challenge
As the narrative glides through, Kire makes her characters and the readers question whether
it is the best for the society to reform and alter certain cultural norms and practices, which
undermines a woman’s worth and her existence. The author delves deep into the meaning of
marriage as an institution, and how it has delimited a woman’s freedom, and how it has put a
solid barrier in finding her identity. The writer tears through the conservative and rigid concept of
what makes a woman respectable and makes a woman disrespectful.
Kevinuo, inspired and deeply influenced by her mother and her aunt, was fearless, and a caring big sister to her little brother, Ato; and a loving daughter to her mother. At the end of the story,
she remained unmarried, nonetheless, very content and happy.
It is a book which ignites and guides us to think more critically and question the accepted norms
of the society. Moreover, it implies how cruel and useless a war is. Besides, it lights up the road
for a more equal and justifiable society.

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