The Warriors in Red


Update for week ended 16 April 2010
Ole Ncharo was the chief in charge of his “Morans” – the young warriors, who were at the cusp of their adulthood. They were eager teenagers itching to attain adulthood and be treated seriously. But it was not going to be a simple – “hey, you turned eighteen. Happy Birthday! Here is your key. You are an adult now”. This was the savannah grassland where generations and generations of Maasai earned their adulthood through rigorous rituals and only the tough emerged with success. Ole Ncharo, was the wizened old man who had seen scores of young adults being groomed by him for this day and he knew how to handle the jumpy hormones. For starters, the Morans were segregated from their settlement and lived a few miles away from the nearest watering hole. They did not have the comforts of their mud and cowdung lined flat oblong huts, or the kraal with their herds of mooing cattle which would provide them with milk and blood and goats that would provide them their daily meal. They did not have their mothers and aunts and sisters to help them cook their meals or braid their locks. The young warriors lived in the open wilderness – amidst the roaming herds of wild buffalo and wildebeest, and zebras and baboons and feared the common predators – big cats and their hanger-ons, the hyenas. A head-shave helped them get over one issue – no hair to braid, so mums were not missed. Living in the wilderness without much comforts, like a moisturising cream before and after a shave were met by pure unadulterated material – like the ochre red earth that forms the top-soil of this vast grassland. This reddish paste, when mixed with some water, is liberally applied on the bald pates and face and body – not only as an antiseptic, but also as a pest repellant – the open plains with its heat and rains is good breeding ground for pesky insects as well. Their first spears and shields in hand helped them look menacing to animals and came in handy at times to kill for some food – warthogs, baboons, hyrax. The red togas that was worn across their left shoulder was the only garment that they wore – there was no footwear; and at times when the Morans went practise hunting near the dry river bed, they would sometimes bruise and cut their soles on the sharp rock outcrops. The bleeding feet would be quickly dabbed with the red ochre earth paste and life would resume as usual. But Ole Ncharo was preparing them for the big day and not just to prove their ability to live away from their family or homes. It was something bigger than just big – it was the big hunt. The big hunt was done only once a year and the batch of young morans would work in tandem and as a team, go for the kill. It was dangerous, and Ole Ncharo has seen casualties in the past, but he knew that this was a destiny that the forefathers had ordained for every person, hunter and hunted, alike. And there was no bitterness in a loss. At the end of the hunt, they would smear the red blood of the kill over their heads in an annointing ceremony and then jubilantly carry it on their shoulders back to the settlement for the feast that awaited them.

This was a shorter week on D Street – and on both sides of the mid week holiday – there was red. So if the first 2 days saw a 112 point red drop in the SENSEX, the last 2 days saw 220 points lost as the D Boyz turned red shirts for a change. (I am not sure if they visited Thailand recently and supported the opposition). It is almost like a cathartic event that they are waiting for because despite being close to their 18000 last weekend, and also yesterday, they have not been able to take that decision – of whether to go for the kill, and even more important – which one. Perhaps the annual corporate result season that has just kicked off will give them some direction. The closing down of some European airports has spoiled some D Boyz’ holiday plans; and you all know about Thailand – so maybe the D Boyz will stay on at D Street.

Ole Ncharo’s boys will kill what they have never killed before, the African Lion. The ferocious king of beasts is not an easy kill, especially if you are in itsterritory and cannot speak its growl or understand it; of course not forgetting their size and sharp claws and teeth. The only thing that go in the Morans favour is that the lion is a relatively reclusive animal, unlike its female counterparts that move about in a pride, and the easiest kill target is the lion that had just been shunted out of a pride because there cannot be two adult males in it. Ole Ncharo’s boys will have to smear lion blood on their already red heads, only then will they truly become Morans, the warrior Masai.

For those planning on a summer vacation to East Africa – do try and meet up with Morans – some of them speak English and are quite tourist friendly despite their rustic lifestyles that has not changed in centuries. Of course, be sure to carry enough cash – they have got materialistic as well, so don’t mind some additional pocket money, especially from gawky, wide-eyed tourists. Who knows, they may even allow you to join their famed dances – where the best dancer is adjudged by how high he can jump!

Have a nice weekend — Cheers………..
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