Leaving home on 17 October 2011, Nandita Haksar and her husband, Sebastian Hongray, drove across Nepal to reach the Chicken Neck, the slim strip of land which connects the Northeast to the rest of India. From the Chicken Neck, they went up to the one of the easternmost towns of the country, Mayodia in Arunachal Pradesh. Making a U-turn in Mayodia, they swept south to the town of Moreh, a busy centre of trade (both legal and illegal) on the border between India and Myanmar. Turning back from Moreh, they travelled to the Manas National Park on the Indo-Bhutan border. They then drove back to Delhi via Nepal.
In all, the couple covered 15,000-plus kilometres in four months and traversed areas affected by more than fifteen separate insurgencies—each of which is being waged by people seeking homelands and identities for themselves. Over the course of their journey, Nandita met and spoke with friends, relatives and strangers, and found that almost all the individual histories of the tribes and races of the region have become subsumed into narratives imposed either by the State or by the dominant Hindu religion. And it is the reclamation of these individual identities, she says, that has given rise to the numerous movements for self-determination.
In Across the Chicken Neck, Nandita uses mythology, history, sociology, political analysis and anecdote to create an exhaustive, nuanced portrait of Northeast India. This is a book to be read, not only to understand the many schisms of a fractured land, but also for its telling of a rousing adventure.