I’m very restless. I was on a quest for a very glamorous and reasonably lucrative job where I could meet new people and be in a different place every day. Then I worked for a friend, filmmaker Sanjay Kak, on a documentary film (In the Forest Hangs a Bridge). He said: “Tour guide!” The rest is history and I wouldn’t trade my job for any other.
Is Arunachal Pradesh the next ‘last frontier’ of adventure travel?
Definitely. Arunachal is one of the last unexplored and unmapped places, a hotspot of biodiversity and tribal culture teeming with river gorges and forests ranging from tropical to alpine.
What’s the most beautiful place in Arunachal?
The Siang valley!
Tell us about your most comfortable package.
We have a set of itineraries combining some really great heritage tea garden bungalows in Assam, with adventure activities like rafting and angling and what we call five-star camping, mostly on river beaches in Arunachal.
I travel with lots of 70-plus clients and had an 86-year-old Japanese guest for the hornbill festival last year Hairiest expedition you’ve been on?
To Mount Saramati, the highest peak in Nagaland, while trekking with friends from the ARS (American Rhododendron Society). I was treading a very narrow ridge and slipped. Only a tree branch saved me from plummeting 300 metres down a gorge.
Ever lost a client?
Luckily, no—though I travel with lots of 70-plus clients, sometimes at high altitude. We had an 86-year-old Japanese client last year for the Hornbill Festival. Everyone went back alive!
You’ve helped MiA-obsessed Americans find airplane wrecks from the ‘Hump’ operation and the author Brendan Koerner to research his book Now the Hell Will Start about a renegade African American GI who went native in Nagaland. Do you have a thing about WWII too?
The CBI (China-Burma-India) theatre really fascinates me. I mean here you have Japanese and Americans from faraway lands fighting in misery alongside our people. Now Spike Lee is going to make the film of Brendan’s book so I’m really hoping to work on that shoot.
You speak Hindi, Bengali, Assamese and Nepali. Fine. But where did you pick up French, Spanish and Japanese?
I’m the agent for a French company from Lyon called Tamera and I’ve been spending my summers mostly in the South of France for the last four years. That’s the French connection. I’m also the agent for a Japanese company from Tokyo, Hihombashi Travellers Club, so I’m constantly travelling with Japanese and French groups on tours. But I sing better in Japanese than I speak! Spanish I picked up along the way from many Spanish-speaking friends and my love for Mexican folk music.
I speak about five Arunachali dialects.
We’ve heard that you’re Itanagar’s leading Elvis impersonator...
Check me out on Youtube ‘Oken Does Elvis’ and see for yourself!
Do the entry permit restrictions in the Northeast make life difficult for you or are they good for business?
I think the permit restrictions are good, so that we can progress in a controlled manner instead of letting in too many people too soon. I take Bhutan as a model.
Everyone’s going rafting in Arunachal this winter and everyone says it’s the last year for the rivers. How do you feel about all those dams?
Dams are required and bring us prosperity. But not 137 of them, as planned! Also the local people who will sacrifice their land for these projects should be treated as real stakeholders rather than letting big companies make profits by displacing our people.
‘Aborcountry’? I thought Adis didn't like being called Abors. Doesn't that mean 'out of control'?
It’s not really an issue for me. Especially if you read the meaning as ‘indomitable’. The British always saw us Abors as brave, proud and indomitable warriors. I like to see it that way too.
Aborcountry Travels & Expeditions
Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh
Tel: +91-360-2211733 Fax: +91-360-2292969 Mobile: +91-9436053870
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT