KHARASOM, India -- We were served sweet tea and shortbread while waiting for the king, sitting on low rattan stools in a single-story red-brick cottage. Two boys crouched behind our hostess, staring unblinking with bold, hazel eyes, sucking on their biscuits. At my feet yawned a Naga hunting hound, a midnight black Tangkhul Hui.
Suddenly, a man burst into the room wearing a large and untucked check shirt, loose cornflower chinos hanging about his ankles. He shook hands, but it quickly transpired that this was not the king (perhaps better described as the village chief) but his chief minister. "The king is ill," he said. "Very ill, in fact."