A play revisits the incredible story of anthropology enthusiast Ursula Graham Bower, who lived among the Zeme Nagas in the Northeast, stood with them against the Japanese forces during World War II and went on to attain a goddess-like status. "Ursula: Queen of The Jungle" by Chris Eldon Lee saw a remarkable solo performance by Joanna Purslow, who played more than 10 characters including Bower's daughter Catriona Child and Naga revolutionary Rani Gaidinliu who took on the British. The 90-minute play was enacted in the national capital this Monday at the India Habitat Centre. Bower, the aunt of veteran journalist Mark Tully, landed in Laisong village in Assam in 1939. A native Naga named Namkia went on to become her interpreter and guide. Namkia addresses Bower as Saipui or female warrior.
She became the favourite of the villagers with her personality and also with her occasional doctor-like service, thanks to her picnic basket of medicines. When the Japanese forces advanced towards India in 1944, she led the Army's V Force, a group of scouts comprising local youths, and carried out ambushes. Bower also found her life partner during the turmoil. She married young British intelligence officer Lieutenant Colonel Tim Betts. After the war ended, she and her husband settled in Scotland. Bower died in 1988. According to Child, Lee made a remarkable effort to bring the story of her mother on stage. The play was first written for a Shrewsbury school. Purslow comes up with a spirited performance. If at one moment, she is doing a Namkia, the next second she is an American journalist and the very next a British officer fighting against the Japanese. She says playing the part of Namkia was the toughest. The play was also staged at Laisong village in Dima Hasao district of Assam on December 30.